Yesterday we went on a visit to Saint Flour, an hours drive from us and most of the way via the (free) A75 autoroute. We had often seen the town in the distance while on the motorway and it had always looked an inviting place to visit up on its basalt platform. However on reflection it would seem its best view is from a distance. There are two parts to the town, one below the cliff and one above. The new town is fairly vibrant with many shops and restaurants and a pretty bridge over the river. However the old town is very run down, with many empty shops that have closed down completely or moved to the community below. There are a couple of fairly touristy streets with hotels and restaurants, these lead up to the main square that has views of the surrounding countryside.
The panorama is somewhat spoilt by an enormous development on the hillside opposite, seemingly modelled on a UK 1930s housing estate. Luckily the views to the right are over the town and the river below.
However there was a boulangerie selling excellent ice cream, so all was not lost!
Viaduc de Garabit
As we still had plenty of time we headed off to visit the Viaduc de Garabit a rail bridge built by Gustave Eiffel over the Truyère river. Again we had glimpsed this from the autoroute and wanted to get a closer look. There is a handy rest area near junction 30, the Aire du Garabit , this directly overlooks the bridge and has a small cafe with informative panels on its construction. It is very well worth a visit and a closer look is obtained by leaving the autoroute and descending to the car park directly below the bridge on the banks of the Truyère.