On a trip to Southern France, we drove to the village of Gordes in Provence and spent the afternoon shopping and goofing around in the quaint French village. Situated on the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, the town consists of a 12th century castle and beige stone houses. It is full of steep cobbled laneways, well-preserved buildings and is an architectural delight. It had all the essentials for a little town – butchers, bakers, produce shops and a few small and intimate restaurants.
This village of Gordes is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, after all, Gordes and included “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” i.e. The Most Beautiful Villages in France. It has narrow cobbled streets which thread their way through tall houses, built against the rock, clinging onto its flanks and telling tales of a thousand legends. Gordes has sheltered many famous artists such as André Lhote, Marc Chagall, Jean Deyrolle, Victor Vasarely and Pol Mara, who among others have found inspiration here.
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A little about the history of this pretty village
In the Roman times, Gordes was an oppidum; the tribe that lived there was that of the Vulgientes or Vordenses which gave its name to the original village; the “V” usually became a “G” (Vordenses – Gordenses) in the Gallo-Roman days. The History of Gordes goes back to much older age: already in the Gallo-Roman days, Gordes was the most important oppidum for the city of Cavaillon. The diocese of Cavaillon was one of the oldest in Gaul. Until the French Revolution Gordes has been located on a border, and in a very peculiar way was answerable to a diocese located abroad. This border was even marked on all the Roman maps. The terrible insecurity caused by the many invasions forced the local populations to find refuge on the hills. This also explains why so many villages are “perched” in Provence!
Here is how we spent our afternoon in Gordes
We stopped as we approach the village as the view across the canyon to the cliffs where Gordes sits is just spectacular.
There was plenty to do in this little town from a museum in an old castle to a church and lots of nooks and corners to discover. A nice view from the car park over the Roussillon plain (where we had hiked the Ochre Trail earlier in the day) is a beautiful sight as well. The tiny chapel (in the background) of the “Penitents Blancs” that dates from the 1660’s is now an art gallery and can be found also on the main square.
But after more than a few hours in the car earlier I was not going to subject the crew to anything more. So when I asked if they wanted to go visit the museum or get some glaces i.e. icecream, they chose – Lavender and Chocolate ice cream. So that is all we did, got icecreams and walked around bought soaps and wandered in the cobblestoned alleyways 🙂
TIP: If you would rather go on an organized tour to visit the towns of Gordes, Roussillon and Aix and although seasonal if you want o see the Lavender fields, this tour is the best one. You can do this tour to walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh in Arles and Saint Remy.
Where to stay in Gordes, Provence
If you find this Provencal village irresistible and might want to stay spend a night or two surrounded by lavender fields and forests. I highly recommend at least one day in Gordes, Provence! It is just so charming!! Plan a stay at Bastide de Gordes, an ultra-luxe hideaway with a Sisley spa and an award-winning restaurant whose terrace overlooks the valley and Luberon mountains. The next time we visit, we plan to stay a little longer and enjoy the town a little more!
Three things to do in Gordes, Provence (that we didn’t)
We had just an afternoon in Gordes not even one whole day! All we did was – got some ice cream and wandered around the cobbled stoned pathways aimlessly. We spent some time goofing around in the main square and shopping for some locally made scented soaps and other lavender products. We loved this little town of Gordes in Provence and we were hoping to come back another time anyway and made a mental note of things to do next time. Here are three things to do if you go there.
Visit the Castle of Gordes
The imposing castle was rebuilt in 1525 and already existed in 1031. This well-restored and preserved building combines architecture from the troubled Middles Ages and the Renaissance era. The monumental fireplace that decorates the Hall of Honour was classified historical monument in 1902, as was the rest of the castle in 1931. Today, the castle acts as both a Town Hall and a Museum sheltering the works of art of the painter Pol Mara.
Drive to Senanque Abbey
Nearby, Senanque Abbey is a beautiful place to visit, and the field in front of the abbey is a picturesque lavender field. But we passed on it since it was getting late, the sun was already down and the roads were quite narrow. Leaving Gordes you can take little D177 road north towards Abbey de Senanque. It’s only 4 km, but the road is narrow and really beautiful. There are only a few spots along the road where you can stop off, but if there’s space, pull off the road and have a look at the view.
Discover the Village des Bories
Just a stone’s throw from Gordes is the unique Village des Bories. The village is a collection of well-preserved stone huts which at first glance appear pre-historic, thanks to their archaic appearance and the manner in which they were built. This would not seem out of place, as Provence is among the oldest continuously inhabited regions since the dawn of human history. However, estimates based on objects found at the site have placed their construction anywhere from the 15th to the 18th century. Nevertheless, this village is unique. These curious igloo-shaped structures are made of stones – no mortar.
Until next time Gordes!
If you like Gordes, you might also like Roussillon, Saint Remy, Antibes and Saint Tropez
You might also like – Our Family Friendly Guide to London, Paris, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Vienna, Bergamo, Barcelona, Venice and Verona
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