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Love France Week – Ardèche insider’s guide

July 26, 2012 1:47 pm
posted by Rebecca

Kicking off our Love France Week is a fabulous hamper of amazing goodies to give away from our friends at Ardèche Tourism.

Looking at the mouthwatering regional treats got us thinking – if you want to see, taste and experience the best of the Ardèche region, what shouldn’t you miss?

We asked Lucile Clara from  Ardèche Tourism for the low-down on her recommended things to see and do – from a local’s point of view – here’s what she told us:

Bistrots de Pays which are scattered all over Southern Ardèche are the best way to experience local gastronomy at moderate prices.

If you want to try a truly local treat from the Ardèche, try a Castagnou –  a kir-like aperitif made from local chestnut liqueur and local white wine such as a Chardonnay or Viognier. You should also try any of the Rhône Wines produced in Ardèche, one of the most renowned ones being St Joseph

If you want to take something home that truly represents the Ardèche region, shop around for anything chestnut based including chestnut purée to make yummy desserts once in the UK or marrons glacés which are candied chestnuts and one of the area’s most renowned specialites. You could also try Picodon (a local goat’s cheese)

You really shouldn’t miss the Pont d’Arc. It is an amazing natural stone arch, carved out of the rocks in the Ardèche Gorges Nature Reserve.

Most people don’t know but… The World’s oldest painted cave is in the Ardèche. Discovered in 1994, la Grotte Chauvet Pont d’Arc will unveil its secrets when it is opened to the public in two years’ time, so watch this space!

The best beach? There are many but best ones include Mazet Plage in Berrias et Casteljau or Pont du Diable in Thueyts.

Best viewing spot? Mont Gerbier de Jonc which is the source of the Loire River and offers fabulous views of the Rhone Valley, the Cevennes and the Alps.

Do not miss Ardèche’s “Villages de Caractère”, which are small villages with traditional houses nestled in the rock. Some of the best examples are Balazuc and Labeaume. I’d also reccomend a canoeing trip in the Ardèche Gorges – a must when you are in the area and this is usually done with a guide.

If you’re visiting with the familiy, children always love caves so why not take them to the impressive Aven d’Orgnac. Renowned as one of the largest in the world, this cave is like an “underground cathedral” sure to be a hit with the little ones.

For nightlife, spend an evening on the terrace at the Pierre & Vacances Le Rouret centre with a good wine from the Ardèche, goat’s cheese and local delicatessen!

Finally, here are some interesting facts about the Ardèche region:

–   1st producer of chestnuts and wild raspberries in France

–   The Chauvet Pont d’Arc Cave (as mentioned above) which features the oldest drawings in the world.

–   The 1st hot air balloon invented by the Montgolfier brothers in Annonay

–   The longest French river takes its sources in Ardèche: the Loire, at Mont Gerbier de Jonc

–   6,000 km of walking paths/tracks throughout the area!

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