Once you have met the owner of La Cigale Residence, Fransje Spiljard, you’ll want nothing more than to discover the area. L’Aven d’Orgnac, the grottes of Orgnac, one of the most important French sights, are just around the corner. La Bastide de Virac is a beautiful small village very nearby. There you can meet Pierre and Valerie, the owners of a lovely restaurant.
The three most beautiful French villages are only a 30 minute drive away. It doesn’t matter if you are here for one week or three weeks, you will never have enough time to visit all the interesting places. So there’s only one thing to do: come back!
From the very beginning, the Ardeche river has robbed the earth of land. The 300m deep gorge emerged through the erosion of the lime-stone rocks by the passing water. The river has also made caves and grottes in the walls of the 30 km Gorge. The majestic highlight the Pont d’Arc, the natural arch bridge with a length of 59 m and a heighth of 34 m, is one of the most famous examples of the power of the river.
In one of the grottes mural painting have been found, dating 31.000 years BC. Even then people were living around the gorge.
It is a magnificent work of nature. Overwhelming, with a rich sense of history, but in summer season also flooded with tourists. The winding road through the gorge starting at Vallon Pont d’Arc all the way to St. Martin d’Ardeche is really exciting. The route takes you through tunnels carved out of the rock walls, just wide enough to let two cars pass each other. On the other side a deep canyon. Not for cowards. Every few hundred meters there’s a panorama viewing point where you can park your car. Your can look out over the wide and deep gorge with in the distance the Cevenne mountains.
In the summer holidays there might be traffic jams. When you get the chance to visit the Gorge d’Ardeche out of season, take it! It will be a really interesting adventure.
LA BASTIDE DE VIRAC
It’s just a 10 minute drive by the winding roads through the beautiful hills from La Cigale Residence to the small town of La Bastide de Virac. A late middle age castle poses in the centre of the town, surrounded by a maze of tiny streets, patio’s and ports.
Inside the castle you’ll find a museum that shows you everything about the cultivation of the silkworm. (You can visit the museum and castle apart from each other or together on one ticket.) But the view over the vineyards and olive groves alone is worth the walk uphill.
It is also a lovely stroll through the vineyards and olive groves. Traditional stone walls seperate the farmyards. Every hundred yards or so lizards sneak back in the overgrowth. The fresh air with a whiff of flowers now and then will make you want to stay forever.
At the outskirts of the small town you will find an old barn with an ‘alimentation’ where you can buy regional products. Honey, preserves, even made from chestnut, wine, liver pâté and jambonette.
La Bastide de Virac will make you want to stroll through the village for hours.
Am Rande des Dorfes steht eine alte Bauernscheune, in der aus einer kleinen ‘Alimentation’ frische Produkte der Region verkauft werden. Honig, Marmelade (sogar aus Kastanien), Weine, Gänseleberpastete und Jambonette (gefüllte Keule).
In La Bastide de Virac können Sie nach Herzenslust schlendern.
VALERIE & PIERRE IN LA BASTIDE DE GIRAC
When you are done strolling through La Bastide de Virac you should certainly dine at the restaurant Au Vieux Porche. You will be welcomed and accompanied to your table by the charming Pierre. Once provided with an aperitif you can pick one of the mouthwatering dishes that Valerie will prepare for you.
From the terrace upstairs in front of the restaurant you will have a stunning view through the rooftops over the Cevenne mountains. Make sure you stay put to watch the sunset, the sky oftentimes takes on all colours of the rainbow. When you’re in the mood for an intimate dinner, ask for a table in the cute little patio.
If you like markets, ask Fransje which markets in which villages are most worth visiting. There’s one almost every day.
Some of them are really worth your while. The stallholders love to tell you about their (local) products and you can taste all different kinds of delicacies.
Vallon Pont d’Arc
Vallon Pont d’Arc is a village with just about a few thousand inhabitants, but it’s fully equipped to welcome foreign as well as domestic tourists. The market spreads through the many streets and alley’s and the marketsquare in the centre. This market has a lot of remarkable stalls with artistic and handmade jewelry, original fashion and other unique accessories. The products are mostly of oustanding quality compared to typical market products. The large stall with herbs and spices overwhelmes your senses. Another stall displays beautiful handembroidered basket that seem to come straight from an Arabic fairy-tale. Even the streets with souvenir shops lure you in with their lovely displays and terraces.
