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Ventana - An Enchanting Resort in BIg Sur

Summary: I love Ventana. I highly recommend visiting  and exploring the landscape at Lime Kiln and Andrew Molera State Park which I've blogged about here. Please note this is #notsponsored . Yes, that means we paid our own bill! Lots of details in the following review. including a Post Ranch vs Ventana comparison.  Can you tell there's something exciting beyond this beautiful gate? There's something special about Big Sur, a magic in the light, the presence of the Pacific, the cliffs, beaches, redwood forests and the murmur of the surf. It's one of my favorite places in California. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be to celebrate turning fifty, because it's a place where there's a sense of nature, space and light and a wide horizon. We've been to Big Sur many times and for a celebration there are two fantastic hotels vying for your attention. The exclusive, modern and very private, cliff top Post Ranch Inn and on the other side of the road the …

An Aqueduct and a Viaduct...

Driving between Provence and the Aveyron, we were able to visit a wonderful pairing of two engineering marvels built almost two millenia apart, the famous Roman aqueduct (the Pont du Gard above) and the acclaimed 2004 Millau Viaduct (the tallest suspension bridge in the world). Unfortunately it was an overcast grey day and so we missed seeing the Roman arches of the Pont du Gard set against a clear blue sky, which is the way it always seems to appear  in photographs, such as this one from the official website.
 
However, by the late afternoon when we reached Millau the sun had come through the clouds as you can see below.
We had hoped to pull off the road and admire the Pont du Gard in passing however this is a more elaborate site than we'd imagined! There's an enormous visitor's center with a huge parking lot  and a museum. You then walk to the site itself. I have to say if I'd done any research and realized this in advance, I would have opted to rent a kayak and see it from the river - which looked far more scenic.
Clearly this has been on the tourist track for some time as the Nineteenth century graffiti attests, see below. This reminded me of similar graffiti we've seen at ancient sites in the Middle East including Persepolis in Iran. 
The Pont du Gard (which has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007) is merely a fragment of a 50km structure that carried water to the city of Nimes. The limestone bridge is a masterpiece of Roman engineering and architecture and is marked by both its beauty and functionality.
I was of course familiar with the term aqueduct but when we arrived at Millau I wasn't sure what made this a viaduct as opposed to just a bridge? Luckily wikipedia has informed me that a viaduct is a bridge of multiple small spans, crossing a valley or gorge. Although the term was not used by the Romans, it is a modern derivation and  analogous to the  Latin term aqueduct. It's interesting to think of these two sites linked by geography, a short drive and even language.
The drive north on A75 towards the Millau Viaduct and the Tarn Gorge was spectacular. It's a landscape on a grand scale with sheer drops down from the road which cuts along the hillside of the dramatic mountainous terrain. The  stunning drive merely foreshadowed the manmade drama that was to come. 
Norman Foster's bridge is a masterpiece of design, it was beautiful to cross and lovely to look at. My photographs give neither a sense of the size of the valley nor the scale of the bridge. It is enormous, shimmering, beautiful and geometric, no less than a modern wonder. If you have the opportunity to cross it don't hesitate to stop at the viewing point and visitors center.
Aside: Though I haven't covered it chronologically on the blog this journey linked our trip from Provence to the Dordogne. From the viaduct we travelled to Estaing where we stayed the night. The next day we visited the mediaeval pilgrimage site of Conques and then spent two nights in Domme followed by a night in Monpazier. I'll be blogging about the whole trip including the  chateaus, gardens and sites we visited including Brantome, Chateau Castel de Nouvel and Chateau Milandes. I'm particularly looking forward to telling you about a lovely walk we took around Turenne.

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