Who goes there? You're at the gateway to the South: welcome to Valence, half-way between Lyon and Avignon. The French illustrator Raymond Peynet, set his romantic illustrations in Valence and indeed the town is a little haven of romantisicm and poetry. Built on four tiered terraces beside the Rhône, Valence can be found between the wild countryside of the Ardèche and the Vercors. Valence offers a little taste of the south and is well known for its fine cuisine.
The 11th century Romanesque Saint-Apollinaire Cathedral in Valence dominates the town, this is one of the oldest buildings in Valence. In the choir resides the statue of Pope Pius VI, who died in Valence in 1799. You'll find other traces of his presence in the boulangeries in Valence: try a Suisse, an orange-flavoured pastry biscuit which looks just like a Vatican guard, and is in fact around 200 years old (the recipe, that is).
The ghosts of Peynet's famous illustrated "sweethearts" still haunt the Kiosque Peynet, a bandstand on the Champ de Mars: take your sweetheart and recite some poetry or whisper sweet nothings there.
In the town centre, the Parc Jouvet is one of the most beautiful parks in the Rhone valley, with an impressive view over the ruins of the Château de Crussol.
The Maison des Têtes (house of heads) is a fabulously decorative 16th century hôtel particulier, which has welcomed numerous illustrious figures over the years. See if you can spot some of the famous "heads" on the façade, such as Aristotle, Homer, Hippocrates and Eve.
Valence is proud of its fine cuisine, and of the fact that France's greatest chef, Anne-Sophie Pic who has three Michelin stars weaves her culinary magic in Valence. Award yourself a visit to her restaurant La Maison Pic.
Chocolate-lovers, take note: Valence is chocolate heaven. The chocolaterie Valrhona in Tain l'Hermitage (20 minutes away) makes what must be the crème de la crème of chocolate. You'll find Valrhona chocolate sold in numerous shops in Valence... For the ultimate choco-paradise, don't miss the Valence Chocolate and Sweets Fair. Take the opportunity to try some local sweet treats, such as pogne (egg brioche flavoured with orange blossom or rum), Montélimar nougat, truffles, sweet chestnut paste from Ardèche and Valence fruits.
If you intend to travel to Valence, the Ardèche Gorges not far away are well worth an excursion. Equally, the Pont d'Arc, is a stunning naturally occurring arched bridge: a sight worth seeing.
If you're visiting Valence with the family, the Soyons Archeological Site will fascinate the kids with the story of how man once lived in prehistoric caves.
Station to station