Nicknamed the “gateway to Provence”, with its postcard-perfect lavender fields and balmy climes, the capital of nougat in Drôme Provençale makes a choice retreat for savvy travellers and foodies
Perched high above the medieval town, the Château des Adhémar is not to be missed. Originally built in the 11th century as the residence of the Count of Toulouse, today the imposing hilltop fortress boasts a packed programme of events, history displays and a popular summer art exhibition.
LET THE SUNSHINE IN
With 300 days of sunshine a year, Montélimar makes a compelling case for Vitamin D-starved holidaymakers. At the height of summer, as scorching temperatures threaten to melt the mercury, feverish visitors find refuge in the refreshing waters of the Gorges of Ardèche. As the sun dips over the valley, its tapered streets come alive with a host of concerts and open-air performances of a summer’s evening.
HIT THE SLOW LANE
It’s on foot that Montélimar reveals its secrets to curious travellers. Amble along the criss-cross of cobbled streets, venture down its quaint alleyways past rows of enchanting pastel-hued townhouses and indulge in a leisurely déjeuner on a sun-dappled terrace to get a real feel for the southern nook. Montélimar is all about simple pleasures.
HOME OF NOUGAT
The world capital of nougat, Montélimar lures sweet-toothed visitors by the thousands. No fewer than 12 confectioneries fly the flag for its renowned honey-drizzled candy. Discover Nougat de Montélimar’s fabrication secrets and munch your greedy way around the ateliers carrying on the town’s proud tradition.
MEET THE BUGDROID
Bug-dr-what now? To mark the launch of its new Android 7.0 ‘Nougat’, last year Google gifted a statue of its grinning mascot, the Bugdroid, to the southern city. Hefting a chunky slab of, you guessed it, nougat, the neon-green robot now greets Montélimar’s denizens as they whiz by the town centre.
Nestled in the heart of Drôme Provençale , with its sweeps of heady lavender fields, luscious meadows and smattering of ancient perched villages on the doorstep, it has well and truly earned its ‘Porte de la Provence’ moniker. Some would go as far as to say it has all the rustic charm of Provence  without the throngs and pesky tourist traps.
Located a breezy hour and a half from Marseille , Lyon and Montpellier, Montélimar makes an ideal weekend getaway, and offers much-needed relief from the hubbub of the city. Snug in the Rhône Valley, it is girdled by a patchwork of dramatic gorges, lush forests, picturesque scenery and a flurry of tranquil hamlets ripe for exploring.
CULTURE A GOGO
With the Château des Adhémar, a year-round bill of shows, the wondrous displays of the Contemporary Art Museum and Musée de la Ville, not to mention the high-flying exhibits of the European Fighter Aircraft Museum, culture fiends won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking to let your hair down, the medieval town is just the place with a volley of annual festivals including the unmissable Fête du Nougat, and rousing Fête de la Musique. The Tour de France often makes a pitstop in the town – so mark the date in your calendars.
Montélimar may be the world capital of nougat but the scrummy treat is only the tip of iceberg. With its famous caillette, saucisson, moreish Picodon goat’s cheese, guinea fowl specialities and indulgent chestnut cream, it is home to some of the Hexagon’s finest fare. Wash it all down with a glass or three of the local Côtes du Rhône…
Thrill-seekers need look no further than the Drôme for their adrenaline fix. Test your stamina canyoning or paragliding. Why not explore the rugged scenery on horseback? Or wind your way up the lattice of hiking trails? How about rock climbing along the Via Ferrata, tackling the ViaRhôna cycling route or taking in the breathtaking view from the comfort of your own chopper? Adventure-shy holidaymakers will find plenty to stay busy too, with golf courses, swimming and fishing lakes at their fingertips.
For more information visit www.montelimar-tourisme.com/en/ .
From France Today magazine