two days in the northern rhone
we are heading to france to celebrate our 20th in march, and we have a couple days to spend in the northern rhone. we will have a car, and want to enjoy the non-paris side of france.
I am looking at Valence or Tain l' Hermitage as a home base for some local food, culture and of course wine. looking for suggestions on where to stay (a B& B that speaks some English?), and general touring suggestions. thanks!
Tracy, this is what I wrote several years ago about a superb chambre d'hote west of Valence.
"In the Ardéche moutains, some 20 minutes from Valence TGV: La Hameau de la Mure, 8km from Saint Laurent du Pape. http://www.gites-de-france-charme.com... Wow! Clinging to the hillside with a view forever, welcoming hosts, huge rooms and terraces on the overlook, cosseting bed furnishings, generous breakfasts and super three course dinner with apero and digestifs. Olivier is an exacting cook and very generous host (note the roast pork plate below). Mostly French spoken but enough English give and take to make dinner interesting and convivial. We stayed two nights and I asked to be adopted. Olivier cooks every night but Tuesday. The next town is some 15 minutes up in the mountains, fine road. Heartily recommend.
(The complex is composed of several buildings on as many levels, so there are necessarily many steps in between. Nothing strenuous, but wheelchairs or crutches or toddlers too big to carry would be problematic.)
We have since stayed here a second time and enjoyed it equally well. Do note that dinner is not offered on Tuesdays.
While I hesitate to give negative feedback, I will mention that we also stayed at Michel Chabran à Pont de l'Isère which we found embarrassingly pretentious, room cramped and dark, food fussy. A wasted opportunity for us.
Funny thing, I read your post and thought that Michel Chabran sounded vaguely familiar. Checked, and yes, I did eat there in 2001. But I have little memory of the dinner itself, only remembering the people that I was with. That's a pretty rare thing, especially for one that was so expensive. Guess that tells us something.
Tracy, I will repeat what i recently wrote elsewhere. You might think about home tastings of wines from this area. I.e., start drinking the wines from this area. Note the producers you really enjoy, then (Google them) research to see if they provide tastings and tours.
Sounds like a great trip! Enjoy...
With the caveat that I was there in 2001, you might look into Le Chaudron in Tournon. It hasn't been mentioned by anyone else, but perhaps somebody has been there more recently to offer an update. It is still well-regarded among the international wine trade and you'll bump into vignerons there. When i was there, it had extensive verticals of the top Northern Rhone producers. We had the 1988 Chave Hermitage. The staff were quite friendly. When I complimented them on the cheese cart, they told me about the nearby cheese shop that supplies the restaurant. It is owned by a maitre-fromager whose wife tutors English. Wish I could recall the name, but if it's still there it should not be hard to find. We went there the next morning to buy cheeses to take back to the States.
If you have time, be sure to stop by the Valrhona store. My visit was just before Easter, so it was fully of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.
While dining at Guy Savoy's Las Vegas restaurant not long ago I was discussing French restaurants with the young Executive Chef, Mathieu Chartron, and mentioned we would be in Provence this summer.
He said if we were near Valence to stop by his father's inn and restaurant, that they recently were awarded one Michelin star. It's a bit out of our way but we are considering it ...
So with absolutely no personal knowledge (and I searched Chowhound and found nothing) I present the option of Chartron in Saint-Donat-sur-l'Herbasse, which is a few miles north of Valence.
Dunno about how they do with English, if you are interested I can email the son and ask. He was pretty fluent.
EDIT: poking around on the Michelin site I see under Languages Spoken they list "Anglais, Espagnol" so you should be OK with English or Spanish.