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The Last Provencal Frontier Nyons Lucy Pitts explores the dramatic beauty of this little known part of Provence Who doesn’t love a good French market? It’s such a thoroughly sensual and deliciously medieval experience, with people stacking their produce high and squeezing their stalls into any available space, even if they’re clinging to the edge of a roundabout. The market in Nyons is no exception and it’s just one of the reasons to visit this remote little town in Drôme, in the south of the Rhône Alpes region. Head east, off the beaten track Nyons is some way off the beaten track to the east of Valence in the north and Avignon to the south. It feels like the last town before the frontier and it sort of is, as its position nestled in the Pre Alpes foothills means there are no significant towns beyond it for some time. This region is famed for its olives, lavender, fruit trees and sunflowers and as you drive east from the Rhône, long, wide, straight, flat roads take you through the olive groves. There are giant terracotta olives just in case you were in any doubt and all the time, you can see the rugged rise of the mountains in the hazy distance. Eventually, as the mountains draw you gradually nearer, you bear right and as the road starts to gently undulate and bend, you know that you’re nearly in Nyons.
A holiday feel Nyons dates back to before the 5th century and you’re welcomed by a large open square surrounded by covered arcades, plane and palm trees and pavement cafés and bars. It feels Mediterranean and in the evening the trees are lit up, and there’s a holiday feel with helmetless moped riders buzzing about and old French cars that smell like they’re belching out 2 stroke (if anyone else remembers that smell). Because of its position tucked right into the foot of the hills, you’re sheltered from the Mistral and in September it’s still warm enough to eat lunch and dinner outside. A climb to the top The Thursday market starts before the sun has crept fully into the streets. The market seeps out from the square into the veins of the town, including out through the Saint Jacques gate (the only gate in the defensive wall), into the medieval Place des Arcades and on through a series of narrow streets. North of the main square is the Place Josesph Buffaven and to the side of that you’ll notice a set of intriguing steps and a first floor corridor looking over the square. If you’re waiting for the market to get into full swing, now is the time to explore.
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