Spain Guide

France Guide


Valence France


Moving south from Vienne to Valence you will pass some of France's most celebrated vineyards in the Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, St Joseph and Cote Rotie appellations. It is always a good idea to pick up some wine from the local supermarket in a wine area like this as the wine is bound to be cheaper than in the towns along the north coast where tourists are their target.

You don't have to spend much either to get an extremely good wine here, from some of France's oldest vineyards. Also southwest of Vienne is the Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat, with lovely views of the Rhone from the peaks Cret de l'Oeillon and Cret de la Perdrix.

Valence is a distinctly ' Midi ' town, in other words southern, compared to Vienne, and the colours, light, smells and ambience of Provence and the south of France are tangible. The Romans named the town Valentia in 2BC, and there has been a university in Valence since 1452. At the tender age of 16, Napoléon attended military school here. The old town, Vieux Valence, is overlooked by the Cathédrale St Apollinaire that was consecrated in 1095, at around the time of the First Crusade, but then had to be rebuilt in the 17th century after a local baron caused considerable damage during the Wars of Religion. The narrow streets between the cathedral and Église de St Jean are called cotes, cote St Estève or cote St Martin for example. These are the oldest streets in Valence and people such as Rabelais and Napoléon have walked there before you. The town's medieval remains include the Maison des Tetes at 57 Grande Rue, with a Flamboyant Gothic façade that is embellished with the sculpted heads of cherubs, Time and Fortune.

Valence has good budget accommodation including La Regina at 37 rue Denis Papin (04 75 44 24 36) near the tourist office (04 75 44 90 40), which is on parvis de la Gare. There is more upmarket accommodation available at Yan's Hotel, on the route de Montéléger south of town (04 75 55 52 52), with a pool and rooms from €85 100, and several options inbetween. Valence eateries include several good brasseries, like Le Bistrot at 48 Grande Rue; the upmarket Restaurant Pic, 285 av Victor Hugo (04 75 44 15 32) where you can expect to pay about €100 per head and eat things like lobster with truffles; or the friendly L'Épicerie at 18 place Belat (04 75 42 74 46) with €16 to €48 menus, occasional jazz nights and exhibitions, in 15th century surroundings.