Situated astride the greatest European North-South route, Valence-sur-Rhône, the département (county) town, is a staging post par excellence and also an attractive place for a longer stay.
The old city, with its pedestrianised shopping centre, its shady squares and welcoming terraces, its attractive buildings with its pastel colours, has retained its old world charm in the centre of a city which is resolutely turned towards the future. As you ramble through the city which cries out « art and history », you will discover the Cathédrale St-Apollinaire, the oldest monument in the city. Close by you will find the statues and mouldings which cover the facade of the Maison des Têtes and the astonishing Maison Mauresque (a symbol of 19th century enthusiasm for things oriental). Valence also boasts its Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie (which has just been extended and refurbished), a little theatre ‘à l’italienne’ and the Centre du Patrimoine Arménien (one Valence inhabitant in every ten is of Armenian origin).
Eight parks account for 10% of the city’s surface area – the largest being the Parc Jouvet with its 7 hectares of grass and mature trees from all over the world. This park is much loved by families and university students (over 10,000 in number). Hard by, the Champ de Mars contains the famous Kiosque Peynet (Monument Historique) immortalised on ‘papier glacé’ (a glossy paper), one evening in 1942, by the celebrated illustrator. Valence is criss-crossed by 17 kilometres of open canals, a place for family strolls and trout fishing. Conscious of its strategic position on the banks of the Rhône, Valence with its Port de l’Epervière (‘Pavillon Bleu d’Europe’), contains the number one river port in France. This place, boasting many services, attracts a good many strollers and Sunday joggers too.
f you like good food, you will no doubt visit the premises of Anne-Sophie Pic***, the only woman to hold three Michelin stars, who is brilliantly following in her father’s footsteps. To the Maison Pic we can now add two new signs, which hang above the establishments of the chefs, Isichi Masachi* of La Cachette and Baptiste Poinot* of Restaurant Flaveurs.
Don’t leave without tasting ‘le Suisse’, the speciality of the city and featuring ‘pâte sablée’ (shortbread) and orange peel. The Maison Nivon will explain to you the history of the delicacy, whose traditional recipe goes back to 1852.
Not far from the Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors, via Chabeuil (see its monumental gateway), Peyrus and the col des Limouches, Valence is an ideal point of departure for a number of excursions. One can even pass through the picturesque town of Beaumont-Les-Valence on the way ‘la Pangée’ (Pangea), the geological centre of the earth site at La Baume-Cornillane.