We were ten around the dinner table, all French except for me. Someone remarked, “You know us French, our only topic of conversation at the table is food: what we are eating, what we have eaten, and what we are going to eat.” He wasn’t wrong! The French are extremely proud of their gastronomy, and rightly so! Isn’t that one of the reasons we love going to France?
My passion for regional specialties borderlines obsession, so I was absolutely delighted to accept an invitation to discover the Vallée de la Gastronomie, which I’d only recently heard about.
A Gastronomic First in France: here you can create your multi-sensory trip
The Vallée de la Gastronomie is a food-and-wine-themed road trip that runs between Dijon and Marseille, about 620 km, and covers an area of more than 75,000 km2. All experiences are within 45 minutes of a junction on the A6 and A7 motorways which makes the extensive nature of these experiences so much more manageable.
Traversing three regions:
- Burgundy Franche-Comté,
- Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and
- Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – the route runs along the Rhône and Saône river valleys.
This is much more than a signposted trail to follow from A to B, it comprises a vast collection of 100-plus Michelin-starred chefs and more than 200 independent tourist experiences to enable you to create your own multi-sensory road trip itinerary according to your availability and personal interests.
With such a wide variety of experiences, it can be hard to choose!
- You can take cooking classes, explore olive groves, truffle hunt, go behind the scenes in breweries, distilleries, and wineries, discover the art of cheese- or chocolate-making, and learn the history of many regional specialties.
- Exceptional culinary experiences are also available: from rustic farm-to-table meals to Michelin-starred restaurants, then stop overnight at farmhouses, chambres d’hôtes, or even châteaux.
Interact with talented French men and women artisans
The route begins in Dijon, located 1.5 hours from Paris by train. It meanders south along the Saône and Rhône rivers, before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea, punctuated by Lyon, Marseille, and dozens of picturesque towns and villages along the way. From mustards and truffles to chestnuts and lavender, this area offers a vast array of specialties, not to mention the selection of famous wines.
This adventure is more than just an all-you-can-eat feast (although I’m not opposed), it is an opportunity to discover and interact with the talented French men and women who create these exceptional products.
Rich Experiences: Deeper, more authentic, and personal – providing a real connection
Artisans throughout France offer guided visits, but these experiences are deeper, more authentic, and personal, providing a real opportunity for connection. For example, instead of a scripted group tour, you converse with a renowned chef over a demonstration or roll up your sleeves and craft a specialty alongside an artisan.
My tour began at La Cité de la Gastronomie in Dijon, which was filled with entertaining, interactive displays – a culinary discovery area for all ages. While I thoroughly enjoyed all the shops and restaurants, it was La Table des Climats that made my jaw drop. It is a bit like the M&M store – but for adults, with vast walls of wine vending machines. But this was just the beginning of the wine experiences along the route. I was in heaven.
We followed guide Emmanuel to the top of La Roche du Solutré where our efforts were rewarded with local sausage, fresh goat cheese, cornbread, and iconic Pouilly-Fuissé wine.
Once back down, we rode e-bikes through the vines, then began the next day blending our own wine at the Université du Vin in Suze-la-Rousse.
Then it was on to the gastronomic capital, with a walking tour through the secret traboules of Lyon, tasting local specialties such as la tarte aux pralinés roses. I marveled at Chef Joseph Viola as he handcrafted his pâté en croûte, offering samples as he worked his magic.
Continuing south, it was time to get our hands dirty making chocolate truffles at Valrhona. Then came a ‘pinch-me’ moment when I found myself surrounded by lavender fields in full bloom as I sipped lavender lemonade. We ended our escapades with lunch on a working fishing boat on the Mediterranean, after having enjoyed numerous gourmet and Michelin-Star restaurants along the way.
The Vallée de la Gastronomie – Charming destinations – castles, spas & more
After a day of unforgettable adventures, I didn’t want to check into a generic chain hotel and I imagine that you’ll feel the same way! There are charming destinations to surprise and delight every evening.
We strolled through the secret garden of Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu to discover the best spa in France, and felt like royalty at the Château des Oliviers de Salettes, perched on a hill and surrounded by rows of lavender.
No matter what your budget is, I expect you’ll be greeted by a warm smile and find a cozy room attentionnée.
Planning your trip well is key to a successful trip: bit by bit
With over 450 experiences to choose from, you probably can’t do it all in one trip, but it may be fun to try!
I suggest picking one region to explore in-depth, or opting for one or two favorites in each area as you get a feel for the whole route. Either way, you are bound to be back!
’While planning this type of trip may seem daunting, the interactive website helped me select the adventures that best suited me. Bonne route!
Have you ever experienced anything like this? Please share in the comments below.
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