In my highly biased opinion, le Viaduc de Millau (luh vee-ah-dook duh meeow) is one of the most beautiful modern structures in the world. At the time of its inauguration, it was the tallest bridge at 343 metres, just slightly taller than another beautiful French structure, the Eiffel Tower. Located near Montpellier in southern France, the bridge soars above the Tarn River. The 400 million euro structure was dedicated on December 14, 2004 and opened to the public two days later.
Before the bridge, traffic moving from Paris to Spain backed up for miles, as cars threaded their way down one side of the valley and up again, especially during the summer vacation. Eiffage, the engineering company that grew from Gustave Eiffel’s company, won the contract as well as the right to collect the tolls until 2080. Construction on the cable-stayed bridge began in 2001 from opposite sides of the valley. I remember the footage on TV as the two sides were joined in the center. Such precision! An array of sensors monitor the bridge for movement and traffic at all times. Between 10,000 and 25,000 vehicles use the viaduct each day at a toll of between €6 and €7.50 each.
Today’s expression, être haut comme trois pommes (etruh oh kum twa pum) literally means “to be as high as three apples” but is used figuratively to mean “to be knee high.” It’s often used to describe children: Il est haut comme trois pommes. If the average apple is about 4 inches, or 10 cm high, you would have to stack 3,430 apples one on top of another to measure the height of the Viaduc de Millau. That would be about as big a feat as building a bridge from opposite sides of a gorge simultaneously.
Read more about it: Le Viaduc de Millau: Le pont le plus haut du monde
- Confused.com Guide to Driving in France (confused.com)