motorway aires: 10
aires on the magnificent A75 autoroute
aire de marvejols, viaduc de millau, viaduct de garabit
hover with your mouse,
Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago,
Motorway aires are designed to provide a suitable environment for relaxing, refreshing and recovering during the long, hard journeys. As well as facilities of often dubious nature, picnic tables and seats, a telephone kiosk, there are often optional extras such as a play area or a display related to some local interest or event.
The A75 motorway (la Méridienne) runs from just north of Clermont-Ferrand in the north, southwards to Béziers, so crossing the Central Massif and adjacent areas of unusual geology. abelard.org visited the southern part of the autoroute. This section, of 340 km between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers, is free apart from the toll on the Viaduct de Millau. (There are two sections still to be completed: the Lodève bypass - 13km, opening forecast for 2006, and the link between Béziers and Pézenas - 21 km, its opening forecast for the first quarter of 2010.)
In late 2005, this motorway is nearing completion (it was started in 1975). The Viaduct de Millau only opened in December 2004. This major construction plays a pivotal role, enabling the A75 to traverse the deep Tarn gorge rather than going down into the valley and past the town of Millau, a journey with hours of traffic jams.
This nicely surfaced motorway is like a switchback as it sweeps through volcanic hills and limestone gorges, giving many attractive views, some endowed with a suitably located aire, like the Aire de Marvejols. There are pretty and impressive road bridges spanning the motorway, in strong yellow, blues, rust red.
As well as the astounding Viaduc de Millau, there are many other smaller viaducts along the way, to span the undulating landscape. (You can expect your ears to ‘pop’ fairly frequently.) This bridging started in the 19th century, when it was railways rather than roads that were the major transport. The Viaduc de Garabit comes from that era, an spectacular piece of iron engineering.
For travellers on this attractive motorway, there are more aires with games, shops and greater parking space than the ones we visited. There are also other diversions nearby, on leaving the road like the town of Chaude-Aigues, for instance, near exit/sortie 34, with its geothermal power station taking advantage of the 82°C springs.
This is a fairly small aire at about 800 metres (2600 ft) height, with commanding views which may inspire some to raptures. It is a good place for aspiring geologists to observe U-shaped valleys and other geological esoterica. This aire is only accessible from the northbound side of the A75. There is a similar aire on the southbound carriageway, about 200 metres further north. They are not linked.
The viewing point for the Viaduc de Millau [related page], together with the visitors’s centre, is now accessible in both directions using slip roads from the A75.
From here, there is access to both the exhibition centre [open from 9am to 7pm, last entry is at 6.30pm] and the viewing point. The viewing point is approximately 30 minutes walk away uphill, but the climb is very steep in places, and is unmetalled. There are some benches on the way with good views over the valley towards Millau.
the viaduc de Garabit
This aire is on the west side of the motorway, next to the southbound carriageway. However, the aire is accessible from both directions of the motorway, those coming north drive under the motorway by a road tunnel.
Gustav Eiffel had previously tested this bridge-building technique
with a smaller bridge at Porto in Portugal. It was after for years
of work that the two halves of the arch, springing from either
side of the River Truyère, were joined together. Although
the main reason for building the bridge was commercial - to transport
goods manufactured, such as Langedoc wines, in the south of France
to the North and Paris, in the 1900s the railway line became the
means for Auvergnats [people born in the Auvergne region] to leave
Paris, from the Gare d’Orsay, and return home for holidays.
In 1934, the railways converted from coal-fired locomotives to ones powered by electricity. Then in 1937, six competing railway companies were merged into one nationalised company, the SNCF - la Société Nationale de Chemins de Fer, or National Company of Iron Roads. The maximum allowed speed for trains going over the viaduct is 40 km per hour.
During the Second World War, in 1944, the Mount-mouchet marquis [French resistance fighters] were based nearby and were very active in cutting the means of communication for the German invaders. They blew up the stone bridges near the railway station, and were looking to the viaduct as another target. However, the locals thought otherwise and mounted a 24-hour guard to prevent any such sabotage.
The viaduc de Garabit has been in a number of films. In The Cassandra Bridge, a disaster movie with Sophie Loren, Burt Lancaster, Martin Sheen and Ava Gardner, made in 1976, the viaduct apparently collapsed into the River Truyère below.
aire Marvejols is in Département 48 - Lozère.
|on first arriving in France - driving||motorway aires, introduction|
|travelling by rail to and within France||individual aires|
|A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and its aires||Les Pyrénées, A64||Poey de Lascar, A64|
|A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond - aires||Pic
du Midi, A64
Mas d’Agenais, A62
|A7 - aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille||Pech
|A9- aires on the motorway to Spain||Ayguesvives,
|A62 - aires on the autoroute of two seas||three aires on the canal du midi, A61||Lozay,
|A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau||Carcassonne, A61||Les Bréguières, A8|
|A64 and A61 - aires on the other autoroute of two seas|
|A83 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires||A63: the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - formerly the N10|
|A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires||A20 - aires on the Occitane autoroute, from Brive to Montauban|
|A42 and A40 motorways - aires from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy||A87 motorway and its aires in Poitou-Charentes|
|abstracts | briefings | information | headlines | loud music & hearing damage | children & television violence | what is memory, and intelligence? | about abelard|
email abelard at abelard.org
© abelard, 2005, 04 october
the address for this document is http://www.abelard.org/france/motorway-aires10.php