04 Jun

The Millau Viaduct in Southern France: Where cars get to fly!

The Millau Viaduct that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France is an awesome monument to man’s ingenuity and intelligence. It is sleek, elegant and beautiful and if any of the great Roman bridge builders of the distant past could be beamed into our era then this is the bridge that would have them on their knees!

Prominent Victorian social thinker John Ruskin once said mountains are “best viewed from below”. Whilst that may not always be true about mountains it is almost certainly true about the Millau Bridge. Lucky guys in helicopters may well get a fantastic view, as would daredevil rock climbers, but for the most of us, seeing this great white bridge from nearly one thousand feet below is a never-to-be-forgotten sight.

Driving over the Millau Viaduct for the first time is a thrill for sure. It is however well worth slipping off the main road onto a much older and minor road which spirals down to the pleasant town of Millau.  From here not only will you be acquainted with the beautifully-positioned and interesting town of Millau but you will be able to catch a stupendous view of the viaduct, seemingly floating in the clouds.

In the pre-viaduct days, Millau was home to fairly heavy traffic. Today traffic in the town is much  sparser and you can save the toll charge of going over the bridge by driving for 20-30 minutes down through Millau and up the other side to rejoin the A75.

The chief architect on the Millau Bridge was Englishman Norman Foster. The inspiring English architect is responsible for some of the most iconic buildings in Europe. Asides the Millau Viaduct, Mr Foster created the ‘Gherkin’ in London in 2004, which rises high above the 13th century church St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Standing an immense 270 metres above the valley the Millau Bridge is the tallest viaduct in the world. It is also the tallest structure in France, defeating the Eiffel Tower in terms of loftiness. Construction for the bridge started in 2001 and cost 400 million Euros to build. The bridge has unquestionally made travelling to the south west of France and to northern Spain by car much easier.

In reference to the Millau Bridge Norman Foster once said he wanted motorists to “feel as if they were flying their cars.”

If you are travelling in this beautiful corner of France, cross the bridge and see for yourself whether, as Norman Foster hoped, you feel as though you are flying.