On a recent trip to Aix-en-Provence, we went on a road trip looking for Lavender. After we found some unharvested fields near Sault we drove to the village of Gordes 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 an architectural delight. It had all the essentials of butchers, bakers, produce shops and a few small and intimate restaurants.
This village of Gordes can boast about being amongst one of the most beautiful villages in France, after all Gordes is listed as one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” 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 whispering the tales of a thousand legends. Gordes has sheltered many a famous artist such as André Lhote, Marc Chagall, Jean Deyrolle, Victor Vasarely and Pol Mara, who amongst others have found here some inspiration.
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 a 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 explains why so many villages are “perched”.
Here is our afternoon in Gordes in a few pictures… 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 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 5 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.
Someone is ready for some dinner, so we stopped at the market to get some local produce.
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Where to stay
If you find this Provencal village irresistible and want to stay spend a night or two surrounded by lavender fields and forests, 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.
Three things to do in Gordes that we didn’t….
We had just an afternoon in Gordes. All we did was – got some ice cream and wandered around the cobbled stoned pathways aimlessly. We spent the sometime goofing around in the main square and shopping for some locally made scented soaps and other lavender products. We loved this little town and we were coming 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.
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.
Senanque Abbey is an 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 beaview.
Village de 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 a unique. These curious igloo-shaped structures are made of stones – no mortar.
Until next time Gordes!