From the plains of La Crau to the summits of the Alps, the Sisteron lambs are still bred in natural pastures, like they always were. The quality of their breeding makes the Sisteron’s lamb meat so special: young, with a bright flesh, it is exceptionally tender and light and was awarded a Red Label in 1995. Sisteron can also count on the biggest municipal abattoir specialising in lamb, allowing the meat to be entirely produced locally. It produces 8,500 tons a year, accounting for 20 pc of the market in the South-East of France. The abattoir respects all the quality requirements linked to the labels awarded to the Sisteron lamb. All of the lambs bred in Sisteron can be traced from their birth to the customer’s plate.
The very reason for Sisteron’s creation, its citadel is composed of buildings from various periods and it pays a special homage to Napoleon Bonaparte. A room in the fortress museum is dedicated to the Corsican emperor and evokes, through some 60 objects, his eventful return from exile in 1815. The taking of Sisteron by the 700 men led by general Cambronne was absolutely essential to Napoleon’s success as the town was held by Royalists who could stop his progression should they destroy the local bridge. When Sisteron fell on March 8, the road to Paris was wide open. In town, Napoleon was received at the hotel run by the grandfather of poet Paul Arene. Within six days, Napoleon and his men reached Grenoble from Golfe Juan by small paths, covering more than 350 kms. The road built in 1930 on the course taken by the emperor was logically called Route Napoleon. On March 19, 18 days after his landing in Golfe Juan, Napoleon was back in Paris. Three months later, the Waterloo battle tolled the bell of Napoleon’s 100 days back in power, the 8th having been spent in Sisteron.
If Paris-Nice riders know Sisteron well as the Race to the Sun frequently stopped here, it is a first for the Tour de France. There is an oddity with Paris-Nice finishes in Sisteron as they always marked the first victory of a rider for his new team. In 1999, France’s Jackys Durand had won his first race in the Lotto jersey. Two years later, Alex Zuelle won his only victory for the Team Coast outfit. The same applies to Carlos Barredo, the last rider to have won a Paris-Nice stage in town, as it was his inaugural win for Quick Step.
In this stage, the caravan will have a chance to admire the heart-stopping view from the citadel and to try the local lamb, one of the most renowned in France. The riders might meditate about a book by local poet Paul Arene called From the Alps to the Pyrenees.
|Roman period||The Via Domitia passes by Sisteron.|
|5th century||Creation of the Sisteron diocese.|
|11th century||Sisteron becomes the capital of the Counts of Forcalquier.|
|1483||Provence, which includes Sisteron, passes over to King Louis XI and becomes part of France.|
|1572 to 1594||Catholics and Protestants fight to control the town.|
|1590||Jean Errard, probably assisted by Italian architects, conceives the citadel.|
|1639||Jean Casimir of Poland is held in the citadel.|
|1815||Napoleon Bonaparte stops in Sisteron en route for Paris.|
|1829||Construction of the suspended bridge over the river Durance. It is closed in 1959.|
|1944||The town is partly destroyed by air raids.|
It is made of different elements from various periods. The higher wall and the allure are from the 12th century, the intermediate level from the 14th, while the first level forts were vastly restored in the 19th century. The works performed between 1842 and 1860 followed the instructions left 200 years earlier by engineer Vauban, who left his mark on the building like Jehan Sarrazin, the military engineer of King Henri IV. There are things not to miss when visiting the citadel: the small dungeon with its steep steps in which Richelieu held Jean Casimir Vasa, who later became King of Poland or the vast staircase dug in the rock leading to the town’s Northern gate.
Prefecture : Valence
Population : 473,500
Site web : www.ladrome.fr
Mountainous in the Vercors and Devoluy, provençal to the South, busy and dynamic in the plains, in Valence, Romans or Montelimar, Drome is a summary of the whole Rhone-Alps region.
Its industrial vocation – textile, aeronautics - is still vivid and adapts to the times while its agriculture retains its high standards, symbolised by its fine wines – Hermitage, Die clairette – its olive oil in Nyons or its truffles. For the tourist, the reasons to stop are plenty, from the Grignan castle, to the surrealistic Palace of Postman Cheval or the picturesque village of Mirmande. Yet nature is probably Drome’s main asset, in the beautiful Vercors massif especially.
The Recoubeau castle stands on the hill which gave the village its names (Ricobellum) . Bought by the Arthaud d’Aix family in 1241, it was burnt down in 1574 and knew several different landlords from the on. In 1929, it was handed to the Fathers of the Holy Spirit congregation, who turned it into an extension of their school in Allex and a holiday centre for overseas students. It was bought by the Red Cross in 1960 and became a rehabilitation centre.
