Today we are heading towards Millau with a stop in Estaing to tick another place of Michele’s list. It was cold this morning, winding up from Larouquebrou on tiny moss covered roads towards the village of Pers. The trees around the area are suffering from the cool snap of early winter and have almost completely lost their leaves.
Around the area lots of herds of golden brown Limousin and red Aubrac cattle along with black and white Fresian cattle. After being in the UK for so long with traditional English breeds its nice to see something different.
We headed up through St Mamet where we had great views across the distant hills. It was so cold on the top of the mountains. The only break from the wind was whenever we’d get amongst trees or travelling through villages.
It was a great ride with lots of beautiful countryside. We had some great views of the town of Entraygues-sur-Truyère which looked amazing with the Chateau, church and all the old buildings of the old city. As we wound down the hills we spotted a beautiful old single lane bridge at Entraygues-sur-Truyère. The 16th century bridge was closed to trucks but it was just right for our heavily laden motorbike.
We slowly rode through Entraygues-sur-Truyère looking at the majestic old buildings. As we headed out of town we discovered the road towards Estaing was closed. Unfortunately we were diverted across the second bridge and up the other side of the gorge. We couldn’t believe it the road from Entraygues-sur-Truyère to Estaing is about 10 minutes however the detour added another thirty minutes.
Our first stop was Estaing a beautiful medieval town set on the River Lot, in the Vallee du Lot. The road led down the hill to the single lane 16th century bridge with a statue of locally venerated Saint Fleuret.
Estaing is a stop on the pilgrimage of St James and the shell symbol of pilgrims is proudly displayed. After a coffee at the local Bar Tabac we set offs exploring Estaing. The town is dominated by the Chateau Estaing, the home of the counts of Estaing from the 11th-18th century. The chateau reflects the changing styles of architecture through the centuries with Romanesque, gothic and renaissance features. The chateau was seized by the state in 1794 and sold.
Unfortunately the chateau was closed for the season so we weren’t able to visit.
Below the chateau St Flueret church dates from the 15th century. It was built over the crypt of St Flueret, (the local patron saint) who was the bishop of Auvergne. He died in Estaing in 621 on his way from Rome. It’s quite a simple church with gothic style arches and simple stained glass windows. Many of the buildings around the chateau and church are medieval in perfect condition. In this area the slate roof tiles are not straight edged but rather have fancy rounded spade ends.
Around the town are different metal sculptures made from metal plates. The common themes are the shell of St James, and pilgrims. They look pretty funky and add a arty feel to the town.
After wandering around the town checking out the medieval houses and the spring dedicated to St Fleuren we decided to travel a little further before stopping for lunch.
Out of Estaing we followed the river which led us towards Espalion. The town of Espalion was a great place to stop for lunch. We found a local restaurant which was packed with locals. It was a great place for a great tasting lunch. Espalion has some beautiful red sandstone buildings including 14th century churches, and bridges.
Unfortunately we never realised how beautiful the town was and hopefully if we get back this way we can spend some more time around Espalion.
Overlooking the town is the ruins of chateau Calmont D’Olt high on the hill. It’s a popular tourist attraction with lots of activities throughout the year.
The weather had closed in during lunch, with clouds completely blanketing the sky. As we headed up the hill out of Espalion we copped a light sprinkle of rain. It was time to tuck the chin in and just ride. The road travelled across the high part of the hills and their were views in all directions. It would’ve been so beautiful on a sunny day. The road south took us through lots of villages filled with stone houses with grey slate roofs with rounded tiles. It really is a local style.
About thirty kilometres out of Millau misty rain started to fall and the temperature took a plunge. The area around Millau is covered in forrest and woodlands. It’s famous for its gorges, and table top mountains. Low clouds and fog blanketed the whole area. On the way down the hill into Milleau we spotted the famous Millau Viaduct in the distance. We are really glad that we aren’t crossing it today. Hopefully the weather will be a lot better over the next few days and we’ll ride over it.
As we descended into Millau the temperature rose a few degrees. Maybe it was the lack of wind chill. The road led straight down the hill to the central roundabout where the local council were decorating the Christmas tree. Opposite the roundabout was the Hotel Commerce which was easy to find. Soon we had unpacked the bike and were checking in to our room. The hotel was an old French style with rooms on the third floor and commercial properties on the other floors. The views across the intersection were fabulous. The tree lined avenues radiate from the semicircular intersection as there’s a Boulangerie near the intersection it’s a traffic nightmare. Young guys on two stroke motorcycles and scooters tearing around through the banked up traffic just add to the fun. It should be great spending a few days in Millau and maybe visiting the cheese factory at Roquefort.