We are in the city of Valence, which is considered the started point of le Midi, the south of France. Of course, we are going against the tide at this point, heading north and leaving the south to the vacationing hordes.
It was well-established before the Romans arrived, and the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar made the Rhône corridor a major north-south communication axis, linking with the new Roman possessions around the Mediterranean. It has been important ever since.
Today being a Monday in July, most of the shopkeepers and residents of Valence seemed to be elsewhere, so the town was quite quiet. But we saw the cathedral. It houses a memorial to Pope Pius VI, who was exiled here during the Revolution, and whose heart is buried here. Pius VI saw the growth of Catholicism in the US, creating the archdiocese of Baltimore.
We particularly liked the courtyard of the Maison des Têtes, a 16th century museum. It was closed on the inside, but what is visible outside is charming.
There is a Napoleon connection in Valence. He was assigned to the city from 1785 to 1786 as a young second lieutenant in an artillery regiment, and returned repeatedly to Valence. They remember him with a statue and many references throughout the city.
The rest of our walked revealed many charming corners and boutiques. Wish they had all been open!
And then, a special lunch at Le 7.
Le 7 Bistrot was opened in 2006 as an homage to the famous restaurants that could be found along the Route National 7 (sort of a French Route 66), such as La Côte d’Or in Bourgogne, Les Trois Gros in Roanne, Bocuse in Lyon and La Pyramide in Vienne, and among them La Maison Pic here in Valence.
Le 7 and La Maison Pic are both run by Anne-Sophie Pic, named the “World’s Best Female Chef” by San Pellegrino in its 2011 World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. She is also the first female chef to obtain the coveted 3 Michelin stars in 2007, thus perpetuating the family tradition, as the accolade was won by her father and her grandfather before her.
Our budget was not up to La Maison Pic, which easily runs to at least three hundred euros for lunch before wine. But we were quite pleased with Le 7 and had a lovely three-course lunch in the garden.
And soon Pic cuisine will be available in New York. On the ground floor 510 Madison Avenue, Anne-Sophie Pic will open a MetCafe and on the second floor, a New York branch of “Dame de Pic” which opened in Paris two years ago. We are happy to have been introduced to her style here, where it all started.