Sub-prefectures : Die, Nyons
Surface: 6,530 km2
Specialities: fruit, lavender, wines, olive, chestnut, cheese (Picodon, Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage, Banon…)
Sport clubs: Drôme HandBall Bourg-de-Péage, Valence HandBall, Team Drôme BMX, Saint Vallier Basket Drôme
Competitions: Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, Drôme Classic (UCI Europe Tour), Corima Drôme Provençale (granfondo), Drômoise (granfondo), Raid VTT les chemins du soleil (Marathon X Country international)
Festivals: Fêtes nocturnes de Grignan, Crest Jazz Vocal, Saoû sings Mozart.
Economy: leather and luxury, food industry, transport and logistics…
Tourist sites: Crocodile farm (Pierrelatte), château de Grignan, Ideal Palace of the postman Cheval (Hauterives)
Websites / FB : www.ladrome.fr / www.ladrometourisme.com / www.facebook.com/ladromeledepartement
PIERRELATTE (POP: 13,100)
Pierrelatte is with St Paul Trois-Chateaux, Bollene and Lapalud one of the three communes on whose soil is established the Tricastin nuclear site, created in 1961. Pierrelatte was especially the site of a factory in charge on enriching uranium for military purposes, which closed down in 1996. The Commissariat for Atomic Energy (CEA) retained a civilian research centre.
The crocodile farm is a private 8,000 m2 zoo in which live some 350 different species of reptiles, mainly crocodiles, and turtles. The farm, beyond its tourist appeal, is also used for scientific purposes.
Bois de Païolive
Sub-prefectures: Tournon-sur-Rhône, Largentière
Surface: 5,529 km2
Specialities: chestnut (AOC), Picodon cheese (AOC), Maoche, bombine, Caillette, olive, beef of Mezenc (AOC), potaoes (violine, truffole…) bilberries, raspberries, honey, wines with several ancestral grape varieties like Chatus.
Sport clubs: Union cycliste of Aubenas, Rugby club Aubenas-Vals, ROC La Voulte- Valence (rugby union), US Aubenas basketball, Basket club Nord Ardèche, Pouzin handball.
Competitions: Boucles Drôme-Ardèche (cycling), L’Ardéchoise (granfondo), women’s Tour de l'Ardèche, Monte Carlo rally, Rally of Vivarais (Octobrr), International Gorges de l’Ardèche marathon (canoe-kayak), Gorges de l’Ardèche triathlon, Pont d’Arc nature raid.
Festivals: Aluna (mid-June), Alba la Romaine circus festival (July), European cinema meeting (Aubenas, November), Documentary Film Festival (Lussas, August), festival of humourists (Tournon, August), Labeaume in music (July and August), Equiblues (Saint-Agrève, August), Festival Images et paroles d’Afrique (Images and Words of Africa Festival), Castagnades (October-November)
Economy: services, shops, tourism (1 million visitors per year), agriculture (breeding 34 %, viticulture 22 %, fruits 20 %)
Websites / FB : www.ardeche.fr / www.guide-ardeche.com / www.ardeche-guide.com / www.facebook.com/ardeche.saga / www.facebook.com/cgardeche
BOURG-SAINT-ANDÉOL (Pop: 7,500)
The peloton discovered Bourg St Andeol in é016 for the start of a time trial to Caverne du Pont d’Arc won by Tom Dumoulin, who had yet to win the Giro. Located of the banks of the Rhone, the commune is familiar with cycling races. Sprinter Juan José Haedo won a Critérium du Dauphiné stage in 2010 while the town hosted several stages of the Classic Sud Ardèche.
Bourg-Saint-Andéol was also frequently a stage of the women’s Tour de l’Ardeche and saw the greatest riders win like world champions Lizzie Armistead of Britain and Dane Linda Villumsen.
Resurgences of Tourne and Xavier Meniscus
The picturesque site is made of two springs flowing from the back of limestone cliffs, the small Goul and the big Goul. The springs merge to create the Tourne brook, which in turn joins the Rhone a few hundred metres further down. Between the two springs stands a 3rd century bas-relief, one of the rare in France still kept in its original setting. The site is also known for the feats of diver Xavier Meniscus, who set several records diving in the underground stream of the small Goul.
A medieval fort embellished in the 15th and 17th centuries, the Bishop Palace of Bourg St Andeol is one of the most remarkable and complex monuments of the region. It stands on the St Michel rock overlooking the Rhone. From the 14th century, it became the residence of the bishops of Viviers. It is remarkable for its Renaissance façade facing the Rhone and for the sumptuous 17th century frescoes on the first floor.
