Insider’s Guide to Drôme Provençale
Harvest dates vary, generally beginning at lower elevations around Grignan and Valréas in late June and continuing into August in the highlands to the north and east.
Here’s an inside look at how to make the most of your time in this fragrantly scenic region.
> Where to Eat:
Provençal comfort food such as garlicky soupe de poisson (fish soup) and eggplant gratin shine at homey L’Auberge du Petit Bistrot, whose tables spill into an adjoining square in the tiny hilltop village of Vinsobres.
At St. Restitut’s Bistrot Sidoine, the changing chalkboard menu of small plates may include a soufflé-like moelleux of leeks and local Picodon goat cheese. The outdoor terrace draws a crowd during warmer months.
The elegant modern interior of Restaurant O’Rabasse, in Richer-enches, sets the scene for inventive seasonal dishes like sautéed prawns with foamy langoustine sauce and chilled apricot soup. The wine list features hard-to-find Rhône vintages.
Inside the stone walls of Le Poët Laval, a medieval village, Les Hospitaliers serves up pork loin with a rich mushroom sauce, a frozen cassis parfait, and other classic French fare. The restaurant is part of a 22-room hotel with pool.
> Where to Stay:
Bordered by wheat and lavender fields outside the hamlet of Colonzelle, La Moutière has three B&B rooms and five self-catering apartments in renovated 18th-century stone buildings originally used in silk production. A large swimming pool lies at one end of the four-acre grounds, and guests can take the inn’s bicycles into the countryside.
Decorated in an airy, French-country style, the 16 rooms and suites of Le Clair de la Plume occupy two old houses and a walled garden in the village of Grignan. A stone swimming pond makes a cool refuge on summer days, while the hotel’s highly regarded restaurant offers a truffle tasting menu.
> Lavender 101:
Though Maurice Reboul’s distillery, named for his grandfather Raoul Duffez, is not typically open for tours, visitors can get immersed in the lavender experience at L’Essentiel de Lavande, a small farm outside Clansayes. Meet owner Odile Tassi, tour the fields, take a smell test of essential oils, observe distillation through a miniature transparent still, and enjoy a massage under oak trees.
During lavender season, Distillerie Bleu Provence in Nyons offers guided visits of its working distillery as well as soap- and perfume-making workshops.
> Travel Trivia:
- More than 350 crocodiles live at La Ferme aux Crocodiles, a research facility and Drôme Provençale’s number one tourist attraction.
- Drôme Provençale is home to three of the 157 officially designated most beautiful villages of France: La Garde Adhémar, Le Poët Laval, and Montbrun les Bains.
- At the Truffle Mass each January in Richerenches, congregants fill collection baskets with black truffle specimens.
This piece, reported by Christopher Hall, first appeared in the April 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.