Two thousand years of history.
Thousands of years apart, yet each light years ahead of the pack.
Only in France can you drive just a bit over 100 miles to discover
the crossroads that will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
At this intersection of Rome and Geek, you'll experience
2,000 years of history and achievement on one simple journey.
Le Viaduc de Millau, opened in 2004, marries art with function.
In stark similarity, Rome's finest effort, the Pont du Gard,
was built somewhere around the first century AD.
Amazingly, these timeless landmarks stand
just 119 miles away from one other.
Centuries apart, both are monuments to mankind's ingenuity and gumption.
And they pepper our desire to see what's around the next bend
on our intoxicating travels in France.
"Only in France" is a phrase I use often, a maxim truly
earned in this analogy of the seminal bridges.
France can tell a story like no other and here French legend is
mirrored in two disparate frames that span twenty centuries.
It's a connection to history and a journey you'll never forget.
get from Paris to, say, Montpellier in the Languedoc or Barcelona, Spain.
You've passed through the green center of France and by-passed
busy Clermont Ferrand, anxious to get to your destination.
Just when you think the scenery can't get any lovelier, you come across the
Tarn River Valley, a corner of France where the windswept Causse Noir
meets the old city of Millau, often described as the crossroads
between east and west, north and south.
Out of the blue, like the mythical Phoenix, it rises,
the suspension bridge to end all bridges,
le Viaduc de Millau.
A piece of art within the landscape.
Revered by architects and engineers alike -- as well as art lovers,
sports enthusiasts and history junkies, this mind-bending overpass
connects the capitol of France with its favorite southern holiday destinations.
For years, traffic was critically congested in this popular crossroads
so France and her taxpaying citizens took on the task of
improving the quality and speed of transportation.
And of course, true to form, they sought to add in a bit of
Gallic flair to make sure it met the robust French criteria
of form (beauty) and function (utility).
Taste and panache in equal measure with practicality and convenience.
Opened in December 2004, the architect, Sir Norman Foster,
hoped motorists would feel as if they're flying by car.
Sir Norman got it right.
Only in France....
One part artistic masterpiece, one part progressive architecture,
one part revolutionary engineering = The Right Stuff.
The tallest bridge in the world (1122 feet tall, higher than the Eiffel Tower),
this feat of human over-achievement spans 1.5 miles across the Tarn River Valley.
Your kids will stop asking "When are we getting there?"
Before they beg "Let's do it again!", remember there's a toll involved.
But then again, the effect is priceless.
A full minute and a half where your childhood dream to
flap your wings and soar like a bird come true.
Only in France ......
And the futuristic design and engineering?
Even George Jetson would have been envious.
"If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing."
It's tough to take in on the first go-round -- the wild landscape,
the elegant "sails" of the bridge, and the majesty of the experience....
But luckily there is a viewing platform so you can
stop to appreciate what you just witnessed.
Aladdin's magic carpet ride could not have been much better.
To borrow a phrase,
"To boldly go where no one has gone before"
is the mission of every traveler.
So when offered the opportunity to act out two bucket-list fantasies
in one day, you're likely to jump at the chance.
"If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me
For I must be travelin' on now
There's too many places I got to see....
and the chorus goes on .....'cause I'm free as a bird now...."
Read more: Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird Lyrics | MetroLyrics
written by: Ronnie Van Sant & Allen Collins
Make like a bird and cross the Viaduc du Millau.
From 21st century marvel to Roman derring-do, let's move on
to the Roman Empire ---- practically next door.
Rome had been in Provence since the 2nd century BC.
Provence has only been part of France for some 500 years.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that much of France's
best architecture began with Rome, her soldiers and her slaves,
sheer will and exceptional foresight -- and that thing we call good planning.
The Romans were good at infrastructure.
They left behind their gift for matchless technique and
brilliant construction that has lasted and lasted.
Mon Dieu, did it ever!
The Pont du Gard, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is astonishing.
How it has stood up to the ravages of time, floods and
human indignities is beyond my comprehension.
Three tiers of arches line up to form the famous aqueduct which
originally carried water some 30 miles from the Eure
nearby all the way to the Roman outpost at Nimes.
Their creation deserves all its accolades -- highest, best preserved,
most beautiful .... you'll add your own once you see it.
As you study the size and strength of the great stone blocks used to
construct the aqueduct, your head will spin.
How did the workers (slaves) do it?
And even more remarkably, how did they form the arches
without using any type of mortar or clamp to hold it all together?
Limestone blocks cut so precisely they fit together like a glove.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the aqueduct fell into disrepair but was kept functional as a toll-bridge by the local lords who saw an easy way to make money.
As a matter of fact, the bridge was used for human traffic until relatively recently.
Roman technique made for a beautiful structure, one that provided
millions of gallons of water a day to the local community.
The top tier of arches (smallest of the three) are what held the crucial water pipeline.
The area is surrounded by oaks, olive trees and dense
garrigue so typical of the Provence countryside.
Water sports, paragliding and picnicking are just a few of the
popular distractions that make for a full day of fun.
This amazing structure took just five years to build,
yet it has withstood the test of time.
Only in France ......
Contemplating Roman soldiers and slaves as they went about their daily
business in this magical place is like owning your own slice of eternity.
Time may stretch out behind you and before you, but when you stand
in front of the Pont du Gard, it makes you feel like perhaps your own little
nugget of time and space on earth accounts for something long-lasting.
Roll up your sleeves and build a bridge to your own trail.
I hope you make le Viaduc de Millau and le Pont du Gard part of your own legend.