You’ll be able to see what the Romans preferred about Vienne, actually. The amphitheatre on the banks of the Rhône used to seat 13,000 of their day, and the view from the highest, constructed right into a steep, steep hillside exhibits what southern France is all about.
On this fairly city – 20 miles south of Lyon, 150 miles north of the Riviera – the river makes a pointy bend, cosseted by hills with a wealth of south-facing slopes now, as then, coated with vineyards.
Vienne was a significant Roman city and harbour on the Rhone, the gateway to the guts of France from the Mediterranean. The centre stage is the amphitheatre, usually referred to as Theatre Vintage, a semi-circular stone big constructed into steep south-facing Mont Pipet round 50AD. It as soon as seated 13,000 and nonetheless accommodates 8,000 with river views for performs and music, together with the annual Jazz à Vienne competition.
Look down from the hilltop, accessed by a slim, snaking street topped by little Notre Dame de Pipet church.
On the town the Temple of Augustus and Livia, constructed by the emperor Claudius, appears to be like madly misplaced on a tiny sq. amid eating places and retailers. A few streets away is Jardin de Cybèle, public gardens amid arches and stays of the discussion board. Close by is St Peter’s, certainly one of France’s oldest church buildings that nearly 150 years in the past was was a museum housing Gallo-Roman stone relics. On the street stands a stone pyramid from days of the Roman circus, round which charioteers used to race.
Throughout the river, technically within the city of Saint-Romain-en-Gal, is certainly one of France’s greatest Roman museums, a putting glass constructing that occupies a metropolis block of what was Vienne’s residing quarters and which is now an enormous excavated web site with home and tub stays plus gardens that includes historic styles of vegetation together with vines. The museum is full of rescued mosaics and fashions of how Vienne would have appeared with its intensive quayside and warehouses.
Discover the hidden gems
Hidden away behind little doorways are spots such because the Cloister of Saint André-le-Bas, stone columns from the sixth or seventh century with fairly planting. Small group guided excursions, bookable by way of the vacationer workplace, soak up hidden courtyards and much more hidden medieval and Roman cellars and arches.
Take a stroll alongside the little River Gère which meanders down from the hills underneath a medieval stone bridge and previous industrial buildings, certainly one of which homes the Textile Business Museum championing the trade that, with its woollen Renaissance materials, dominated Vienne’s financial system from the 18th to the twentieth century.
A four-mile riverside stroll or cycle from city is Le Caveau Du Château E.guigal, a dramatic chateau that’s the public face of the Guigal wine dynasty with its smooth store, subterranean wine museum and delightful lawned backyard for the Rhone tastings, from doorstep Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu to Crozes-Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape farther south. Excursions by automotive (or Segway!) take you excessive into the vineyards.
A chew to eat
Vienne is filled with glorious, unassuming eating places; tree-lined Cours Romestang is stuffed with tables on the grassy central reservation and the slim, pedestrians-only Rue de Clercs merely full. Aspect by aspect in Rue de la Desk Ronde, little greater than an alley, two highly-rated eating places are neighbours with raised outside terraces to take account of the slope in the direction of the river.
Restaurant l’Estancot specialises in ‘criques’, potato pancakes – relatively like posh hash browns, however served as extravagant most important meals with fois gras, scallops and prawns, steak or different delights – my Cote Mer featured seabass, pink mullet and monkfish in a wealthy beurre blanc (€28). Subsequent door is Alquimia which revels within the phrase ‘gastronomique’. Night is a seven-course tasting menu; my lunch, €26, featured a chilly corn cream soup with foam and toasted hazelnuts adopted by an impressed risotto produced from quinoa topped with chorizo and Bayenne ham.
Within the close by hills is Le Cottage, a neatly reimagined farmhouse lodge run by chef Philippe Girardon whose Michelin-starred Gastronomic Restaurant is shut by in a Seventeenth-century chateau, a relaxation residence for the bishops of Lyon, now a lodge; the Cottage restaurant, also called Le Bistrot, with solar terrace is the dressed-down model however solely barely; Girardon (who 40 years in the past labored by the Thames with the Roux brothers at Bray’s Waterside Inn) served up a effective lunch – courgette spaghetti with langoustine cream adopted by hake in sauce on a polenta mattress, all for €32
In your bike round Vienne
The ViaRhôna is a 510-mile riverside strolling and cycle path that runs from Geneva to the south coast of France. Head north from Vienne and it’s solely 20 miles to La Confluence, the place the Rhône and Saône meet in Lyon. The riverfront vacationer workplace (with a 30ft-high inside wall of wine bottles and wines to purchase by the glass) has a fleet of e-bikes which can be free for the day in case you’re staying in a associate lodge, which is most of them, €40 in any other case.
Head south and also you meander previous winery after winery, spots the place you possibly can dip your toes into the cooling waters and locations with lovely vistas. Regardless of how sizzling it’s (and I used to be there firstly of the heatwave) there’s all the time a pleasing breeze as you whiz alongside amidst chateaus, forests, parks and wine estates.
The annual Jazz à Vienne competition runs two weeks every July with the world’s high jazz artists enjoying on a Glastonbury-like stage to eight,000 individuals filling the Roman theatre. It’s an incredible sight because the solar drops. I used to be there for the final three days and noticed bill-toppers Fred Wesley (a trombonist as soon as soul king James Brown’s right-hand man), funky crooner George Benson and avant-garde keyboard participant Herbie Hancock. Tickets are saved to a really cheap €49 every day, together with the ultimate night which continues till daybreak with a bunch of well-known names.
The town comes alive with bands enjoying exterior eating places and in different spots together with Jardin de Cybèle, which is was a free-to-enter bar, restaurant and venue.
The place to remain
The Grand Hôtel de la Poste, a listed 18th-century teaching inn, is independently run, in vibrant Cours Romestang, across the nook from the river and rail station. The cosiness of Clochmerle-era France with classic furnishings, fashionable retro touches and exhibitions by native artists.
The lodge serves a superb breakfast buffet (that includes the actually supreme jams of Philippe Bruneton, proclaimed France’s finest jam maker and whose store and tiny kitchen might be visited at Longes, 12 miles away) and a hideaway outside bar.
Doubles from £95.00
The two star ibis budget Vienne Sud is a dependable funds lodge that has an important location in Vienne, 1,000 yards from Roman Theater (Theatre Romain).
Doubles from £62.00
FLY: There are common flights from Heathrow and Gatwick to Lyon with British Airways and easyJet.
GET AROUND: The Rhonexpress tram takes half-hour to Lyon’s Half-Dieu station. A Metro hop away, Lyon Jean Macé station has common trains to Vienne taking 20 minutes.
MORE INFO: en.vienne-condrieu.com