Opening in 2016 – the Carré du Palais in Avignon – Vaucluse
2016 will see the opening of the Carré du Palais, a wine centre of the first order where visitors can discover everything they’ve ever wanted to know about AOC wines from the Rhône Valley. This new exhibit will be located within the old eighteenth century Banque de France building which is between the Place de L’Horloge and the Place du Palais des Papes, which itself attracts over 600,000 visitors a year. The Carré will contain a wine school, a wine bar serving the local AOC wines, a small gastronomic restaurant plus a larger bistro, a boutique and a hotel/residence, all overlooking the surrounding historical monuments. There will also be a workshop dedicated to the process of fermentation not only in wine but in bread-making, in cheeses, chocolate, tea, coffee and cold meat. Focus will also be given to the “terroirs” where the grapes are grown.
Digging the Ardèche
The Pont d’Arc Cavern opened last Spring and has already welcome over 500,000 visitors. To the south of the Ardèche, the Pont d’Arc Cavern replicates the world’s oldest man-made masterpiece of the Chauvet Grotto, now closed to the public and given World Heritage Status in 2014. After a tour here, visit the Galerie de l’Aurignacien, a discovery centre about upper Paleolithic people, their way of life and natural environment.
Finally, to complement these two visits, the Cité de la Préhistoire in Aven d’Orgnac takes visitors on a voyage back through time from the Paleolithic period to the iron age and is designated a Grand Site de France. From June to November, a new exhibition will take visitors behind the scenes to the four km of underground galleries which include cavernous halls, decorated with thousands of limestone formations.
Expect to see the Chauvet effect which has spread to the local food industry with prehistoric names now given to a wide range of new lines in everything from chestnuts and beers to biscuits, bread and wine.
100th Antiques Fair of Isle-sur-La-Sorgue – Vaucluse-Provence
It was fifty years ago in 1966 that a little town on the banks of several branches of the Sorgue river – Isle-sur-La-Sorgue, first held an antiques fair. This trail blazing fair has since become one of the largest antiques fairs in Europe, taking place twice a year in March and August, selling antiques, vintage, industrial furniture and contemporary art, among other things. There’s a vast programme of festivities surrounding this year’s events, including a retrospective of photos and illustrations of fifty years of the fairs.
Valrhona Chocolate City expansion – La Drôme
Since it opened in 2013 in Tain-l’Hermitage, this chocolate oasis has welcomed over 210,000 visitors. Each month 40 discovery events are laid on, over 20,000 squares of chocolate are tasted and no less than 150 people learnt the basics of patisserie during courses or events, 2016 will also be rich in new projects and among them will be a new layout on the first floor of the Cité which will occupy a total of 2,000 sq m. The visitor area will therefore increase by 70%, with a space devoted to the appreciation of chocolatiers and four “surprise” areas, whose content will be unveiled very shortly.
And … a warning for chocoholics, there’s a shop on site too.
Take three hotels – The Gard
The Hotel Entraigues in the historic centre of Uzes reopens this year with new owners and a complete renovation. Originally opened in1981, the hotel is formed by the amalgamation of two fifteenth century townhouses to make a comfortable, modern hotel, a great restaurant, a bar known for the finest regional wines and a respected art gallery. Rates start at €130 per room per night.
Hotel Le Vieux Castillon in Castillon-Le-Gard is situated in a great location close to the Pont-du-Gard and has just joined the HB Collection, founded by Jean-Philippe Cartier. An historic property, furnished in a contemporary style, the new chef Christophe Ducros has impeccable Michelin credentials so expect some award-winning dishes to be served very soon. Rates start from €135 per room per night.
Opening soon is the seventeenth century Villa Montesquieu in Laudun (featured above) – a Provencal ‘bastide’ turned into a six-room luxury hotel and restaurant with most rooms enjoying their own jacuzzi. Set in beautiful gardens, there’s also a large open-air pool. The restaurant will specialise in fine, modern dining and the cellars feature the very best of the local wines. Rates start from €130 per room per night.
Photographic credits: A.Renaud-Goud / Muriel Akermann / Alain Hocquel / Matthieu Dupont / Lionel Pascale / Villa Montesquieu / Valerie Biset / Jérôme Ubassy
Notes to Editors: Southern France is an umbrella association promoting the Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, Vaucluse, Vallée du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Wines. The four departments run across three different regions (Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur – Auvergne Rhône Alpes – Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées), their collaboration enables visitors to discover a coherent geographic area along the Rhône Valley. Strong common themes are authentic and perched villages, great natural or architectural sites, outdoor activities and, of course, Rhône Valley vineyards. So think sunshine, authenticity, heritage, nature and the art of living which is of course – food and wine!