On the road
Population: 1,7 million
The department is named after the river flowing through it. The most part of the territory consists in hills, Monts du Beaujolais in the north and Monts du Lyonnais in the south. They are boarded by the Saone valley and in Lyon by the Rhone valley.
Created in 1793 by a split of the Rhone-et-Loire department, it was progressively enlarged by communes taken from the nearby departments of Ain and Isere.
Economically, the activity concentrates around Lyon, France's third largest city and second agglomeration, especially well-placed in the field of new technologies. Chemicals and petrochemicals are based south of Lyon along the A7 motorway to Vienne. The Gier valley is in a critical restructuring phase after the decline of traditional industries. But Rhone is also Beaujolais, exporting wine all over the world and the presence of some of the best-known chefs in the world. Lyon has been dubbed the French capital of gastronomy.
A mere three hours from Paris by TGV, Isere is a very diverse department, from the mountains of Oisans to the almost Mediterranean flavour of Vienne, the “Roman city”. Among the many monuments to discover, the domain of Vizille is worth the visit with its huge park and its castle hosting a permanent exhibition on the French Revolution. The medieval village of St Antoine l'Abbaye is also extremely picturesque. Vienne's Roman theatre is every year the home to a famous jazz festival while the bustling Grenoble is impossible to miss with its lively student life and long history. Wtih three natural parks, Isere is an ideal destination for tourists and nature lovers, but it is also a pleasant place to live for its population of 1.2 million.
Population : 483,000
Prefecture : Valence
Sub-prefectures : Die, Nyons
Website : 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.
Prefecture : Avignon.
Sub-prefectures : Apt, Carpentras.
Population : 555,000
Website : www.vaucluse.fr
Vaucluse comes from Latin Vallis Clausa, meaning closed valley. From the top of the Ventoux (1,912 m), to the hills of Luberon, from the plateau of Sault to the gorges of the Nesque, between the rivers of the Sorgues area and the scrubs fot he Mounts of Vaucluse, a varied natural universe opens up. The department, one the gardens of France and a heaven for aromatic plants, is home to some 1,500 vegetal species. In the same time, 545 monuments and cultural sites are listed as Historic Monuments and three on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Castles, churches, Roman theatres in Orange or Vaison-la-Romaine, perched villages (Gordes, Lourmarin) are also sites to see.
The smallest department in Provence is also proud of its products: muscat grape of the Ventoux , olive of Nyons, melon in Cavaillon, strawberries in Carpentras, cherry or truffle in the Mounts of Venasque. And of course its wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cairanne, Rasteau or Beaumes-de-Venise, are world famous. Avignon is famous for its theatre festival but also boasts nine star chefs.
In this department of about 550,000, four towns have a population of over 20,000 : Avignon, Orange, Carpentras et Cavaillon.
Km 4 : Saint-Roman-En-Gal
Population : 1,700
Thirty kilometres south of Lyon, on the right bank of the Rhone, the archaeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal displays over three hectares the remains of an entire quarter of the Roman city of Vienne. In Antiquity, Vienna, the capital of a large territory including Dauphine and Savoy, was spreading over both sides of the Rhone. Today, the archaeological site and the museum take visitors 2,000 years back into one of the richest cities of Roman Gaul.
On the right bank of the Rhone developed an essentially residential area, perfectly preserved today in the site of St Romain. The political and religious centre, as well as the theatre and circus, were located on the other bank. As early as the 16th century, scholars and researchers were fascinated by the many remains appearing everywhere on the soil of the ancient city. On the right bank, the vestiges of the thermal baths, known as the Mirror Palace, confirm the past splendour of the Roman town. Until the early 20th century, random discoveries of mosaics were frequent on all the territory of St Romain.
The museum housing the collections consists in two buildings conceived by architects Philippe Chaixand Jean-Paul Morel and completed in 1996. The exhibition hall was built on top of a Roman villa.
Second French region by his size, its economic importance and its population, the Rhone-Alpes region is also ranked 6thin Europe. This huge space with a population of six million inhabitants articulates around four main centres: Lyon, Grenoble, St Etienne and even Geneva which, thanks to its proximity, plays an active part in the region's trade and exchanges. Almost every type of industry can be found in such a vast area, but the region never forgets its tradition of fine wines, excellent fruit and succulent food.
Website : www.rhonealpes.fr
Tour de France of the Monuments Nationaux
Château of Chareil-Cintrat
Magnificent sculpted and painted decorations from the Renaissance.
Built in the 16th century, this Château in the Bourbonnais region has a sculpted interior decoration characteristic of the second French Renaissance. All the rooms are decorated with murals from 1560-1570 taking inspiration from classical art. They depict mythological and astronomical themes. Outside of the château, the tour continues freely in the repository of ancient vines from Chareil and Saint-Pourçain vineyards.
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