The Barjac market is even bigger than the one in Vallon Pont d’Arc, even though the number of inhabitants is only half. The stalls sell a lot of regional products, most of them biological. Barjac municipality has a clear focus on barring pesticides and producing healthy, biological products. This market is more or less segmented: in the marketsquare you will find the food stalls, while in the main avenue, roofed by an arch of sycamore trees, you will find the stalls with fashion and accessories.
Behind the stalls you’ll discover many café’s and restaurant with their terraces. The cosiness and the regional products make a visit really worth your while. Let the cobbled streets seduce you to follow the trail of the stalls out of the centre and discover authentic renaissance Barjac.
Pont St. Esprit
This typical French village is named after its medieval arch bridge. A historical monument, because it’s the oldest bridge over the Rhône river still in use. Market takes place on Saturday. The stalls mostly sell food and clothing. In the oriental segment of this market Arabic stallholders offer fruit and vegetables, halal meat and fresh herbs and spices. There are also a lot of regional products for sale. You should certainly taste the nougat from Montsegur. A bit pricy maybe, but handmade and very subtle. Don’t miss the local patisserie for a selection of the most delicious gateau’s. This is by definition a market to do your groceries in the sun on a Saturday morning.
Aigueze is a tiny medieval village with just about 200 inhabitants. It has been appointed one of the most beautiful villages of France and it’s not hard to understand why. The streets, alley’s, squares, arches and plateau’s form a real labyrinth, high above the Ardeche river. In this maze you will find little artisan shops, art, of antique shops.
The village was build on a precipice looking out over the river. You can hike down a stoney pathway till you reach the waterfront with rocky plateau’s where you can take a rest with your feet in the clear water. Trout, big and small, will swim right past you.
Climbing up again you can visit the fortress with the watchtower from the 14th century. This fortified tower was build by a local baron to protect the village from invasions of the Moors from Spain.
The village also has a sweet little church dating from the 11th century you should really pay a visit.
Uzès is a typical rural French village, situated in the triangle of the bigger cities Nimes, Bagnols-sur-Cèze and Avignon. In the distinctive centre market is held every Saturday. This market is famous for its regional products. In the centre you will come across the cathedral of Saint Théodorit. This cathedral was ransacked during the crusades, but rebuild in the 17th century.
Uzès should really be on your to-do list. When you haven’t seen this lovely village, you haven’t been to France.
This tiny medieval village with just under two hundred inhabitants, picturesque alley’s and small shops is only a 20 minute drive away from La Cigale Residence. It is situated right in the middle of lavender fields and vineyards. No wonder it has been appointed one of the most beautiful villages of France (plus beaux villages de France).
At the foot of the village the Cèze rustically flows by. Through the cobbled streets you can reach quiet stoney beaches with rocky plateau’s in the middle of the river. A perfect place to take you children. They can swim, build dams, catch fishes or crayfishes (and set them free again). Bring your picnic basket and enjoy a few hours in this idyllic spot.
LA ROQUE SUR CÈZE
This tiny pedestrian village (you can park your car outside the village and go on by foot) was build against a hill. It will take you only a 20 minute drive from La Cigale Residence. La Roque sur Cèze has also been appointed one of the most beautiful villages of France (plus beaux villages de France).
De Cèze river runs right through the centre of this medieval village. You will find small beaches on the outside of the village, but when you drive a little further, you will discover an amazing sight with waterfalls: Les Cascades du Sautadet. It’s a terrific swimming spot if you don’t mind other tourists. You can jump off the rocks or just swim under the waterfalls. An extraordinary natural waterpark, you should absolutely experience.
CAVERNE DU PONT D'ARC
If you want to go back in time, visit the Chauvet cave. Here, the very first artists have made a wonderful mural, more than 36.000 years ago. A replica has been produced, so the original painting will be well-preserved, but the impressive art can still be shown to the public. More than fifteen different species are exhibited, hunting or fighting each other. Our ancestors used a lot of different materials and techniques to make this natural masterpiece.
At the cave you can also visit a permanent exhibition on the lifes of our prehistoric ancestors in the Ardeche area.