The Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ®, a new tourism project conceived as a food-and-wine-themed road trip route stretching from Dijon to Marseille, was launched to the British press last night (9 March) during a glamorous evening at the Morton Society in Finsbury, in the presence of French chef Raymond Blanc OBE. Expected to launch to the public in September, the Vallée traverses three regions – Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – covering a total distance of 620 kilometres and an area of 75,591 square kilometres.
Uniting 99 Michelin-starred chefs and around 200 individual tourist experiences (30 of which are considered ‘once in a lifetime’), the aim of the Vallée is to drive the local economy and boost the area’s attractiveness by promoting the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ (listed by UNESCO as part of humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage) and the French art of gastronomy, which is the country’s leading tourist attraction. The ‘gastronomic meal’ emphasises the pairing of food with wine, the pleasure of taste and especially togetherness, the act of sharing around a table and the strengthening of social and familial ties.
The first tourism project of its kind in France, the concept of the Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® is to give travellers the freedom to devise their own multisensory road trip itinerary according to their time and interests. They will be able to choose from cooking courses, touring trufflegrounds and olive orchards, tasting niche grape varieties, learning the art of cheesemaking with artisan cheesemakers, going behind the scenes at distilleries, and dining at both Michelin-starred restaurants and rootsy farmhouse B&Bs. All stops are easily accessible, situated less than 45 minutes’ drive from an A6 or A7 motorway exit, and will introduce travellers to the French values of sharing, community, hospitality and expertise handed down through the generations, with an intensely personal feel to all experiences.
The three regions in question have been specifically selected for the establishment of the Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® following their rise to food fame over the course of various episodes of French history, from Cistercian monks making wine in Burgundy to the Avignon Papacy and the development of river and rail trade networks. Post war, the Nationale 6 and 7 roads following the Saône valley and along the Rhône became a holiday route, linking inns and roadside eateries whose fame was cemented with the introduction of the Michelin Guide’s star awards in the early 1920s. Lyon’s La Mère Brazier and Valence’s Maison Pic were among the earliest establishments to receive such awards.
Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur have now joined forces to showcase the exceptional passion and excellence exhibited by France’s fondly-named ‘custodians of French gastronomy’ – those devoted to growing, preparing, cooking and promoting its many treasures. These include farmers, winemakers, chefs and even tour operators.
The launch of the Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® was followed by the presentation of this year’s French Travel Media Awards, following a voting selection by a five-strong jury panel. Making up the panel were Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors; Ciara MacHugh, Communications Manager at Air France/KLM; Charlotte Wilmots, founder of Charlotte’s Web Public Relations; Rachel Johnston, PR Officer at Atout France and former journalist; and Anne Pedersen, Atout France’s Head of PR. A total of six awards were given out in categories including Wine & Gastronomy, Art & Culture and City Breaks, with the addition of ‘Best Road Trip & Journey Feature’ as a new category to reflect the concept of the Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ®.
From the best of France’s culture and cuisine to family adventures, and from chateau-hopping in Burgundy to backstreet strolling in Paris and going off-grid in Dordogne, the multi-faceted destinations and lifestyles of France were brought to life by an inspiring variety of articles. A shortlist of five articles per category was selected from a total of 71 entries, before being independently assessed by each of the jury panel members on criteria including topic originality and creativity of expression.
The winners were announced during service of a delicious sharing-style menu featuring dishes and ingredients from the Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ®’s three regions, reflecting France’s tradition of tables d’hôtes. The evening was attended by 42 print and online journalists & editors, and supported by seven French partners from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Tourisme and Région Sud (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Tourism).
And the winners were…
BEST ART & CULTURE FEATURE
Jamie Lafferty for ‘Hell in Paradise’ in Culture Trip Magazine
(Shortlisted: Carolyn Boyd, The Times; Gillian Thornton, France Today; Lara Dunn, Evening Standard; Mark Stratton, FRANCE Magazine)
BEST FAMILY BREAK FEATURE
Tristan Rutherford for ‘Welcome to Chausey, France’s secret Channel Islands’ in The Times
(Shortlisted: Carolyn Boyd, The Guardian; Eddi Fiegel, The Telegraph; Jenny Coad, The Sunday Times; Rudolf Abraham, FRANCE Magazine)
BEST CITY BREAK FEATURE
Rhiannon Cosslett for ‘Les Parisiennes’ in Suitcase Magazine
(Shortlisted: Connor McGovern, National Geographic Traveller; Eddi Fiegel, FRANCE Magazine; Helen Coffey, The Independent; Louise Long, Suitcase Magazine)
BEST DESTINATION FEATURE
Guy Hibbert for ‘The Italian Influence on Corsica’ in France Today
(Shortlisted: Anthony Peregrine, The Sunday Times; Dominic Bliss, FRANCE Magazine; Lisa Grainger, The Times; Minty Clinch, FRANCE Magazine)
BEST ROAD TRIP & JOURNEY FEATURE
Karen Tait for ‘Dordogne by Deux Chevaux’ in FRANCE Magazine
(Shortlisted: Carolyn Boyd, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine; Gillian Thornton, Voyage; Madeline Weinfield, Suitcase Magazine; Ruth Wood, FRANCE Magazine)
BEST WINE & GASTRONOMY FEATURE
Ben Olsen for ‘A Taste of the Camargue’ in National Geographic Traveller Food
(Shortlisted: Anthony Peregrine, The Sunday Times; Audrey Gillan, National Geographic Traveller; Connor McGovern, National Geographic Traveller; Mark Sansom, The World’s 50 Best; Dominic Bliss, Taste of France)
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