If you are not arriving from the North, a good way to start a visit of the Rhone Valley is starting from the South, in Avignon. It is a quick 3 hour 20 minute train on the TGV from Charles de Gaulle and there are many things to do in this major city, the least of which is visiting the Palace of the Popes.
InterRhone, the Rhone Wine Council, is based in Avignon, so prior to heading out to wine regions, you may want to stop here first. There are many resources such as maps and guides to the wine region and to producers, as well as a tasting room. You can also get a head start and access a lot of this info in advance from their website. 6, rue des Trois Faucons – 84024 Avignon.
Another fascinating thing to do from Avignon is to take a flight tour of the region with La Provence Vue d’Avion . Our route of the Dentelles de Montmirail took us over Avignon, Beaumes-de-Venise, Seguret, Sablet, Gigondas and Vacqueras and their is no better way to appreciate the terrain than from above, especially that of the vineyards nestled in the Dentelles Mountains. The Dentelles was named after the shape of the limestone ridges appearing like baby’s teeth or lace, depending on whom you speak with. Our 30-minute flight was in 4-person, single propeller light plane. During the first half of the flight, we were all enthusiastically shifting from one side to the other taking photos as the light plane yawed here and there. Towards the end, and being prone to motion sickness, I did not think I would make it back alive. But I did, green and gray and ecstatic about the photos I had taken. The rest of group had no such equilibrium problems and overall it is an activity we all would heartily recommend. The cost is surprisingly not as expensive as one would think and is posted on the site.
A good restaurant in Avignon is Restaurant l’Essentiel. It serves contemporary food highlighting the seasonal and fresh ingredients from the area. We started with an aspic of tomato with eggplant topped with prawns marinated in lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs. Our entree was quick-seared, mi-cuit (half-cooked) tuna topped with foie gras and pesto. For dessert, molten lava cake with mango sorbet. 2, rue Petite Fusterie 84000 Avignon.