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Mar 7, 2014 11:46 AM

Driving from Valence to Laguiole - suggestions for overnight inbetween?

Good day fellow CHers:

I'm wondering if anyone could help:

We are looking for a town to stay between Valence and Laguiole. We will be driving from Grenoble to Valence (lunch at Le 7), and then from there we're kinda stuck wondering where to stay the night to break up the drive en route to Laguiole.

I've considered Roanne for Troisgros, but as we will be dining at Bras, it's not an ideal situation doing back to back heavy hitter dining in such a short period of time.

I have also considered Le Puy, but eating options seem a bit slim there, and some reports here suggest the town is a bit too foreboding. Also, the restaurant mentioned in several search results on this board, Francois Gagnaire, is closing at the end of this month (there is one other restaurant, Tournayre - mixed reviews). Le Puy woudl have been the best logistical stop, as it's 2 hours from Valence, then 2 hours to Laguiole.

Is there a lovely town between Valence and Laguiole, with a recommended restaurant? Past searches have also suggested Faurie.. but it's a long drive the next day to Laguiole. Looking for something less than 2.5 hours to Laguiole. Ideally: Valence to (proposed town) - less than 2 hours, and then proposed town to Bras, less than 2 hours.

(Side note: we've done Lyon twice before, so we are looking for something new to visit this time, hence not bringing up Lyon on this stretch)

Appreciate any guidance!

Thanks in advance,

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  1. The Clos de Cimes in St-Bonnet-le-Froid is wonderful, but that can be a hit heavy. I had hare there.

    However, it's not a lovely town. Le Puy is and is worth a stop. I love the Moorish-influenced cathedral even if the French don't. The facade is unique.

    Now I've never been there but Restaurant Philippe le Brun in Alleyras could be your dream come true.

    Otherwise forget an interim stop and just go on to Laguiole. Bras' cuisine is not heavy at all (if you avoid the leaden aligot). His signature dish is vegetarian, his salmon was the best I've ever eaten (cooked for 20 minutes at low temp - I went to school on that dish in the kitchen for 20 minutes the morning after).

    Bras is a perfectionist. His dishes are very well thought out. Once he gets them right, he serves them over and over again. Just the opposite of Pierre Gagnaire who can rearrange the same ingredients nightly.

    4 Replies
    1. re: collioure

      Thanks for the recommendation! However, St Bonnet le Froid is a 3 hour drive to Laguiole.. pushing it just a bit!

      Our schedule is such that we can't press on to Laguiole from Valence. Mainly because the drive from Grenoble to Valence to Laguiole is really too long.

      Sorry, I must clarify that I'd prefer not to do back to back 3 star dinners - nothing to do with heavy food (looking forward to having the gargouillou at Bras), would just prefer to spread the experiences out.

      Sounds like you enjoyed your meal at Bras. Should also note that Michel is not in the kitchen anymore, it's mainly Sebastien during dinner service, with Michel possibly checking in the mornings..

      Le Puy (from street view anyhow) doesn't look all that bad.. lots of narrow cobbled streets, looks somewhat charming. Just wondering if Tournayre is worthy of a stop or not..

      And speaking of PG - we thought his dishes were (for lack of a better word) interesting. Mostly bitter notes in our tasting menu when we had dinner here. The most memorable part of the dinner were the little dessert bites.. which turned out to be savory.

      1. re: DistendedBelly

        Yes, Grenoble to Laguiole is too much

        BTW I don't do back-to-back 3's as a rule either, but I was at Bras for 2 nights in a row. It's not the foie gras-lobster-truffle type of 3-star at all. I avoid those. Frankly the dishes were so good I wish I could have stayed a 3rd night, but my bicycle was waiting for a long ride to Conques.

        I don't know the restaurants in le Puy, but I would go to le Puy, see the cathedral and walk up to Notre Dame de Corneille and then continue on to Alleyras.

        1. re: collioure

          I would add that in these remote parts if you find a restaurant with three toques in the Gault Millau, that's the one you choose. It's not easy for a fine restaurant to survive in the Massif Centrale and if one does, one needs to patornize it. Philippe Brun does look rather pricey. Neverthelss I'd reserve in a NY minute.

          1. re: collioure

            Thanks for this rec - logistically Alleyras would kinda work (2.5 hours from Valence, 2 hours to Laguiole). We'll look into the town and restaurant.

    2. At this point, we're now willing to drive a bit longer to reach somewhere with a worthy restaurant (we are food travelers first & foremost afterall) - let's say up to 3 hours from Valence.. and hopefully within 2 hours to Laguiole.

