Southern France, Food & Wine adventure in the Ardèche

The Ardèche Gorges

The Ardèche is known for its dramatic scenery, especially the area called the Ardèche Gorges, with steep rocky limestone walls and a river running through it. It’s nature’s masterpiece.

This area is perfect for adventure and sports holidays including kayaking, canoeing, bike trails including the Great Mountain Bike Route the Mounts d’Ardèche, caving activities and speleology.

This region of France is located where Provence begins along the river Rhône.  Expect lavender fields blooming from the mid to the end of June. There’s also a lavender museum near the gorges in The Saint-Remeze Distillery. A region full of lovely smells everywhere you go!

Lunch by via Rhona runs from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean

The via Rhona runs from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean, and there is a cycle route that follows the Rhône (700km) and cuts through the Ardèche and Drôme.

Wine discovery with a Segway is a must. It takes about 5 minutes of practise and it is a lot of fun.   The terraced vineyards of St-Joseph are striking, and the views from the top of the hill over the Rhône and the rural Ardèche are breathtaking. This experience was followed by wine tasting at Terre de Syrah.
Tournon-sur-Rhône is also a port city with a stop for river cruises in the Ardèche.
Walking  on the edge of Rhone on the Ardeche side is spectacular , as you have full view the Drome vineyards on the other side.

At top of the hill in the Ardeche side  overlooking The Rhone and Drome

Charmes-sur-Rhône- A Michelin star meal
A commune about 30 minutes drive from Tournon-sur-Rhône. It was a very quaint and compact place. The hotel and restaurant Le Carré d’Aléthius are centrally located and easy to find. The chef Olivier Samin earned his one Michelin star two years ago. After attending a training kitchen at the hotel school in Chamalières, Olivier Samin began a gastronomic journey through France and the started his culinary journey  at Le Vieux Castillon, the Basque Country and, specifically, the restaurant Firmin Arambide (two stars) “Pyrenees” in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port,
the Maison Pic in Valence during seven years.

During his years working with renowned chefs, Olivier Samin acquired knowledge of beautiful and noble ingredients, perfect techniques, refined his skills, tastes and flavour research.

restaurant Le Carré d’Aléthius :  Carrot emulsion olive and seafood; Asparagus emulsion, sous vide egg  and cucumber, Salmon aubergine mash, coconut emulsion and Samphire, local wines.

Enriched by this experience, Olivier left the Maison Pic to realize his dream of opening his own restaurant and to express his culinary identity. The Carré d’Alethius inaugurated in 2010, and four years later, the restaurant received its first star in the Michelin ® Guide.

Our meal was spectacular. Very creative and inspirational cooking.

Hotel Le Carré d’Aléthius
 4 rue Paul Bertois, 07800 Charmes-sur-Rhône
T. +33 (0)4 75 78 30 52 –
Facebook: Le Carre d’Alethius

St Montan 


Saint-Montan is situated in the southern Ardeche and is described as an Ardeche ‘village of character.’ It is a small village perched on a hillside, and it has a castle at the top of the old part which is not accessible by car. It’s built mainly with ‘gold’ stones with narrow streets, steep cobbled alleys and paths, vaulted passageways, and picturesque old houses. It is another unmissable place to visit in the area. Arrive very early to find a car parking space.

From Saint-Montan I followed the winding road out of the village towards Larnas. This is a very scenic route winding up into the hills that lead to the Ardèche Gorges.

The Ardèche Gorges 

The Ardeche Gorges

The most beautiful viewpoints are the Serre de Tourre and the Pont-d’Arc.
Pont d’Arc is a large natural bridge, located in the Ardèche carved by the Ardèche River; it is 60m wide and 54m high.

Lunch took place at a roadside restaurant in rural France overlooking more vineyards! La Farigoule, a ‘bistrot de Pays’ in the village of Bidon.
Bistrot de Pays is a French trademark on the food service and drinking establishments that aim to “contribute to the conservation, promotion and facilitation of economic and social fabric of rural areas by maintaining the spirit of village life”. They are present in 20 departments, spread over ten regions of France.

