We are now half-way through our trip. It seems like we've been away from home for a long time, and we've seen and done so much since we've been here.
Janice walked into the village with me this morning, and after breakfast we headed north on the A75 for Roquefort. Jan is very fond of cheese. Of course we got there at just about noon and everything was closing up for lunch. We found a really neat restaurant called Les Fleurines, and thought the name had something to do with flowers. All three of us had the "plat du jour," which was a grilled sausage with roquefort sauce, potatoes, and lettuce salad. The sauce was especially good, as was the sausage. The restaurant was in a barrel-vaulted room made from stones and was really charming. It was the sort of place that makes you feel like the trip was worth it.
Mom & I had been to Roquefort before, but had not gone down in the the caves where they age the cheese. We visited the Papillon caves - Jan & I did the tour, but Mom stayed upstairs as there were far too many steps for her to navigate. It was interesting, but somewhat disappointing because there was no cheese in the caves. We toured three levels of empty shelves! I guess they don't think it's very sanitary to have a bunch of tourists walking around breathing on the cheese. There was a very interesting video showing how cheese was made in 1927. It was a lot of work back then, for sure. That part of the video had some titles in English, but the present day part of the video was only in French. The tour was conducted in French, but they gave us the script in English so we could read it before we descended into the cave. The caves were built in a series of limestone faults, which are called "fleurines" -- so nothing to do with flowers after all. Air moves through the fleurines, keeping the temperature and humidity in the caves at a constant level for aging the cheese. The cheese itself is made elsewhere and is already salted with the penicillin spores. The cheese is aged for a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of 350 days. Only cheese made in this area, which is about 2 km long and 300 meters wide can be labelled Roquefort Cheese, and there are 9 companies in the town making cheese. One of the great mysteries both times we've been there has been: where are all the sheep? Roquefort is made from sheep's milk, but we've never seen any sheep around there. Today, though we did see some sheep near the Millau Viaduct.
The Millau Viaduct was opened in late 2004 or early 2005, spanning the Tarn River, and completing the A75 autoroute from Paris to the south of France. It has become quite a tourist attraction in its own right. It's a very impressive sight. Funny thing is that it is just up the road from the city of Millau, but there is no on/off ramp for Millau near the viaduct. We approached the viaduct from below where there is a visitor's center, and were hoping we could get back on the A75 so we could go over it, but the road to the A75 actually took us up into the hills above Millau, and to the south of the viaduct. The route was beautiful with magnificent views and interesting rock formations, and lots of twists and turns, but we didn't get to go over the viaduct. Maybe next time.
All in all another wonderful day in la belle France.