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Rhone Valley, Bordeaux

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I have read the responses to Mapleleaf Girl's post on an itinerary that includes both Bordeaux and Burgundy, and have somewhat similar inquiry.

We are trying to map out an itinerary for an 8-day trip in the countryside, with a focus on small inns, good food, and wine, that starts and ends in Lyons. My thought was to start by spending one or 2 nights in the area of Ampuis/Condrieu, and then head west towards Bordeaux. From Google maps, that appears to be a drive of about 5-1/2 hours so ideally I was hoping for a stop more or less midway. Any suggestions for a stopping point that would be in an area offering good food, wine, and scenery?

(We were in Burgundy and the Loire in our last trip to France so, while that might make more geographic sense, given that the trip starts & ends in Lyons, we'd really like to do something else, and had our heart set on Burgundy.)

Or, is this itinerary just hopeless and should we just stay in the Rhone Valley the whole 8 days?

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  1. With an 8 day trip that would include a good portion of 2 days traveling (to & from Bordeaux), I would recommend going somewhere else for your 2nd leg. My first thought is Annecy, and le Clos des Sens in Annecy-le-Vieux (a lovely 5-room inn with a 2-star Michelin restaurant). The canals, lake, & surrounding mountains make for a stunning setting - and nearby Alpine villages are equally worth the trip. My second thought is to stay around Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with visits to local wineries & Avignon. In both cases, the drive back to Lyon should be no more than 2 hours.

    1. With only eight days to spend in France, I would stay in the Northern and Southern Rhone, In addition to Ampuis/Condrieu, you can spend a day in Tain-Hermitage including a visit to Valrhona Chocolate there, then spend the rest of the time in the Southern Rhone. The current issue of Travel + Leisure Magaine Europe Now has a feature article about what and where to visit in the Southern Rhone region. We have a home in Sablet in the Southern Rhone and everything that is mentioned in the article is within 15 miles of our house. I agree with their recommendations.

      1. You're right - it's a good 6 hour trip from Lyon to Bordeaux, without much stopping. The trouble with the route, also, is that pretty much the only way to go is via Clermont, and because of the landscape if you veer off the motorway it will add hours to your journey. The auvergne offers stunning scenery (volcanic) but not much in terms of food/wine! (That I know of.) There is an amazing place I've been to several times close to Le Puy en Velay called Les Deux Abbesses, which has a great restaurant. No menu, they serve 4-5 courses according to the chef's whim, and there's no choice although you can tell them in advance if there's anything you don't like. While it's in a great location for exploring the nearby scenery (simply gorgeous), it's only 2.5-3 hours from Lyon, and is a slight detour from your route. Sample menus are on their website. They generally always include a foie gras dish. Food is excellent and it's like somewhere you've never stayed before...

        I don't know of anywhere else directly en route though, sorry. If you were to stay in the Rhone, you could try Maison Pic in Valence (only female 3* chef in France!) or if you wanted breathtaking scenery plus excellent food there's restaurant Regis & Jacques Marcon. Those last two are seriously high end though and definitely not small inns! Les Deux Abbesses is far more reasonable and the daily price includes tea, dinner and breakfast. Once you decide your route maybe we can supply more local information. (By the way Ampuis is only 20-30mins from Lyon and I'm not sure of anywhere to stay - there's nothing there except the vines! - you might be better off staying in town?)

        We regularly drive 4-5 hours to get places and in 8 days your trip to Bordeaux is definitely do-able with careful planning if you accept you'll be in the car a lot. We are considering it for a long weekend!

        1. If you read the other thread, then you also read the overwhelming sentiment to do one or the other, because the travel between the two is a bear that eats two days of your vacation. (Mapleleafgirl decided to stick with just one, in the end.)

          Combining Burgundy with the Rhone Valley would be a fantastic trip that would leave you with enough non-windshield time to actually enjoy your trip (also essential considering France's very stringent drunk-driving laws -- .05 is the legal limit)

          4 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            "Combining Burgundy with the Rhone Valley"

            Excellent idea.
            1. Makes sense in terms of reducing driving time.
            2. Both regions are beautiful and lots of good eats and things to do.
            3. Yet the two regions are very different and offer good contrast.

            1. re: Parigi

              I think OP needs to clarify though - didn't they already do Burgundy, and thus wanted to go west to Bordeaux? I think he meant to say we have our hearts set on Bordeaux, and not Burgundy?

              1. re: EatDrinkLyon

                doesn't really matter, really -- at the end of the day it's a beast to try to see both regions in a one-week trip. It's the logistics far more than the cepage or terroir in this particular discussion.

