Situated in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, the Drôme department is famed for its outstanding landscapes and its good food and wine. Bordering Italy and Switzerland, the Drôme is infused with Alpine and Mediterranean influences, and with its lavendar fields, winding rivers and mountain range the department is ideal for walking, sports and natural activities.
The Drôme was created after the French Revolution but since then its boundaries have changed several times. The department is marked by Gallo-Roman remains and signs of its medieval history and many of its towns continue to produce traditional arts and crafts.
The weather in the Drôme can be very variable although generally the summers are long and warm and the winters are cold, except in the Rhône Valley. The mountainous areas of the department have enough snowfall to make them suitable for skiing during the winter season and even in the summer months snow is visible on the mountain tops.
Situated by the side of the River Rhône is Valence, the capital town of the Drôme with plenty of things to see and do. The town is alive with bars, cafes and shops, but its heritage is is also conserved through its old town buildings and the Cathedral of St Apollinaire. Visitors can take in Valence by river cruise, stroll through its park or walk along the canals that cut through the town.
The Vercours is a vast expanse of natural parkland and perhaps the department's best kept secret. With its limestone cliffs, rivers and wooded areas the Vercours offers a multitude of natural activities, a fine nature reserve and some of the finest sites in the Rhône-Alpes region.
Mirmande is a small town that is widely referred to as 'the prettiest village in France.' Set on a hill, the medieval town has quaint narrow streets and endearing architectural features. Set among trees and orchards, Mirmande attracts a variety of artists and potters who visit the town to experience its natural light and beautiful landscapes.
Just north of Provence, Montelimar is known as the gateway to the south of France and is also the nougat capital of the country. The town has an abundance of lively cafes, its own castle and a collection of architecturally interesting buildings in its historic 'old town.'
Museums, Galleries and Culture
There is plenty of culture to see and interesting museums to visit across the department. The International Shoe Museum in Romans is a popular place to visit with its large collection of shoes that tells the story of footwear from ancient to modern times. For art, the Contemporary Arts Centre situated in the historic Adhemar Castle in Montelimar is an excellent gallery that holds a series of prestigious exhibitions every year.
In addition to the various sports on offer there are a selection of zoos and parks across the department that are ideal for family days out. The Crocodile Farm in Pierrelatte is excellent entertainment for families as is the Marvellous World of Imps where elves and gnomes dwell in a magical forest.
Food and Drink
The Drôme is renowned for its culinary delicacies, and visitors flock from far and wide to sample its truffles and olives which are native to the department. The restaurants in Drôme are excellent quality and most serve local cuisine such as the unique Ravioli stuffed with cheese and parsley that originates from the Royans area of the department. There is a vast array of still and sparkling wines produced in the Drôme, namely the Hermitage, the Clairetter de Die and the Chatillon en Dois, all of which can be sampled in wine cellars across the department.
The climate in the Drôme is ideal for cultivating vineyards with its long sunny spells and fair share of rain. There are numerous vineyards and cellars across the department where visitors can sample the best of the Drôme's wines. The Côtes du Rhône is situated between Valence an Montelimar and is particularly worthy of visiting for its vast array of vineyards as is Dois, an areas that is saturated by the Clairette de Die vineyards.
During the summer months when most of the snow has gone from the mountains, the Drôme is the ideal place for leisurely rambles or more strenuous mountain hikes. The Eastern side of the Drôme is host to the Drôme, Isere and Haute-Alpes mountains and in contrast the Vercours areas offers beautiful walks through densely wooded countryside.
The Drôme has a series of middle range alps which offer good slopes if not the most challenging in the Rhône-Alpes. The 'Font D'urle-Chaud Clapier' resort stands at between 1200 and 1700m and offers excellent Nordic and Alipne ski runs, climbing and snow-shoe trails. Arguably the finest resort in the Drôme, the 'Lus-La-Croix-Haute' is a village resort that lies at the foot of the Grand Ferrand which stands at 2700m. The resort has a range of ski runs that take in some of the best views in the Rhône-Alpes.
With its varied scenery of mountains, woods and lakes the Drôme is the ideal place for golfers and the department has an excellent selection of 9 and 18 hole courses. The 'Saint-Didier-De-Charpey' is a large 18 hole course in Valence and the New Golf Du Bourget is a beautiful wooded 9 hole course 2km south east of Montmeyran.
With its rivers, mountains and wooded landscape the Drôme is well-equipped for a variety of sports lovers. There are good cycling routes throughout the department and keen cyclists can cycle along 130 km of the River Drôme allowing the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Drôme Valley countryside. There are numerous rivers criss-crossing the department into the Rhône such as the River Bourne which is ideal for canoeing and kayaking with its waterfalls and gorges. The Rhône is suitable for rowing and fishing and much of the river has enough wind for sailing and windsurfing. For those wishing to experience the outdoors there are plenty of water-sport centres across the department such as the Sagittaire Lake and Watersports Park at Vinsobres.
Ease of Access
The Drôme does not have its own airport but Nimes, Marseilles, Lyon and Geneva are all International airports that are easily accessible from the department. Alternatively, the train service in France is very good and many visitors choose to take the Eurostar to Paris and then a TGV train to Valence, the capital of the Drôme with the journey from Paris taking just two and a half hours.
Value for Money
The cost of living in the Drôme varies but generally property further south towards Provence and in the more alpine areas go for much higher prices. Overall, however, the Drôme is fairly good value for money with house prices averaging at just below the national norm. The department's traditional countryside properties are particularly good value in comparison to other areas of France especially those situated in the northern sector of the department.
With its mountains, lakes and beautiful countryside the department of Drôme flows with good wine, food and vivacity. There is plenty to see and do in the department and considering its natural splendour and proximity to both Italy and the south of France the department is an ideal place to build a home.