Le Viel Audon – Ardeche

Shoreline in front of Audon

When visiting the picturesque hillside village of Belazuc, we found out that there was a very interesting smaller village on the other side of the river, accessible only by footpath, not by car. Here is how it is described on their website.

The site of Le Viel Audon has been inhabited since Prehistoric times by people who have enjoyed its mild climate, a river full of fish, a spring with constant temperature as well as rich fauna and flora. In the early 19th century, when silkworm breeding was a successful activity, the inhabitants of the hamlet left it to build large silkworm breeding houses on the plateau overlooking the village. After being deserted and forgotten for a century, all that was left of it was a heap of ruins buried under ivy. In the 1970’s, a handful of “utopists” put it into their heads to revive Le Viel Audon. They created an association and organised international volunteer work programmes for young people. Over 10,000 volunteers took part in rebuilding the hamlet, and some of them decided to live there too.

Lyon, France

Lyon, a city which just seems to get better the more you get to know it. At first, it was one of those towns that didn’t really appeal to me very much when I arrived. Perhaps it was the backed-up traffic getting into town by car. And perhaps because I was looking for what is best to appreciate Lyon in the wrong places. In many towns you go to the old part of town to experience the place. But not in Lyon. The old part is nice and quaint, but you can find more to explore and enjoy in the 2nd Arrondissement called Bellecour.

Lyon is France’s second largest city, after Paris of course, and its geography is quite unique. It is where two rivers meet, the Saone and the Rhone. However the meeting takes place at the south end of Lyon, creating beforehand a narrow stretch of land with water on either side which is central Lyon. In this center section of land is Place Bellecour, the third largest plaza in France. Surrounded by beautiful buildings, it also hosts a huge parking lot below it, which has diminished traffic significantly in the area and allowed for many of the streets to be pedestrian only. This area is extremely bike and pedestrian friendly. Its a great shopping and dining region, especially rue de  la Republique (“rue de la Re” to locals) with many name-brand stores and department stores. A wonderful street for restaurants is rue Merciere, and then also the area of rue Garet and Rue de L’Arbre.

Continue reading “Lyon, France”

Annecy, France


We arrived in the afternoon to Annecy, after driving up from the Ardeche region. Beautiful day with lots of people on the beach of the lake, the shoreline walkway or walking the streets of the old town. What a place! We liked it immediately and it just go better as we found our hotel and check in. The Hotel du Palais de L’Isle is in the middle of old town, perhaps the most photographed place, next to the prison. And our room was the only one with a balcony overlooking the canal and prison. Lovely spot and probably the best room. For our first time here, I can’t think of a better spot to be or room to have.

Continue reading “Annecy, France”

Chateau Clement in Ardeche

Chateau Clement

Our stay for our time exploring the Ardeche region was in Vals-les-Bains at the Chateau Clement. This beautiful chateau was built in 1870 by a mineral water magnate, who had traveled the world extensively, and brought back architectural ideas as to how he wanted to build his home in the forest on a hill above Vals, overlooking the Ardeche River. It has gone through a few transformations since then, including being a prison during the 2nd World War, being abandoned in the early 90s, until purchased by the current owners, the Chabot’s, completely renovated to restore its original splendor and then becoming their home as well as a charming Chambres d’Hotes.

As you can see from the photo, the chateau is original and beautiful. Easy to take a picture of the outside, but more difficult inside with its dark woods and low lighting, although the finishing is amazing. The double winding staircase is quite something, and the woodwork on the ceiling is something else. Quite a work of art and hats off to the Chabot’s for bringing it all back to life. And each room has been uniquely decorated, with a name to back-up the deco style.

We did not partake in the special dinner that Eric Chabot prepares, but we heard excellent comments from the other guests. He cooks it all, using local products, served in multiple stages. It sounded wonderful.

Staying at the Chateau Clement is like staying at a very high-end classy hotel, but without the price (and the fact that you are still living in someone’s home, with four (well-behaved) children). Full amenities in the room include large living space, wonderful robes, expresso machine and beautiful views. There’s a common area pool and spa facilities on the ground floor. We’d certainly return.

Learning about wine in Provence

I very much enjoy searching for great places to stay when we have decided where we want to go for our next trip. There are just so many wonderful places to stay, to experience. So when looking for a place in Provence, in Vaucluse, when I saw the name of this place–Auberge du Vin–well, I was more than intrigued. The Auberge is operated by Linda and Chris, a couple who not only operate a wonderful Auberge, but also are certified wine instructors. All we were looking for was a nice place to stay. Well, we got that and a great mini course on wines in the Vaucluse region.

The Auberge is nestled in the middle of three wines vineyards (grenache, syrah and viognier), in between Carpentras and Mazan, making it strategically located for visiting all parts of the Haute Provence and the Rhone region. Nice accommodations, wonderful pool and garden area, and very hospitable owners.

Auberge du Vin wine course

We’ve taken numerous courses and tastings before, but this was the best yet. Linda knows her stuff, and she doesn’t have to go far to provide product for her course on Rhone wines. After talking a bit about the history of wine in the region, the types of grapes available, and the concept of the appellations, we then stepped right outside the Auberge and see firsthand syrah, vionier and grenache growing on the vines.

Our course involved eight tastings of wines; two Viognier whites (the “new” Chardonnay), two cru reds from Beaumes de Venise, two desert wines (a red and a white) and a Chateau Neuf de Pape with a surprise bottle of 2001 Domaine la Tourade that was simply amazing.

A few interesting things were learned were:

  • While in the Americas we tend to classify wines by the grape type (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc.), in France it is by region (Bourgogne, Cote de Rhone, Bordeaux, etc.). Which can explain why I’ve always had trouble finding a good selection of Pinot Noir wines in French wine stores; all Bourgogne red wines are Pinot Noir!
  • While I knew that keeping wine in oak barrels helps the wine live longer, I discovered that is also provides the tannins in wine, and that when a wine is is strong in tannins it tends to dry out the mouth, while a wine with a good acidic balance will make the mouth watery.
  • The Rhone region produces more than 370 million bottles of wine a year, more than a million a day.
  • While most wines today are picked by machines, the higher quality Cru wines have to hand-picked, so limit damage to the grapes.

If you are looking for a wonderful place to vacation (Provence) and also learn a little more than about French history, The Auberge du Vin may be the place you may want to consider for your next stay.

Provence: Vaucluse


Provence consists of three departements: Bouches-du-Rhone, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and thirdly Vaucluse, which is the region we were about to visit and tour. Within Vaucluse there are also three sub-regions, called Luberon, Mont Ventoux and Avignon and we did our best to get in a little bit of all three.

We left Avignon and headed south to Cavaillon, passing through, taking highway D2 towards Menerbes. This was beginning of our tour through small Provencal villages until we made our way to our stay at Auberge du Vin just outside of Carpentras. Wonderful countryside, a lovely drive and numerous hilltop villages to stop at and walk through, such as Menerbes, La Coste, Bonnieux, Gordes and Venasque. All cute and quaint, but Gordes stands out and is really quite something to see from the viewpoint when you arrive from the south on D2. And you will immediately know you are getting close to Gordes because of the unique walls or fences along the highway made solely of rock, flat, shale-like rock, starting with them placed horizontally up to about three meters, and then a top row placed vertically. Very unique.

Continue reading “Provence: Vaucluse”