SAINT-MARCEL (Pop: 2,400)
Saint-Marcel is one of the oldest communities of the Vivarais region and retained a picturesque medieval centre. From the beginning of the 13th century, the village took solid institutions led by rectors, often at odds with the consuls and the aristocracy. To assert their power, the numerous co-lords built towers and beautiful townhouses, some of which are still visible. Under the Bernis family, who became the local Marquis – one of them was a minister of King Louis XV –, a vast chateau was built at the south end of the village. It was destroyed during the Revolution in the same time as the rampart, while fountains were built. Silk, wine and tiles brought the town its prosperity. But the end of the 19th century was terrible for the region as silk worms were hit by a disease and the vines killed by the “phylloxera plague”. In one century, the community lost half its population. The 1980s saw the village resurrected by the industrial development of Tricastin, the quality of its wine and its quality of living.
The cave was discovered in 1836 by a hunter whose ferret had run into the cavity. To this day, 57 km of galleries have been explored and studied. A guided visit of an hour leads to the discovery of a fascinating underground world. The cave has a vast network of galleries, basins, sumptuous natural cathedrals, strange concretions, immense halls with evocative names like the Fountain of the Virgin, the Painters gallery, the Table of Kings. Speleology visits are also on offer and some are coupled with underground wine-tasting sessions!
Wood heats us up by burning. It does it even better when it is transformed into coal. Coal deposits are such a source of energy and are of great economic importance. Their exploitation was carried out by human labour. The closure of the mines therefore had major implications on employment and social impacts.
MNHN – Patrick De Wever, professeur
SAINT-REMÈZE (Pop: 800)
Nestled around its church and its castle at the southern end of the department of Ardèche, St Remeze enjoys an incomparable geographical situation between the Rhone valley, the Gorges of Ardeche and the Dent de Rez Massif. The village has an exceptional environmental heritage with limestone cliffs and plateaus covered with wood and scrubland, and caves, including the famous cave of La Madeleine. At the limit of the Mediterranean climate, St Remeze also has a privileged geo-climatic position, which makes it a territory of fine vines and lavender, colours and flavours in the heart of the Gorges of Ardeche Nature Reserve.
Cave of La Madeleine
The cave of the Madeleine offers grandiose volumes, sets of concretions with amazing shapes and an uncommon panel of colours. The sound and light show in the biggest hall is a great popular success and gives the cavity a seductive charm. The site of the Madeleine is located on the left bank of the gorges of Ardeche in the village of St Remeze located in the heart of a vast limestone plateau dominated by the Dent de Rez massif.
Gorges of Ardeche
A few kilometres from the Rhone Valley, the region is remarkable by the special geological formations dug by the river over millennia. This resulted in spectacular gorges perfectly suited to water sports and especially canoeing. The Gorges of Ardeche are one of the 153 reserves protecting the natural jewels of France. They attract nearly one million visitors annually, lovers of wilderness, green leisure and outdoor sports. Created in 1980, the nature reserve aims at reconciling this tourist craze and the preservation of the site.
VALLON-PONT D’ARC (Pop: 2,350)
At the South end of the Ardeche department, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc is the gateway into the Gorges of Ardeche, a nature reserve both popular and well preserved. The village is the emblem of tourism in the region. Its Provencal charm and many exceptional sites like Pont d’Arc, caves, beaches, tunnels and dolmens make it a tourist favourite. Water sports are rife and well organised (canoeing, kayak, speleology). The Sunday market is a perfect showcase of the local products. Cycling found its place in this capital of canoeing. In 2009, France’s Jeremy Roy won a Paris-Nice stage here. In 2016, Tom Dumoulin dominated a wind-swept time trial at the nearby Pont d’Arc Cavern.
Pont d’Arc Cavern
In the depths of a cave, the first artists in the history of Humanity painted a masterpiece: horses, lions, rhinos and other animals, captured in action, running, hunting and fighting.
Some 36 000 years later, engineers and artists accomplished a unique feat in the world by reconstructing this original cave, the Pont d’Arc Cavern. In doing so they rendered this extraordinary collection of paintings and engravings visible to all, transmitting the emotions felt by those who discovered the cave twenty years ago. Upon entering the cavern in the midst of stalagmites and stalactites, you will discover the world as it appeared to men and women 36 000 years ago.
The artworks are revealed in an interplay of light and shadows, bringing the walls to life and draperies from out of the darkness. Hundreds of animals of 15 different species appear, engraved with flint, or drawn with charcoal or by finger. Skilful mastery of shading and perspective techniques make them come to life. The tour will take an hour, where you will wander along a raised walkway interspersed with ten stopping or viewing points with 27 panels on display in the cavern.