Capital of the Voconce tribe in the 3rd century, Die was a diocese as early as the 4th century when a first bishop, Nicaise, is identified. The Episcopal see was later joined to that of Valence. The Die museum hols many traces of the short but brilliant Roman past. In the Middle Ages, life revolved around the diocese while the Religion wars harmed the town like in most of the rest of France. In the early 20th century, Die clang to its traditional industries of shoemaking and furniture and missed the turn of modernity. It was a blessing in disguise as the preserved town is now a favourite of tourists looking for nature, calm and authenticity. Dutch tourists, especially, flock by thousands in the local campsites in the summer.
The small village living on the famous sparkling wine Clairette de Die, it held a strategic position thanks to its 13th century castle, which guarded the upper Drome valley. Only a half-destroyed dungeon remains from the fortress, destroyed in the 16th century. The temple was the former chapel of the castle and it is one of the rare Protestant temples spared by the Revolution.
Standing at the top of a crest, the tow owes its name to its location. Its is famous for its tower, which is the highest dungeon in France at 52 metres high. The Crest tower is what remains of an imposing castle destroyed by Louis XIII, who found it potentially dangerous. The tower was spared and used as a jail: libertines, Protestants and political opponents to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s were imprisoned in it. Near the pre-Alps, Crest is a tourist centre with plenty of events like its vocal jazz festival.
In the Middle Ages, Chabeuil belonged to the Prince or Royans, Ismidon II, then to Guidelin, who went to the Crusades with many knights of the region in 1188. His son Gontard gave his name to the hill overlooking Chabeuil: les Gontardes. In 1349, the Dauphine area became French.
At the start of the French Revolution, Chabeuil was chosen as the prefecture of Drome, but it was moved to Valence in 1790. The Valence airport is located on the Chabeuil territory.
One of the most northern examples of a perched village, it was the fief of the lords of the same name.
The magnificent St Prix church (1892-1902) replaced an old roman church. It was built in two phases. First the nave, made of white St Paul stone, then the tower in fictitious stones actually made in cement.
The Monteynard Castle was built in the late 15th century for the Sassenage family to replace an old fortified castle harmed by the feudal wars. Its outside aspect, with its big towers, is the only thing left from its medieval origins. The castle has belonged to the Monteynard family since 1843. A spring near the castle is supposed to be the home of Melusine – the half-woman and half-snake fairy – from whom the Sassenage family claimed to descend.
Bourg les Valence is the home of an active association, Vice and Versa, who have been working since 2003 to organise meetings and events involving disabled and valid people. Every year, they organise a festival aimed at “revealing our differences and stimulate our senses”.
Exhibitions, dance, theatre, music storytelling, circus, games, films and sports are among the many forms of expression used to help disabled people find an access to culture which is often denied to them. Disabled artists are also invited to showcase their work, while valid persons are also encouraged to attend lectures and debates on difference or workshops to learn Braille language.
The old cartridge factory of Bourg les Valence became a year ago la Cour des Images (the Images Yard) devoted to cartoons and animation. The building, acquired by the town council in 1993, was entirely renovated by architect Philippe Prost. His challenge was to turn an old weapon factory and warehouse into a modern complex devoted to image. Four centres dedicated to the image technologies have been created in the Rhone-Alpes region in recent years. La Cour d’Images hosts several companies and structures such as Folimage, a production unit specialised in cartoons, or La Poudriere, a European School for animation film. Several production companies have also chosen to settle on the site, built in 1855 by architect Nicolas Sanial, who wished to create an industrial cloister. A space in the new premises is dedicated to the history of the site.
This Tour de France stage finish is the first for Bourg-les-Valence, who now emulated its big neighbour of Valence, which hosted but one stage finish in 1996. Bourg tested its ability to hold such an event in 2009 on the Criterium du Dauphine with the start of a time-trial which ended up looking like a real world championship.
World champion Bert Grabsch of Germany won that day over 42.4 kms ahead of Cadel Evans and David Millar who both had previously featured on a world championship podium (even though Millar lost his 2001 title on doping grounds). The stage standings were extremely impressive, Czech Frantisek Rabon taking 4th place ahead of Alberto Contador.
Bourg has an active cycling club, the Sprinter Club, whose most famous member is Christophe Edaleine, a Tour rider three times between 2002 and 2004. The stage will be familiar to Drome-born Charly Mottet and Sebastien Joly.
|Roman period||Bourg is an important locality on the Rhone river.|
|16th century||Creation of the first manufactures on the canals. The Genas family is the most influential in town.|
|1567||Religion Wars and destruction of the St Peter’s church, one of the oldest in the Valence region.|
|1853||Construction of a textile factory, which becomes a national cartridge factory in 1964. Bought by the town council in 2003, its is now a listed building.|
|1955||Construction of a high school specialised in agriculture.|
|1968||Construction of the power station, the lock and the dam on the Rhone.|
|1992||A general high school is built on the domain of Valentin.|