I remember a couple of years back when The Bridge had only just opened. We had the bright idea of going over to Millau on New Year's Day to inspect it and perhaps eat a leisurely lunch in the town. No chance. The place was mobbed. Absolutely jam-packed. And an awful lot of the smug diners-in-possession-of-a-table were from Moisson. Practically everyone else in the village had had the same idea.
Still. That merely went to prove that it was a top notch notion. Millau is small but very pretty, curled up like a kitten at the bottom of the valley. The historical centre is suitably quaint and although it isn't exactly Bond Street, I like shopping in Millau.
It has the largest Emmaüs I've ever seen, housed in a huge old factory-style building right in the centre of town and offering a classic mixture of dead Barbies, kitsch coffee tables and bargain Le Creuset.
Then there's the cheap fabric shop on the other side of town which also stocks giveaway towels and sheets. I especially like their old fashioned and generous attitude to measuring, always giving you a baker's dozen. I got some great yellow cotton there last time, enough to make loose covers for a three piece sofa including extra cushion slips, and the whole lot was only 30 euros. So that shop is always worth a look-in.
The other place that's fun to poke around is the bargain store right up above the town opposite the Casino superstore. I especially like the selection of tableware although I am also strangely drawn to the glorious profusion of fake flowers gathered around a Disney-style park bench.
And if all that fails, the town centre is good for a wander: winding streets, trendy boutiques, tiny cafés, no traffic and enough eateries to justify a decent lunch if you're all shopped out. We don't bother with more than a kebab though because right beside the market hall is a great shop selling all kinds of doggy accessories. We always go in because the place is so small that even Bella is guaranteed to knock something off the shelves and at the back there's a picture of a man shampooing a large Alsatian.
Now if you've done all that and you have energy left, there's the cinema or, just out of town, a huge insect display thing called Micropolis (www.micropolis.biz). Don't ask me why, but this place is a source of endless fascination to children who will happily spend a whole afternoon gazing at ant stomachs.
Personally however, my taste runs more to the glove museum (http://www.ot-millau.fr/gb/sites_touristiques/musee_millau/musee_millau.htm) which is officially called the Musée de Millau and contains wonderful er... gloves. Oh yes, it also has old stones and coins and fossils and... that sort of thing. But the gloves are the best.
Which brings me onto the subject of leather. Or at least sheepskin. Millau is a great place to buy sheepskin gloves, rugs, waistcoats, hats, overcoats, and slippers. There are various shops all competing on style and price and prices do slide dramatically in the sales.
Oh yes, and there's the bridge thing. I mean, the famous wonder of modern civil engineering. What do they call it? The Viaduc. It's amazing. (Apologies, but seriously, steel girders -v- elegant fashion = no contest.)
Still, you can wear the sheepskin gloves when gazing at the bridge from the various designated bridge-admiring points. You can even wear them in the Millau Bridge Experience Centre. Well, no. It probably isn't called that but that's what I call it. It's kind of tucked under the southern end of the bridge and finding it is a bit of a palaver, so get a map from the tourist office before you set out... but it is worth it if you have technically-minded men and/or children in the party. The place is jam packed with videos, drawings, models and explanations of the bridge being designed, financed, built and opened. There is also an extensive photo gallery of the viaduct itself and even Kate Moss can never have been photographed with such intensity, in so many lights, from so many angles, and in so many weathers. And if I am forced to mention that the place would be all the better for a small champagne bar tucked away in the basement and perhaps a little low Ella Fitzgerald on the sound system, then I absolutely admit that this has more to do with me being frivolous than with The Bridge being boring.
Happy New Year, Millau!
If you would like to read more articles, or would like to commission one for your publication, please email me using the form on the contacts page.