Plan a trip to Lavender Land
Just south of Lyon, the Drôme is a beautiful department with its varied landscapes, wonderful cuisine and exceptional places to see. One of the most compelling reasons to put the Drôme on your bucket list of ‘must visits’ after lockdown is the lavender – who is not attracted to the glorious sight of the fields bursting with colour and an unforgettable fragrance? The best places to go are the Drôme Provençale and the Diois.
The mild climate and low humidity make this department a world leader in the production of medicinal, perfumed, and aromatic plants with Lavender probably being the best known and easily recognisable of these products. Lavender is the organic species and there is a hybrid which looks similar called lavandin, which is a cross with aspic, but only lavender grows in the wild only above 600 metres whereas lavandin grows at all altitudes
The essential oil of lavender used in aromatherapy perfumes is finer and softer than lavandin, and it keeps its therapeutic properties longer than lavandin which is more pungent and has more camphor so is not used as much in pharmacopoeia. The AOP ’Essential oils of lavender from Haute-Provence’ was set up in 1981 to identify it against any competition as being of the highest quality.
There are several places worth a visit in lavender country such as Bleudiois Lavender Distillery where they distil lavender and lavandin and also sell essential oils and regional products like lavender honey and lavender soap, In Nyons, don’t miss the ‘Distillerie Bleu Provence’ which has been in situ since 1939. Lavender and rosemary are distilled, exotic ice – creams are made – lavender and geranium for example – and essential oils and other 100% ‘well-being’ products are top quality. There are even soap workshops for children in the school holidays.
For a real lavender experience try the Lavender Blue Break which over three days will incorporate the chance to take stunning photographs of the scenery, work in the fields with a producer to gain an insight into the whole production process from harvesting to essential oils, a massage and relaxing treatments with oils and creams, a lavender based dinner – one is immersed in lavender for three days – fantastic.
The Lavender Paths through the fields is another way to visit the area at your own speed. There are plaques all along the route with information on the lavender, the views — over Mont Ventoux or the Albion Palin for example, with walks of up to about four kilometres, all signposted from the village
The Drôme is the area of France just south of Lyons, situated between the Vercors and Provence. There is a great diversity of landscape and a wealth of agriculture with everything from lavender to wine, fruit and vegetables to olives. The Drôme is the premier part of France for bio-agriculture which has much to do with the warm climate and the soil. Some of the finest Drôme products include truffles from Tricastin, Valrhona chocolate, olive oil from Nyons, picodon cheese, which are used by some of the finest chefs in France who have restaurants here – such as Anne-Sophie Pic for example in Valence. The wines of the Hermitage, Tain l’Hermitage, Croze-Hermitage and Vinsobres in the Rhône Valley are world renowned.
Visit lovely villages such as Grignan, often built of local stone, gorgeous châteaux such as Suze-la-Rousse and its wine university. There are towns like Montélimar the capital of nougat, which is not to be missed, alongside cities such as Valence with its long history. Romans – sur-Isère is the shoe capital of France, all interspersed by gorgeous scenery of the Vercors, Baronnies Provençales and Rhône Valley.
The charming 16-room Hotel Le Clair de Plume is situated at the base of Grignan castle, in Provence. This historic hotel comes complete with a Gastro restaurant and a Bistro with menus based on the truffle and olives and breathtaking views over the village.