I’m thrilled to welcome back to the blog Angela Wren, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting at an authors’ event in Carcassonne in September. Angela is a Francophile, who has visited many more corners of France than I have, and stayed in most of the campsites! She’s also the very accomplished author of a series of murder mysteries set in the Cévennes centred on gendarme-turned-investigator Jacques Forêt. Today, she’s taking us on a tour to a town in the region which I don’t know very well: Millau. The photo above is mine; the others are Angela’s.
Hello Vanessa, and thank you for inviting me back to your blog today. I thought I’d take you and your readers to Millau. It’s a typical southern town that sits at the confluence of the Tarn and the river Dourbie. With an elevation of around 300 metres, it’s not my usual stomping ground. I prefer the lofty heights of the Cévennes; in summer it’s so much cooler up there.
I’m camped at St Lambert and along the cycle track it’s an easy couple of kilometres to get into town. There is parking by Pont Cureplats and I leave the bike. The bridge crosses the Tarn and on the other side the street becomes Avenue Gambetta. Even though it’s late September, the temperature is in the early thirties, so I stick to the shady side of the street – that’s on the left as you head into town. The plane trees have much thicker canopies on this side.
It also means that I can visit Causse Gantier, which sits at the corner of Avenue Gambetta and Boulevard des Gantières. I wander in and spend most of the morning here watching leather gloves being made. It’s fascinating. A few metres further down the street is Maison Fabre. A sumptuous shop that sells all kinds of gorgeous leather goods. I can do some serious damage to the credit card here! I resist and move on.
Friday is market-day which is centred around the old hall (19th century) but spreads into place Emma Calvé – a soprano, who was probably one of the most famous French singers of her time (1858 – 1942). She was internationally known and sang at our very own opera house in Covent Garden. When the market isn’t here, this square is ringing with the sounds of car engines. On ordinary weekdays it is a car park. Perhaps not quite what Emma was hoping for in this illustrious southern town with a history stretching back over 3,000 years. However, take a look around, and you’ll see vestiges of that longevity.
This is the heart of the old city with its narrow and darkly-shadowed streets, the tall buildings with their shuttered windows, the church of St-Martin at one side and everything overshadowed by the 42 metre high belfry of La Tour Carrée. The tower is actually two, one built upon the other and it symbolises the town. The square tower (12th century) represents the Kingdom of Aragon and the belfry is the representation of the authority and prosperity of the 17th century town as it was then.
For a small sum you can climb the tower and it is worth doing so. From the very top you can overlook Millau and the numerous bridges that span the Tarn as it circles round the town. You can also see the sleek and very modern lines of the Millau viaduct. At just short of 350m (that’s over a 1,000ft), it can dwarf the Eiffel tower and it is – according to the tourist office – the tallest bridge in the world. I admire the architecture, but what I see is a road in the sky, and that makes me feel uncomfortable. It probably explains why I have an aversion to flying. I really do only need the fingers of one hand to be able to count the number of planes I’ve taken. And that brings me to another realisation. As I’m not a happy flier, perhaps I should consider changing my name!
Life on La Lune: many thanks, Angela for this fascinating tour of Millau. It’s really whetted my appetite to go there again. And I have a particular interest in the opera singer, Emma Calvé, since a character very loosely based on her inhabits one of my novels in progress. So you can expect to read a little more about her on the blog!
Angela works as an Actor and Director at a small theatre in the UK. She writes cosy crime mysteries in her spare time. Her books, which are set in France, feature her investigator, Jacques Forêt.
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