A French Adventure
Famous for the major archaeological discovery of prehistoric cave drawings dating back at least 20,000 years in the Chauvet Pont D'Arc cave, Ardeche has its own sense of history and culture. Once famous for its silk and leather industries at the turn of the century, the region fell on hard times and bottomed out in the 1960s, as many young people left an economically devastated region. These days, Ardeche is experiencing a mini-Renaissance, with newcomers to the region finding ways to start small cottage industries or provide tourist services so they can live at a slower pace and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and outdoor recreational activities.
Ardeche is still one of the wildest parts of France, evidenced by this simple fact: It is the only departement (county) in France without any rail lines. Yet the mini-Renaissance means there are abundant offbeat lodgings, from rebuilt farmhouses that serve as bed and breakfasts to a refurbished 17th-century Carmelite abbey. And the possibilities for engaging in different outdoor sports are nearly endless. I simply ran out of time before I could do it allI had wanted to rock climb, go horseback riding, and take some long walks along the plentiful and well-marked randonee trails that cross this mountainous region that is dotted with oak and chestnut-tree forests and wind-carved rock formations. "It's the variety that makes this region so different," says Yves Moquet, who co-owns a guiding business called "Explo," short for exploration. "You can do a lot of sports here and very few people realize it."
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication