Hi Again - a wet day so a chance to write a bit more.
I should say something about the French, and their language. I dont speak french, so I was taking a bit of a risk travelling by myself without an interpretter. I soon found that if I said "do you speak English" they would totally ignore me. If asked "parlez vous anglese", then 90% of the time they would reply "non". On the other hand, if I blurted something from my indespensible phrase-book, then 90% of the time they would reply in English!
After I left my friends I didn't have any firm plans except to stock-up with food, so my first stop was a `Le Clerke' supermarket. I was impressed by the variety of fruit and vegetables available at reasonable prices. Prepared foods were, by contrast, relatively expensive. A half french loaf was 50 cents in the bakery, but in the deli-section, where somebody had added a shaving of ham, it was 5 euro! I stocked-up with some beautiful big globe artichokes, duck breast and some carrot rappee - a carrot salad - the French dont seem to cook carrots but have them as a salad. I also bought some plastic rubbish bags - the usual plastic shopping bags are banned in France. The supermarket had a couple of petrol,pumps, but no diesel.
My next destination was the Millau Viaduct about 300 km away. I set the GPS to shortest distance and set off along some less well traveled roads. The country-side was obviously a fairly poor and archaic rural community - very small paddocks with a variety of colour - lots of yellow sunflowers being grown for seed, golden grain crops, green vegetables and a few small flocks of sheep and herds of pale cattle. The country soon changed into a poorer soil type with lots of limestone outcrops. There patches of woodlots with woodcutters building piles of logs for fuel. This was an area miles from other sources of fuel. The country got a bit steeper and barren. I found myself driving through an area reminisant of the Skippers Gorge, except the windy road was beauifully tar-sealed and no other traffic was evident. When I reached the only town for miles I was dismayed that the only sevice station had run out of diesel. This forced me to detour about 50 miles to Le Vigan, quite a reasonable size town in the mountains and with a selection of diesel pumps - those at the supermarkets are usually much cheaper than the garages.
I soon found myself on the A75 heading south to Millau. The french roads have a strange numbering system. The motorways that cross the country are either A or E roads (there was some re-labelling going on so my Michelan map was a bit unreliable). Lesser roads have a D prefix. I think the D stands for Department (like a province) as each Department (there are over 90 of them) can have the same number for a different road. You can be driving on the D18 in one Department when it suddenly becomes the D269 in the next. There are also some even lesser C roads which are sometimes only a single lane. My GPS only gave the old names such as Rue de Chateau, which was named the D73 on the map.
The Millau Viaduct is magnificent. It is about 2 1/2 km long and spans the whole valley. At the deepest part, the valley is about 250 meters below the deck. The roadway is curved and rises gently as you go head south. On te South side of the valley is the Larzac Plateau. I decided to follow a tourist sign to La Couvertoirade. This is a fascinating medieval fortified village that had been a headquarters for the Knights Templar in the days of the crusades. There was a lot more to see so I spent the night in the carpark along with several other campervans. Next day I explored the vilage a bit more then carried on to visit four more old Knights Templar villages in the area. I had always thought that the crusades were an English institution, but they were organised by the French and the Knights Templar were the ones who saw that everybody got there and back safely.
I'd joined a thing called France Passion (see http://www.france-passion.com) which lists hundreds of places where you can park for free. I decided to try one so set off a steep and windy unsealed road to the top of a hill. Here was a magnificent chateau, but a bit spoiled by modern alerations and a bit run-down. The family that lived there had about 20 hectaire of hill farm and ran about 100 angora goats. The husband took the goats out to the fields every day and back to the barn at night. He had a dog, but didn't use it to drive the goats - he walked in front and they followed. The wife and daughters all spun and wove the wool into various items they sold at markets. I later stayed at a variety of vineyards, duck farms, vegetable growers and other farms. Not all spoke any English, but they were all keen that you buy some of their produce. The nice thing was that all the places I stayed were in the country and nice and quiet. France Passion is something I recommend.