Category Archives: tain l’hermitage

Valence/Tain l’Hermitage

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The Suisses were all dressed up for Easter in Valence.

I’m still without internet and am reduced to using it in the creepy McDonalds in Valence, because that’s absolutely the only thing open on a Sunday. And as I type, a woman with few teeth is sitting across the room from me singing along to the music. Or muttering along to it in imitation English. Now I know how all the odd people in town pick up the random English phrases… Anyway, I’m going to try to make a quick post.

After visiting Nice and the French Riviera, me and my parents took the train up to Valence. We mainly walked around the town that day and saw the river. The next day, we visited more of Valence and saw the big sites like the park and the cathedral. It’s interesting how a city changes when you see it through someone else’s eyes. I’ve lived in Valence now for over six months, but being with my parents made me notice things all over again. This was mostly good, like appreciating again how spectacular the park is on first viewing and how charming the cobblestone streets are. It was also a little bad, as the creepy men in the streets and the trash on the sidewalk stood out a lot more to me.

Flowers at the vineyards in Tain lHermitage.

Flowers at the vineyards in Tain l'Hermitage.

Their second day in Valence, we took the train over to Tain l’Hermitage. Every other time I’ve visited Tain, I’ve gone to the Valrhona chocolate store first and then climbed up the vineyards. This time, in order to avoid that ill feeling you get scaling a hill with a stomach full of chocolate, we did the opposite. It was a clear and beautiful day and little yellow flowers had grown amongst the vines. I was surprised that there were still no leaves on the plants, but I guess it’s still early spring.

Vineyards at Tain lHermitage.

Vineyards at Tain l'Hermitage.

I still haven’t found the most direct route up and down the hill of vineyards, but it was nice to wind around and see the Rhone Valley from the top. Later, after the chocolate store and on the way back to the train station, we stopped at a wine store and sampled some of the regional wines. Apparently the Hermitage wines are only produced on the hill behind Tain l’Hermitage where we walked and are therefore more valued. There are also Crozes-Hermitages that are produced in the surrounding area. We ended up buying a Saint-Joseph that was produced in the Ardeche across the river.

Church at the top of the Tain lHermitage vineyards.

Church at the top of the Tain l'Hermitage vineyards.

Eventually, we made it over to the church at the top of the vineyards. It doesn’t get much more picturesquely French than the old stone Church surrounded by vines and flowers. When I’d first come up to the church when my friend Randall was visiting, we took the most direct, but nearly deadly steep route. I had sworn to never do that again. Nevertheless, this was the way we decided to take down and it was as much sliding as walking. Luckily, I didn’t have to use my French health insurance and we somehow all made it down the slippery 45 degree angled dirt path. We were rewarded with many chocolate samples at Valrhona and then had lunch across the river in Tournon-sur-Rhone before later going back to Valence for the evening.

Tain l’Hermitage/Tournon-sur-Rhône

Tain lHermitage, photographed from Tournon-sur-Rhone.

Tain l'Hermitage, photographed from Tournon-sur-Rhône.

I would be an awful host if I didn’t take my Valence guests to the Valrhona chocolate shop, so during my friend Randall’s visit we took a 10 minute train ride to Tain l’Hermitage. There are a little over 5,000 citizens of Tain l’Hermitage, but it gets a steady supply of visitors thanks to the delicious chocolate and wine grown on the hills behind town. You can see the vineyards in the above picture, although everything is dead right now. We started by sampling some of that amazing chocolate in the Valrhona store, along with about 20 Japanese tourists that seemed to have come out of nowhere and were buying the place out. Which was good, because then I didn’t feel guilty about not purchasing anything. I was very poor at the end of February.

Tournon-sur-Rhone. Welcome to the Ardeche!

Tournon-sur-Rhône. Welcome to the Ardèche!

The departments of Drôme and the Ardèche are divided by the Rhône river, and across from Tain l’Hermitage in Drôme is Tournon-sur-Rhône in the Ardèche. We took the bridge over and walked around Tournon, which has about twice the population as Tain l’Hermitage. It also apparently produced a wine that Charlemagne liked. I unfortunately did not find this wine (although I really didn’t look), but Tournon had good French charm and was nice to explore. Oh, there’s a castle, Château de Tournon, which you can see in this picture and is said to be one of the most beautiful castles in the Ardèche. As you may guess, the Ardèche is not celebrated for its castles, but the natural landscape is stunning and makes up for it, I promise.

A horse working on a vineyard in Tain lHermitage.

A horse working on a vineyard in Tain l'Hermitage.

After crossing the river back to Tain l’Hermitage, we decided to walk around the vineyards overlooking the town. It was gorgeous and incredibly steep. The vines are dormant now, but the sun was setting and the lighting was amazing.

Vineyard overlooking Tain lHermitage.

Vineyard overlooking Tain l'Hermitage.

I really don’t know how some of the vines were planted without the workers tumbling down to a rocky crevice, or how anyone could drive up the terrifyingly narrow road we were walking on. I can understand why the wine from Tain l’Hermitage is so expensive with all the effort it must take to grow and transport the grapes.

Church on the top of the vineyard hills.

Church on the top of the vineyard hills.

The crowning achievement of our walk was making it up to the tiny church on the top of the hill. It may look easy from the above picture, but we somehow took a wrong turn and had to scramble up what seemed like a 50 degree angle with no traction. I’m probably exaggerating. It was worth it though and I don’t think any of the pictures I took really show how spectacular the view was from up there. Originally, the vineyards were planted so that pilgrims to the church would have some wine to drink when they got there. There was no wine for us, but I like that story anyway.