Greetings from Esther: ‘Valence is like a second home’
I think I’ve spent around six of my last ten holidays in the vicinity of Valence. This French city is tucked in between the Ardèche and the Drôme, on the Route du Soleil, just below Lyon. I love that part of France: the views of the Rhône Valley, the surrounding towns, the beautiful nature and the delicious food. It feels a bit like a second home. And if you maintain a good speed, you can drive there in a day.
Valence has everything, but it’s not a city you can spend days wandering around. There are a few nice clothing shops that I like to visit, and a few lovely places dotted about. An example is the Place des Clercs, where you can sit and relax with a drink on one of the terraces. When you stand in the middle of the square, you face the back of Saint-Apollinaire’s Cathedral. The cathedral itself is also worth a visit. And if you walk along the left side of the cathedral, you’ll come to another small square. An eye-catcher is the relatively new art and archaeological museum building. Walk to the back of the cathedral for a stunning view of the city.
Bite to eat
If you’re only visiting Valence for a bite to eat in the evening, park your car for free at the Association Cuturelle Maranatha. A long staircase (Côte Saint Martin) will take you to a lovely square that is shaded by old trees. This is the Place de la Pierre. There are several restaurants to choose from. My favourite? Autour de la Pierre! It’s advisable to book if you want to eat here in the high season or at the weekend.
Want to head out of town for dinner at a typical French restaurant? Then L’Ange Gourmand in Champis is definitely recommendable and a delightful spot. They have a fantastic terrace with stunning views of the Rhône Valley and the inside is just like an antiques shop. Almost everything around you is for sale. All of the dishes on the menu are made with local produce and there is a wide choice of very good wines. A truly special place to have dinner.
Every Thursday morning, the local market transforms Lamastre (just under an hour’s drive from Valence) into a hive of activity. Olives, vegetables, fruit, soap and clothing: you can buy anything and everything at the market. I always go earlyish, so I don’t miss the poulterer and his delicious roast chickens, which I take home for lunch. I always buy bars of soap for home at the soap stall. I finish with a cup of coffee and then head back with my rucksack packed full of local produce.
For chocolate, go to Valrhona, a chocolaterie in Tain l’Hermitage, around 20 minutes’ drive from Valence. I can’t resist visiting this shop when I’m in the neighbourhood. What’s so nice about this shop? You can sample just about everything. There’s a good chance you will leave with bags full… That’s what always happens to me, at least!
I’ll be honest: good food is always a big part of my holiday. But I also enjoy a good walk. On one such occasion, I discovered the old tram rails from Valence to Alboussière. A small tram used to ride up the hill, but now it’s a road you can walk along with views of the Rhône Valley and the vineyards, the Chemin du Tramway. It’s a side road of the D533 (from Valence to Saint Agrève) that eventually brings you back out onto the D533.