                1. re: EatDrinkLyon

                  I too thought OP meant to say Bordeaux instead of Burgundy. And since masha has already been to Burgundy, I suggested Chateauneuf as another opportunity to sample wines, if that is the primary goal. Still, Annecy is unforgettable (to me, at least) and not too far from Condrieu.

            2. Since your trip starts and ends in Lyon (the "s" is only used by americans), I recommend "doing" the Rhone. In 8 days you can do a great job of Hermitage, Condrieu, etc in the Northern Rhone, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise, Vacqueras in the South. There is so much to see and do in northern Provence, you could easily spend your whole 8 days there!

              Plus, since you will be in Lyon, why not a day trip up to the Beaujolais. That countryside is lovely, as are the cru Beaujolais.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune

                I agree; that would be a great/perfect/pretty way to spend the 8 days. So much to see as you say. And don't forget Cornas! But, I still maintain that if they want to 'do' Bordeaux, depending on what the objective is, it's still perfectly achievable in 8 days...

              2. EatDrink and Boredough are absolutely right. My original post should have read having our heart set on Bordeaux, not Burgundy. I'm refocusing on an itinerary along the lines suggested by CJ of just staying near the Rhones.

                Agree that Annecy would be lovely too. We were there brieflyg about 20 years ago but are more inclined to go south this trip.

                So, please share any ideas for small hotels, inns, or B&Bs with table d'hote, as well as other restaurants worth visiting, vineyard that can be visited, etc. along the Rhone.

                Thanks all.

                7 Replies
                1. re: masha

                  Further to my note above, what insights can any of you share about the following hotels/B&Bs in terms of quality of the food (as well as any insights into the rooms):

                  Les Florets, Gigondas
                  Domaine de Garneton, Chasse-sur-Rhone
                  La Demeure du Chateau, Grignan
                  Chateau Talaud, Loriol du Comtat
                  Les Carmes, Le Thor
                  Le Beau Rivage, Condrieu
                  La Bastide Sainte Anne, Castillon-du-Gard
                  Les Abeilles, Sablet
                  L'Eveche, Vaison la Romaine
                  L'Oliveraie, Cairanne


                  1. re: masha

                    Of your list:
                    - La Demeure du Chateau, Grignan
                    Stayed there. Loved it, loved the village, a compact, vibrant village with cafés and shops and butchers and bakers, unlike many beautiful villages in the south that have become museum-villages.The beautiful patronne - I'm a woman and I rave about her beauty - is extremely helpful yet very respectful of one's privacy.
                    - La Bastide Sainte Anne, Castillon-du-Gard. The village is a gem and never overrun, yet so close to Pont du Gard. have not stayed there but have walked by the hotel several times and admired the interior that we glimpsed.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Parigi - Thank you. I've got an inquiry into La Demeure du Chateau and, assuming availability, will almost certainly book there for part of the trip. La Bastide Sainte Anne is full. I've heard back from a number of other hotels in the environs of Avignon/Gigondas and am leaning at this point at staying at Les Carmes in Le Thor (unless anyone has horror stories that should dissuade me).

                      The current itineray envisages 3 stops, starting near (but not in) Lyon for 1-2 days, to recover from jet lag as we will be arriving from the States, then driving south to the Avignon/Gigondas area for 3 days, and then returning northward for a day or 2 in the area of Tain-Hermitage/ Grignan. (From there we go to Lyon for a few days, which is after the 8-day countryside drive part of the vacation.)

                      1. re: masha

                        The area covered by your list of hotels is not large. May I urge you to pick just one base instead of several. Unless you love packing and unpacking and spending several hours a day moving...
                        My pick of a base would be Grignan, the most beautiful village of all the villages on your list. Plus, as I explained above, the village itself has stuff. And from there you can easily drive to the other places.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Parigi - Thanks for your input. We've revised the itinerary to 2 legs, rather than 3, starting in Grignan and then moving south 1/2-way through the trip to the area near Avignon. My original hesitancy on starting in Grignan was that we will be arriving that day from the States and, if our flight is delayed, it could be a long drive when we are bone-tired (we're flying steerage). But, we've decided to take that chance.

                          We realize that we could drive down to the Avignon/Gigondas area for daytrips from Grignan but we'd just as soon re-locate 1/2 way through the trip. We'd like to be able to imbibe freely at restaurants and wineries down there without worrying about the drive back.

                  2. re: masha

                    You should stay two nights in Arles, at the Hôtel Particulier or the d'Arlatan. There is a lot to see in town, particularly on Saturdays for the big market. Jean-Luc Rabanel is one of France's most interesting chefs. La Chassagnette, in the nearby Carmague is also notable, the first organic restaurant in France to have a Michelin star. .

                    1. re: beaulieu

                      Thanks. We've been to Arles before. Enjoyed it but not interested in returning on this trip.