Your visit will conclude with the large Lion Panel, where 92 animals emerge as moving forms from within a monumental 12-metre long panel.
Pont d’Arc and Gorges of Ardeche
Pont d’Arc, a fascinating natural bridge over the river, is one of the most photographed sites in France. An ambitious plan is underway to protect and valorise the site, the gateway into the gorges of Ardeche and their nature reserve.
RUOMS (Pop: 2,260)
On the banks of the Ardeche, the village of Ruoms charms with its rich medieval past and its ramparts, inherited from the Hundred Years War. Its historical centre, discreetly hidden behind the busy shopping street, is an invitation to strolling. Located at the end of the 19th century on the PLM (Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean) rail line, the town prospered thanks to its stone quarries and its brewery. Wine has now replaced beer and the railway station has been transformed into a police station. You can also sunbathe in Ruoms on its beautiful pebble beach and go for a swim in the Ardeche.
Ruoms Defile Tourist road
Dug in the rock in the nineteenth century, it offers a spectacular view on the limestone cliffs. First a succession of impressive tunnels and arches, the road then winds through a deep gorge upstream of the Ardeche River, then runs along the stream of the Ligne.
Through an interactive tour of three rooms, followed by an introduction to tasting, Néovinum introduces visitors into the world of Ardeche winemakers and makes the vineyard come to life. On site, the tasting and sales cellar offers a wide choice of Ardeche wines, local products and gift ideas.
SAMPZON (Pop: 230)
The Sampzon Rock is "the lighthouse" of southern Ardeche. With its unique silhouette, this odd-looking rock rises to 381 metres at the confluence of the Ardeche, Labeaume and Chassezac valleys. It is of the same geological origin as the neighbouring Dent de Rez and Serre de Tourre as well as the Vercors, the Marseille Calanques, Mont Ventoux or the Alpilles – the Urgonian massif. The old feudal fortress built at the top was destroyed in 1600 and replaced today by a television relay station. Access by car offers an exceptional view over southern Ardeche, the Ardeche mountains and on a clear day, the Alps and Mont Ventoux. Sampzon is dominated by its castle (fourteenth to sixteenth century), recently restored and converted into a B&B.
LANDSCAPE OF THE DAY
This vast karstic terrain of limestone plateaux indented with gorges offers a diversity of landscapes with a Mediterranean character, marked by the presence of olive trees. Tourist hotspots abound, linked to the prestige of the Ardèche gorges in a 35-km long canyon. Many sites are protected: Pont d'Arc and its surroundings have been listed since 1931, Chauvet cave is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Combe d'Arc and Aven d'Orgnac are both labelled asGrand Site de France.
GROSPIERRES (Pop: 890)
Above the current village of Grospierres, the hamlet of Chastelas is a medieval village of the 11th century, which housed twenty families until the mid-nineteenth century. Its ruins give the site a Romantic charm, especially when sunset illuminates the stones of slightly pink tones. An association of volunteers has contributed for more than thirty years to preserve and restore the site. Above the village, one can discover the chapel Notre-Dame des Songes, built in the 13th century. Its name is said to derive from the bride of a knight gone to the Crusades, who had seen her husband fight in a dream and had pledged to build a chapel should he return from war.
Resurgence of Font Vive
An oasis of greenery with clear waters, hidden in the scrubland, at the turn of a footpath – this is what you can expect to discover at the resurgence of Font Vive. Nine to ten metres deep, this spring coming from nowhere remains a mystery.
SAINT-PAUL-LE-JEUNE (Pop: 990)
La Cocalière cave
Five kilometres from Saint-Paul-le-Jeune lies one of the most spectacular caves in France, the cave of La Cocalière, located partly on the territory of the village. The first discoverers of the cave were prehistoric men who left evidence of their presece (bones, tools, pottery...). The first explorer whose writings were made available was Jules de Malbos (1854), a naturalist from Ardeche, who entered the natural orifice, the Aven de la Cocalhère, in the stream of Cocalhère-Basse, the centrepiece of the system. De Malbos also checked other branches of the system such as the Ghoul of Sauvas. From 1953 to 1966, the Speleological and Prehistory Society of Gard-Ardeche undertook the methodical exploration of the whole ensemble. Works were undertaken in 1965 on the outdoor site of La Cocalière. A tunnel facilitated the access to the cavern and led to the discovery in 1966 of the Spéloufis network, very beautifully concretized and which has been left untouched. Guided and commented throughout a visit lasting about an hour, the underground tour of La Cocalière is accessible to all ages.