La Farigoule, a ‘bistrot de Pays’ in the village of Bidon: local dish: The Brouffado is a slow cooked beef flavored with herbs, anchovies, and capers, Local goats cheese and dessert included a delicious homemade nougat ice cream

Southern Ardèche wine tasting and speleology at the Grotte de St-Marcel d’Ardèche

It was an incredible experience, one not to be missed!  I never in a million years thought I would be doing this kind of sporting activity. 
Guided by Raphaël Pommier, owner and winemaker of Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac and perhaps the most patient spéléo guide EVER, Nicholas from 

So what is spéléo? It is a hobby cave sports activity, practice in a group which in this case involved ropes, helmets, harnesses and hanging in mid air and walking on ropes.  Completely out of my comfort zone it was the highlight of the Ardeche leg of this trip. Highly recommended – super fun! This activity took place at Grotte de St-Marcel d’Ardèche, discovered in the 1880’s and stretches over 60 kilometers.

wine tasting and speleology at the Grotte de St-Marcel d’Ardèche

An excellent adventure is caving in the Cave St Marcel d’Ardèche. Caving, wine tasting in a friendly atmosphere,  in a secret place to enjoy and understand the flavors of the Ardèche terroir wine – I saw minerality. The cave is a magical place to taste the wine because it brings a neutral room to more precisely perceive the flavours and aromas of the terroir.

Grotte de St-Marcel d’Ardèche is currently holding some barrels of wine suitable for tasting inside the cave. There are some breathtaking views in the cave, including natural pools with crystalline waters.

Grotte de St-Marcel d’Ardèche

Dinner and accommodation were at Raphaël Pommier’s B&B, Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac, in Bourg-St-Andéol about 15 minutes from the cave. Raphaël and his wife run the B&B as well as the winery, which has a marvelous view of the vineyards. It’s a friendly and family oriented atmosphere.
They have four enormous rooms which each have a simple rural French fee with all amenities. A place to relax and a great point to discover the surroundings areas.
They also have an outside building that works as a wedding, party and conference venue.

Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac, in Bourg-St-Andéol, more wine tasting and eating Caillette d’herbes local speciality minced pork and herbs balls.

Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac,
Quartier Cousignac, 07700 Bourg-Saint-Andéol
T. +33 0(0)6 16 17 61 64 (Raphael Pommier’s cell phone)
Facebook : Chambres d’hotes au Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac

How to get to the Ardèche

By train  from Paris to Valence,  Montélimar and Avignon
For more information, destinations and costs:
Twitter : @voyagessncf_uk / FB :
 Instagram: @Voyagessncf #Voyagessncf 

Grenoble, Lyon, Saint-Exupery, Marseille, Montpellier and Nimes.
More information on the region: Ardeche Guide

Planning your trip : Rhone Valley
Previous adventure: Southern France, Savour The Drome
Next adventure: Southern France, Experience the Gard

Disclosure: I was a guest of Ardèche Tourisme on this leg of the press trip. As usual, all views are my own.



  1. bethany naismith
    July 17, 2016 / 10:17 pm

    Wow! I've never visited France but I have been thinking about touring a tour around the main spots, this most definitely will be on my list! Looks like an incredible place and caving looks so exciting…

  2. Jess | The Indigo Hours
    July 18, 2016 / 11:57 am

    The Pont-d'Arc looks incredible, I love natural features like that! I've always wanted to try a segway, too…

    Jess xo | The Indigo Hours

  3. July 18, 2016 / 7:39 pm

    What a beautiful Gorge, I have not yet ventured that far into France but loving the look of southern france.

  4. Fashion Du Jour
    July 18, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    Wow! What a beautiful and adventurous trip you have had! Love the Segway wine-tasting and the beautiful gorges! And who wouldn't want to taste wines in magical caves? Plus your meals look utterly delicious!!!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN x

  5. ana de jesus
    July 18, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    I have never been to France before but it has been on my bucket list for a while. The Gorge looks lovely.

  6. Jessica Ayun
    July 18, 2016 / 11:46 pm

    Just a well done adventure! Each activity looks interesting. Same goes with the food. St Montan is the most fascinating for me. 🙂

  7. July 19, 2016 / 9:01 am

    I adore France, but I have never visited this part, but am totally sold now.

  8. Hannah Heartss
    July 20, 2016 / 2:19 pm

    I have been to the south of France a few times and loved it x

  9. July 20, 2016 / 7:49 pm

    This looks a beautiful region. We visited France for the first time in May, but it rained every single day! Kaz x

  10. maria insberia
    July 24, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    It provides me lots of pleasure and interest..!! Nice and effective post. This article is too short but effective. Tour Bali Drivers