La Culture in the Ardèche
Prehistoric and underground Ardèche
The Ardèche is an ancient land whose culture has evolved over many millennia. Here you will find some of the oldest artworks ever discovered anywhere in the world. A visit to the world famous Caverne du Pont-d’Arc lets you experience the wonders of the renowned cave paintings that are the work of the Aurignacians, who populated the region during the Upper Palaeolithic period. Over 400 paintings, dating back 36,000 years have been left to us by our distant ancestors – the variety, detail and richness of the works is simply breath-taking.
You can further your exploration of prehistoric Ardèche by visiting the magnificent Aven d’Orgnac cave with its “Cité de la Préhistoire” museum attraction, and also the Museum de l’Ardèche in the village of Balazuc.
And there is much of underground Ardèche to discover beyond the celebrated Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cavern. There are innumerable other caves and avens (swallow holes) in the region, several offering guided tours, that will give you the opportunity for peaceful exploration of this astonishing underground world. The Grotte de la Madeleine, the Aven Marzal, the Grotte de la Cocalière and the Aven de la Forestière are just some of the best known.
Megalithic and Gallo-Roman Ardèche
The Ardèche also preserves traces of its megalithic and Gallo-Roman heritage. Take a hike through the woodland in search of the numerous dolmens (megalithic tombs) that dot the landscape – it’s a wonderful way to educate the young, and the walking is so much more fun when there are treasures to track down! And pay a visit to the village of Alba-la-Romaine with its museum dedicated to the region’s Gallo-Roman past, and especially its magnificent amphitheatre.
Agricultural traditions and local produce of the Ardèche
The more recent history of the Ardèche is naturally all about the products of the land. The people are very proud of their agricultural roots – and their farming traditions have been faithfully passed down from generation to generation. The results are today visible on the stalls of every town and village’s market! Nowadays, younger people in the region are increasingly returning to the land, taking on old family properties, often developing organic production methods and promoting the benefits of regional and seasonal produce. Many are keen to pass on their knowledge and their passion to visitors to the region – so do take the opportunity to visit and learn (and taste!) more. (Remember, though, these are working farms, so be aware of their daily routines and busy seasons when planning a visit.)
Music and entertainment in the Ardèche
During the summer months, concerts, village dances, shows and festivals abound in the Ardèche. Lovers of both classical and world music should not miss the celebration that is “Labeaume en Musique”, based in the village of the same name but with events in other villages is the area as well.
And playing our part among the other big summer festivals, the Ardèche has its very own festival – set in a campsite, of course! In June each year the Aluna Festival brings together some of the biggest names in the current French and international music scene.
Please ask for the full programme of local village events – they’re always the perfect opportunity to mingle and to have a dance – and a glass of something local! – in the cool of the summer evenings.
Chestnuts, silkworms and lavender
The Ardèche is the home of the chestnut! Make sure you don’t leave without trying some delicious chestnut jam – on a crêpe or a baguette, or with some local fromage frais. To learn more about the history of the cultivation of chestnuts, and about the gastronomy of the region, take a trip to the Musée de la Châtaigneraie in Joyeuse.
The cultivation of silkworms was for several centuries an important industry in the Ardèche. Up until the mid-nineteenth century, and the beginnings of large-scale importation of silk from the Far East, countless mills along the banks of the region’s rivers were dedicated to the production of silk thread. There are still places where you can get a glimpse of this heritage: the “Ma Magnanerie” museum in our own beautiful village of Lagorce is a good place to start!
Situated between the river Rhône, the Cevennes hills and Provence, the landscape of the southern Ardèche is dotted with fields of lavender, which make a particularly beautiful sight at the height of the flowering season from mid-June. A trip to the Musée de la Lavande in the village of Saint-Remèze will give you the opportunity to find out more about the cultivation and uses of this iconic flower that is such a symbol of the south of France.