I can’t believe it is 3 weeks since my adventure, and that we are already on my third and penultimate stop of the train diaries! I’ve absolutely loved typing up these posts, if for no other reason, because I get to yabber on about my holiday long after those I see on a regular basis have got a little bored!
My third stop found me in France. You’ve probably never heard of Valence. I certainly hadn’t. All I knew about it was, that it was in France and was on the suggested route between Milan and Barcelona. Yet further evidence that I am not a pro traveller. And like everywhere else on my adventure, I had done no research whatsoever, unless of course you count doing a quick google image search to make sure it would be pretty? So when I arrived on the Wednesday night, after another long train journey (this time much less scenic, owing to the fact that most of it had been done in the dark), I really did not know what to expect.
Valence is a small town, so small that I couldn’t actually find a hostel there so instead I went with Air BnB and came across a gorgeous flat, in the centre of town, owned by the lovely Anne. After 5 days of lone wolf travelling, it was so nice to be welcomed into some ones home with a cup of tea and a conversation. I chatted to Anne for an hour or so, and she recommended some places for me to go and see, based not just on what the town had to offer, but also on what she thought might interest me after our introductions. And then I climbed into a double bed in a room that had huge shuttered windows and slept for 12 hours straight. One of the things I kept having to remind myself while I was away, is that I was actually on holiday, and while the idea was to see part of the world, it was also to take some time for myself. So did it matter that I got up late? No, no it didn’t.
After finding somewhere for breakfast I went for a wander around town. As you can probably tell from these pictures, the weather was glorious, and in the old town I explored side streets that opened up into beautiful squares lined with cafe’s, snapping away to my hearts content. Again I was blessed with tourist bad luck in that all the traditional tourist attractions I thought I’d visit appeared to be shut, but then that didn’t really matter, I was tired of being a tourist, and that isn’t what Valence is about anyway. Valence isnt a big old city, with an international reputation and hour long ques, it is a town where people live and work, and get on with their lives, and at this point in my trip it was exactly what I needed. To feel like I had a little space and a little time.
Surrounded by beautiful mountains, it seemed every side street seemed to open up on to another breathtaking view, if you ever find yourself in this little corner of France, I recommend heading to the Cathedral, and making your way around the back. It might not look like much, in fact it might even look like you shouldn’t be there, but head through the iron gates and you will find the most stunning view over the roof tops. I actually let out an audible sigh! After a morning of off the beaten track exploring it was time for lunch, and despite being in awe of just how French the pavement cafes of the squares in the old town looked, I was little intimidated (do I go to them, do they come to me?) son instead I headed over to the newer part of town, popped into a cafe I never knew the name of and finally found my holiday romance…
I’m not joking when I say I would have married ^ that cake.^
Chocolate brownie topped with an orange and passion fruit mouse, topped with a hazelnut mouse, topped with pistachios. What more could a girl ever need? This cake more than made up for the fact that France was the only place on my trip that I didn’t have a croissant for breakfast. This wasn’t even in a special patisserie and it was heaven. If you’re not sure whether to include France in your trip, do it for this reason alone: They know how to make calories count.
They also know how to do parks, which makes walking off said calories, all the more pleasant.
I spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the sites of Jouvet Park, shifting from one bench to another reading my book, until that crisp November chill started to feel just a little too frosty.
That evening I treated myself to a cocktail or two in le cafe Victor Hugo, where the food smelt delicous, but I was too full to eat, and I wrote down all the little things that had made my trip so special. Enjoying my last night alone, before going to bed early, ready for my 7 am train to meet Sophie in Barcelona the next day.
You probably couldn’t make a holiday out of Valence, and if the weather had been bad, it might have been difficult to fill a whole day there, but my time in Valence was exactly what I needed. It shook off the grump I’d fallen into in Geneva, and it was the most relaxed day of my entire holiday. Visiting a town nobody has really heard of, means there is no pressure to ‘make sure you see this’ and you don’t ‘have to go there’ instead I could just take the day at my own pace, and I really think staying in somebodies home enhanced this feeling. It was a little retreat in the middle of an amazing whirlwind trip, and when I think of Valence I will always feel calm. As soppy and as daft as that sounds, it’s true.
Live life & visit the smaller places too x