Leaving from Sillans la cascade
We decided to take a weekend family trip from our little village of Sillans la Cascade to Lyon. It is normally about a 3.5-hour road trip. We decided to stop by the Valrhona Chocolatery on the way to Lyon. We booked a hotel for one night in Lyon with parking, packed the bike, and off we went.
Go through Brignoles and take the A8 to Tains L’hermitage
From Sillans la Cascade, we took country roads through the heart of Provence to Brignoles where you catch the main autoroute. The drive is beautiful, but be aware you pay a lot to drive on the autoroutes. Make sure that you have a credit card with a puce for the tolls, this makes life a lot easier and you avoid getting stuck in the long line for cashier.
You will pass through some major cities on the way such as Avignon (Papal village), Montelimar (famous Nougat) and you will see Mount Ventoux from the road.
After a 2 hour drive we arrive to Tains L’hermitage.
A little history of Tains L’hermitage is known for its chocolates and wines. It is a town of about 6000 located on the banks of the Rhone river in the Drôme department. If you have ever purchased a Cote du Rhone wine, it came from this region. A notable wine producing commune, wines include Hermitage AOC and Crozes-Hermitage AOC. The red wines are produced from Syrah. It is located on the left bank of the Rhône River, which is located in Ardèche. The view from the vine-covered hill above the town has attracted many tourists, including Thomas Jefferson.
Chocolates and Wine
Valrhona’s chocolate factory is celebrated by sweet-toothed enthusiasts, chefs and pastry chefs around the world for its taste and its high quality. The chocolate factory is based in Tain-l’Hermitage.
You can taste most of its products free of charge in the shop. The chocolate is delicious and immensely popular – when I visited people were leaving with carrier-bags full of chocolate treats. Also in Tain-l’Hermitage is Valrhona’s École du Grand Chocolat, which hosts chocolate demonstrations and workshops for both professionals and visitors. It’s very high quality.
Valrhona Chocolate Factory
On the outside, you may think it is nothing more than a fancy chocolate shop. Once you go through the doors you will find that the Valrhona is a museum, school, supply chain, manufacturer and everything to do with chocolate. The price of entry is reasonable as it is about €10 for an adult and seven for a child, and they have family packages. The first thing you notice is that there are several rooms each with its own purpose. Just follow the arrows and take the self-guided tour. You get the idea that you are in the famous movie Willy Wonka chocolate factory, but it is for real. There is an actual “chocolate curtain” upon entering the tour. One of the first things you’ll find is how chocolate is actually made. Most people don’t realize that chocolate grows on trees in the form of cocoa beans. The cocoa beans are surrounded in a show called a combasse. From there they are fermented dried, ground, and much more before it finally becomes chocolate. There is also a room dedicated to the many different scents of chocolates. You also learn about what cocoa butter really is and its health benefits. They have many expositions of fine chocolate making including sculpting. While we were there, apprentices were sculpting very detailed Easter bunnies in preparation for Easter.
You can taste just about every variation of chocolate that exists and you will also learn about the different health benefits of chocolates.
Valrhona is dedicated to sustainable chocolate manufacturing and they source from certain farms in Africa and South America. They take you on the journey of the cocoa belt and you will see and feel the cocoa tree to the bean to cocoa nibs to actual chocolate.
The culinary labs are truly creative laboratories where you will learn about what goes into chocolate.
The website is http://www.citeduchocolat.com/en