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You find yourself wondering why you don’t know more about this elegant city This 3-hectare site has lime trees, lawns and fountains and the romantic Kiosk de Peynet. With views across to the Vercours and Ardèche mountains and the old ruins of Castle Crussol, it’s a captivating start and has access to one of the city’s eight parks, the Jouvet Park. With the impressive line of 19th century façades bordering the Champ du Mars you find yourself wondering why you don’t know more about this elegant city. From the wide Boulevard du Général de Gaulle head into the narrow back streets where you’ll find a melting pot of architecture and intriguing pockets of interest. This city was on the pilgrims’ trail and the cathedral (built and rebuilt in the 11th, 17th and 19th centuries) has a special ambulatory for pilgrims and monument to Pope Pius VI, who died in Valence. Then there’s the Maison des Têtes, a 16th century house built on the cusp of the transition from Gothic to Renaissance and covered in sculpted heads representing wind, wealth and time, as well as theology, law and medicine. And there’s the Pendentif which, built in 1548, broke new architectural ground with its spherical triangles. In fact, almost every twist and turn in the narrow streets of Valence reveals something intriguing, from narrow steps in the city walls to art galleries (the city has an impressive collection) to three Michelin starred restaurants. There’s even an Armenian centre here and the different architecture seems to sway gently through the centuries. A bite of Valance Valence has food and the gourmand at its heart. In every boulangerie you’ll find a local speciality: the Suisse and the Pogne. The Suisse is shaped and decorated as a Swiss soldier in honour of Pope Pius’ guards, it's a sort of orange blossom flavoured brioche while the Pogne is a rounded brioche.
The very best place to try these is the Boulangerie Nivon, a short stroll from the station and where they’ve been serving these delights to commuters since 1856. They're possibly the best in the city and the bakers’ passion is palpable, (or should I say edible?). In every restaurant, you’ll come across another speciality, their tiny Raviole du Dauphiné, made of white cheese and parsley. Then there’s Anne Sophie Pic and her family. An award winning, third generation chef, she has followed in her grandfather’s footsteps by winning 3 Michelin stars. Their influence is felt everywhere and of course, they’re not the only Michelin starred chefs in the city or the region. A weekend for the gourmand And then of course there’s the annual Fête de la Gastronomie at the end of September. At this time of year, the weather’s still balmy and the city throws its doors open to embrace all the flavours of the region as well as the cuisine of the world. Centred on the Place des Clercs but spreading out through the city, you can enjoy local celebrity chefs preparing their favourite dishes, markets, musico – gastronomic (yes cooking to the rhythm of the DJ), workshops and a tour of 8 of the city’s historical monuments who host fine food tastings. The streets are filled with music and teasingly delightful aromas and lots of the restaurants embrace the festival spirit with special offers and dishes. Each year the festival celebrates a specific theme that encourages “the reflection and discovery of French Gastronomy” and in 2015, the festival saw some 2 million visitors. If you love France and you love food, it’s a little slice of the idyllic. Linger a little longer Valence feels sophisticated and elegant, yet quiet and very personal. There are regular markets here on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and other cultural events going on throughout the year. In July there’s a large and free music festival on the Champ Du Mars and of course, there’s the many places to visit beyond the city and in the surrounding Drôme. Valence is Lyon’s beautiful but shy cousin and a city that you should take the time to get to know much better. More information www.ladrometourisme.com www.valence-romans-tourisme.com/en/ Details for Fête de la Gastronomie at: valenceengastronomie.fr Where to stay:Les Négociants is in the centre of the city, a few steps from the station and almost next door to the Boulangerie Nivon. It has a quirky and fun feel and is a great place to explore from. www.hotelvalence.com
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