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We’ve just skirted Valence – it’s not the prettiest area from the outside, lots of industrial parts. Our meal at **André (Anne Sophie Pic) was good. There’s a pretty interior courtyard, good wine list, excellent service. I’d up the rating if it was a bit more memorable.

We drove along the backroads on the west side of the Rhone from Tournon-sur-Rhône to Le Pouzin, and back along the same area on the east side. It’s not a particularly interesting or scenic area – I wouldn’t make a point of visiting next time. Tournon itself is a good place to stretch your legs for 20 minutes or so, with narrow streets, lots of ice cream, and a castle.


Cliousclat

A small town clinging to a ridge line, Cliousclat is rather adorable. The town is a “Monuments historiques” – in reference to the local pottery-making tradition. It unfortunately has a really great view of a distant nuclear power plant. I wouldn’t send people here, but if you find yourself driving through it’s not a bad stop.

Our room at the very popular (totally booked out during our stay) **Hôtel Restaurant La Treille Muscate Le Village was perfectly fine. Nothing fancy, but friendly staff, clean. The restaurant is quite good, clearly attracts a crowd from the surrounding areas.

Just south of Cliousclat, Marsanne is a pretty town with a great view of the Chartreuse massif.


Hauterives

The **Ideal Palace (also called the Ideal Palace of the Horse Postman) is a monument built in Hauterives by the postman Ferdinand Cheval, from 1879 to 1912. For thirty-three years, Ferdinand Cheval never stopped choosing stones during his daily tour, first carrying them in his pockets, then bringing a basket or even a wheelbarrow on certain occasions. Back home, he spends long hours implementing his dream, working at night by the light of a kerosene lamp. In the early 1930s, the work received the moral support of several artists such as Pablo Picasso. Max Ernst, who stayed in Ardèche during the occupation, is fascinated by the work and dedicates one of his paintings to him.

A masterpiece of naive architecture and naive art, it has been classified as a historical monument since 1969. It’s very popular – expect big crowds in an area that’s otherwise pretty rural. It’s impressive and odd, not quite as big as I expected.


Loriol-sur-Drôme

**Le Rouge et Noir is a roadside find – surprisingly good, easy to access from the motorway. It’s not a destination but we seem to regularly find ourselves along this stretch of roadway, worth remembering. Galen recommends the burger.

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