Sub-prefectures: Ales, Le Vigan
Surface: 5,853 km2
Specialities: Brandade de Nîmes (mashed potato and cod), olive oil, pélardon (goat cheese), Truffle of Uzès, strawberry of Nimes, apple of Le Vigan, honey of Cevennes, rice and salt of Camargue, Wines of Costières and Côtes du Rhône (Laudun, Lirac, Chusclan, Tavel…), Camargue bull and Gardianne (bull stew), sweet onion of Cevennes, pottery in Anduze, basketry, stone quarries…
Sport clubs: Tennis (Virginie Razzano), Nimes Olympique (Football), Rugby Club of Nîmes, basketball, gymnastics, USAM handball, Uzès stud farm.
Competitions: Challenges Gard Pleine Nature (Trail, Mountain-bike, Duos), Etoile de Béssèges (cycling, February), Criterium des Cevennes, Semi-marathon of Nimes
Festivals: Nimes Festival in the Arena (2016: Muse, David Gilmour, Johnny Haliday, Kendji Girac…), Lives at Pont du Gard (July), Jazz in Junas (July), Nuits musicales of Uzès (classical), accordion festival in St Quentin la Poterie, fête de l’Europe in Bellegarde, medieval festival in St Gilles, basketry fair in Vallabrègues, Chamber music festival in Villevieille.
Economy: tourism, wine tourism, agriculture, wood industry, Areva, textile (Well), Perrier waters.
Websites: www.gard.fr / www.tourismegard.com / www.climattitude.gard.fr
BESSÈGES (Pop: 2,900)
The history of Besseges started with the opening of a coalmine in 1809 and steelworks in 1838. The commune wax created in 1858 and by the end of the century, its population had reached 11,000, making it the third largest city in Gard behind Nimes and Ales. The decline started in the 1920s and mining was abandoned in 1964. Tourism is the new asset of a town well known to cycling fans as it has hosted one of the first races of the season every year since 1971. The 2018 edition went to Tony Gallopin, who had finished second the three previous years.
Surface: 5,167 km²
Specialties: aligot, truffade, dry sausage, fricandeau (mixture of lean, fat and offal of pork cooked in a strainer), manouls (cooked sheep tripe), grass sausage, sac d’os (stuffed pork belly), pouteille (pig's foot in red wine with potatoes), cow, sheep and goat cheeses (pelardon), honey, chestnut products, Quézac water, croquants, coupétade (Lozere pudding with prunes and dry fruit).
Sport Clubs: Mende Volley Lozère, Tean MTB Lozère Sporting events: Gévaudathlon bike tour, Gévaudathlon (raid multisport), Lozère Trail, Raid Lozère Sport Nature, Tréfle Lozérien (enduro race), Marvejols-Mende half-marathon, 160 km de Florac (equestrian endurance race), Lozère Rally.
Economy: agriculture, tourism and nature sport, medecine, wood industry, agro-food industry.
Main tourist sites: Gorges of Tarn, Aubrac (St James Way), Margeride, Lake Naussac, Aven Armand, Dargilan cave, Gévaudan wolves park, Bison park of Europe, Vultures of the Gorges, Belvedere Of Jonte, Mont Lozère and its 154 menhirs, archaeological museum and site of Javols, 2/3 of Lozere territory listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco for its cultural landscapes of agro-pastoralism, National Park of Cevennes.
Festivals: Détours du Monde festival, 48th Street, Fairytales and Tales, Olt Festival, Festiv'Allier, Festival of Crafts and Art in Cevennes, International Film Festival of Vébron
Websites and social networks: www.lozere.fr / www.facebook.com/DptLozere / twitter.com/dptlozere48
LE PONT-DE-MONTVERT (Pop: 300)
The village is famous as the starting point of the so-called “war of the camisards” in July 1702. The riot started with the collective execution of catholic abbot Du Chayla, who had for years persecuted local Protestants with cruelty. One of his murderers, Esprit Seguier was sentenced to have his fist cut off before being burnt alive on the banks of the Tarn. The village took its name for the bridge over the Tarn. The pretty chateau de Grizac (13th century, private) is visible on the hill and it is possible to pay a visit to the museum in House of Mount Lozere. In 1878, in his Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes, Robert Louis Stevenson came to the village.
Its main summit, Pic de Finiels, tops at 1,699. Mount Lozere stretches like a huge plateau for nearly 30 km from Villefort to Sauveterre and from Pont-deMontvert to Bleymard. The other main summits are the Signal des Laubies to the west and the Pic Cassini to the east. Tarn springs from the south side of Mount Lozere, which is entirely located in the National Park of Cevennes.
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