      From this thread Ptipois had mentioned some restaurants in Vichy and environs (like this one ). It's a 2.5 hr drive from Valence, but if someone has tried and/or highly recommends somewhere to eat & stay in this area, we'll probably bring that into consideration as well. Claremont-Ferrand sounds like an interesting town..

      1 Reply
      1. re: DistendedBelly

        Those are long detours but you mostly will be on autoroutes. Clermont-Ferrand itself is not interesting (unless you like churches built with black volcanic rock).

        However, if isn't cloudy (and it often is!), the Puy de Dome just to the west is magical with hang gliders floating above the volcanic landscape. On my third approach I finally hit a clear day. I couldn't tear myself away to complete my afternoon itinerary. And that's what I recommend to everyone - if you really like something, stay, stay, stay. You could stop at the Puy de Dome on the way south from Vichy to Laguiole. One of the top ten sights in France.

        Finally a word of caution about the winding roads of the Massif Centrale on which you must just slow down and see the world.

      2. This is EASY - we did almost the same trip last year (but took in Troisgros) and stayed in Blesle - this is a charming little town, and we both stayed and ate at La Bougnate on Le Vallat.
        They have a blackboard menu and we had the finest 'single dish' (not meal, which was Bras) of our trip there which was the Beef from Sare (the owners son tends the herd).

        An alternative would be to stop at Chaude Aigues and dine at Serge Vieira - this 2* is sensational - but is a much more substantial meal. The meal there was better than most other places on our 10-day trip - beaten only by Bras and Troisgros. There are a few rooms at Vieira as well (although we stayed in the village).

        1. Since you are considering longer distances, I'll suggest the auberge Le Pre Bossu in Moudeyres. We were there quite a few years ago, but it still seems to be highly rated. The inn is gorgeous, in a very charming village, and the food was superb. It could make a wonderful overnight stay.

          We also were very pleasantly surprised by Clermont-Ferrand. Expected a grim industrial city but found a charming historic center with some good if not great restaurants. Stayed and dined at Hotel Radio in Chamaliere, just outside of C-F. The restaurant still has a Michelin star.

          We found the Massif Central to be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of France. I hope you enjoy it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rrems

            Clermont-Ferrand is truly one of the hidden gems of France. And the Massif central is gorgeous. Nice that you found the lovely Hotel Radio. Frédéric Coursol used to be chef there, I don't know who is now but I'm happy to know it still has its star.

            1. re: Ptipois

              I'm afraid I don't hold a high opinion of Clermont-Ferrand itself. Yes, the suburbs just to the west are lovely, but the only memorable sight there for me was the Puy de Dome.

              I'm kind of a disciple of Rick Steves. Independently we two have the same idea about an art museum. We spend the first hour seeing the very best paintings, and then we walk out the door and skip the riff-raff by local artists.

              In the Massif Central, besides the Puy de Dome spend your valuable time at Vichy, hiking in the valley of Chaudefour, touring the cathedrals of Issoire, St Nectaire, Orcival and the like, picnicking at the Viaduc de Garabit, climbing the steps to the marvelous seven-valley partition at the summit of Puy Mary, strolling around Salers, oogling the Monts Dorés atop the col de la-Croix-St-Robert, touring the charming little castle at Tournemire, inhaling the 15-minute evening organ concert at Conques, admiring the colorful orgues of Bort and the nearby Chateau de Val, and walking up to the majestic center of le Puy.

              1. re: collioure

                Thanks for this. This is a very nice write up of what there is to do in the Massif Central.. appreciate your detailed response.

                As mentioned before, we are primarily food travelers. If the town or scenery is breathtaking or charming, but without some great dining options, we would likely drive further to the next stop for some good meals ..

          2. Thank you, thank you everyone who has contributed to this invaluable thread on an area seldom discussed here.

            How I wish we still had the "saved topic" function on Chow! This would have gone straight into my collection of target adventures.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mangeur

              Nobody goes to the Massif Central. I've been to every region of France, to many several times, but the Auvergne was the last one I visited. After two traveling companions turned it down, I finally did it alone, half on a bike trip with Butterfield and the other half solo. I had spotted Michel Bras in the Gault-Millau in 1978 but didn't get there until 1993 when it had just moved from a little hotel in Laguiole up to a modern installation on a suc above the town.

              Moreover, the Auvergne doesn't lend itself to base hotels but instead to a series of one-night stands. However, it is glorious in October with cool sunny skies and fall colors galore, and it is full of treasures.

              1. re: collioure

                I will add my plug for soulful Hotel Remise in St. Urcize. This simple hotel and its more upscale chambre d'hote have our heart. Located 20km from Laguiole, it is often chosen by diners who want Bras' table but a less expensive bed.

                We fell in love with the starkly beautiful Aubrac countryside as well as Fred's generous hospitality.