I have to let you in on something I scribbled in a beige color handmade paper, one summer in sweltering Mumbai. I was home after my 1st trip to Paris and felt a deep sense of separation. Much like I do when my favorite quilt is yanked away, just to break my dreamy slumber. I had felt so at home there. And I remember that a book I’d scrambled through at a roadside bookstore, just kept playing back in my head. It had pretty pictures on the cover. And on impulse I wished aloud that I have a love nest in South of France one day. That little wish is still sitting patiently in the neatly folded beige paper. But let’s say I did a recce (joking of course) a few months back and reached the gorgeous region of Provence, for a 4 – day stay in the village of Gordes.
GETTING TO GORDES I BEST TIME TO VISIT
Gordes in the Provence region of South Eastern France is about 3 hours from Nice airport by road. If you are coming from Paris, take the train to Avignon (2 ½ hours), then another shorter train journey to Cavaillion (45 mins). From there a bus can get you to Gordes in 30 mins.
But since we were driving into this village from Cannes it was a relaxed journey of less than 4 hours, with a stopover for munchies.
Almost an hour before the village, I kept looking on either side for what had been my oldest memory of the region. Lavender fields. Alas! I was 3 weeks too early. Landing up there in the 3rd week of June meant fleeting glimpses of the flowers which were just starting to blossom. So I totally missed the lush landscape covered in lavender. Sigh! Luckily I caught the fragrance. Some saving grace no!
Best month to see the Lavender Fields
If the rolling fields bathed in colors of the bloom are on your mind, get in by mid July. Right until the middle of August treat your eyes to a visual dance of one tint, lavender.
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE OF GORDES
Any village in the South of France will be pretty. Especially if it’s ancient and has around it these colorful fields. I’ll cover the amazing sights in and around Gordes in my next story. But here’s what I experienced in the shortest holiday of my life thus far. It was also the trip where I met the local folks of the village, called Gordiens.
The village of Gordes is built over rocky slopes at the edge of the plateau of Vaucluse. It is quite a sight when you are driving into the village. And the story goes that it was at that height, to act as a defense against invasions. Looking at the simple life of the residents today I can’t even fathom, why anyone would want to attack them. But this little French village was a part of the Roman Empire once & was right in the middle of the French Resistance.
It is said that many poets, artists and storytellers found their inspiration here. You would too, especially if you catch the shifting of lights in the Luberon Valley below. Vineyards are in abundance here & just a view is enough to get you heady.
TIP ~ PANO PHOTOGRAPHY
Just because you can get a fab panoramic view, I’d say shoot pictures of the valley from the terrace or even the entrance to the Restaurant La Trinquette, which is in Gordes itself. In fact there are many vantage points once you start walking down the narrow cobblestone streets. Such pretty streets. For dramatic shots of the village shoot from the road that is on the other side of the valley. You can walk to that road from the village & it won’t take you more than 25 mins.
(Isn’t this view absolutely mind blowing!)
The even earth colors seen above are because homes or rather most structures are made of stone. One of the oldest bars here is Le Cercle Republicain if you like stories from another era. And if you loved your history class in school, you’ll enjoy a tour of Le Chateau de Gordes (a castle that began in the 11th Century & was completed in Renaissance style by the 16th Century)
I know you have to see it all to feel it. So here is the village street life with a dash of quirky, surprising & drop down gorgeous.
(At the base of the statue the inscription reads, ‘In memory of the children who died for France. 1914-1918’. It is dedicated to all who lost their lives in World War 1)
(Le Château de Gordes is a medieval castle with a permanent exhibition of the works of Belgian painter & avant garde artist Pol Mara)
(Can you spot the little girl sitting by the window, missing her friends perhaps)
(Why do people preserve tiny tomatoes in tiny jars & keep them out in the Sun? Any guesses? Looks quaint though)
STAY IN GORDES
If you wish to stay in the village itself it’s absolutely fine. The square, the sights around it, tons of tiny cafes & restaurants will whet your appetite & make your hotel stay comfortable. Don’t of course expect early morning service. Get used to a post 8.30 AM breakfast, if you want some of the cooler places to open up.
RECOMMENDED: If you want the feeling of a countryside home though, book a villa. Since we’d hired a car in Cannes for the 4-day trip, we were sure that a home away from home was our nectar. Driving from there to the village centre took just 15 mins. But there was privacy, a vast expanse to laze in & a resident like feel. All of this done through Airbnb, just 2 weeks before arrival.
(The silence and depth of the forest-like canopy can give you the jitters in the night. The upside of course is that you can see the stars in the clear pitch dark sky)
If you enjoy cooking, the fresh produce from the market will overwhelm you. The villa you hire is usually stocked up with the rest, so you can whip up your favorite country side meal. At the one we stayed in, there was a library which had 2 recipe books. But sadly both were in French. So we simply experimented with the local food at lovely eat outs in the village. Even the villa manager (if there is one co-odinating with you) can be persuaded to help out. I remember one evening when we decided to make our amazing garden our only destination, the manager organized dinner. Freshly made by a local chef.
EAT OUTS ~ VIN, DÉJEUNER, DÎNER
Wine ofcourse is one of the most delightful experiences in all of France. But in Gordes you can find some great tasting ones, again from the local market & vineyards next door. Truth be told, if you aren’t sipping some vin every day, then you aren’t Gordien enough.
As for the hunger busters, here are some places where you will feel satiated when ‘local cuisine’ is on your mind.
LA TRINQUETTE (Address: Rue des Tracapelles)
This one is most famous for its great view from the terrace. So stop by for a drink, cup of coffee or then a sumptuous lunch, like we did. And breathe in the fresh air. Inside the restaurant, the place is compact and the color red catches your eye from the time you enter. I am vegetarian but got ample options for starters & main course. Quite loved the energy of the place. Authentic French cuisine for foodies too (RATING: 4 out of 5)
LE GORDES-MANGER (Address: Rue André Lhote)
When we arrived at this little family run restaurant we were told that the menu takes on a new avatar everyday. And it seemed specially made for me as lunch on that day was 100% vegetarian. The manager, a very friendly Italian guy made sure even the meat lovers among us, left his restaurant mighty happy. I would go back there again for sure (RATING: 4.5 out of 5)
L’ESTELLAN (Addresss: Les Imberts, Route de Gordes)
Especially if you are coming from Gordes (10 min drive) do reach early for dinner, as the place gets booked completely. Really liked the countryside feel & decor. Loved the platter of cheese they offered. Polite service & yum food (RATING: 4 out of 5)
Am happy you came this far. I know this post is long-ish & I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Am sure they got you curious about Gordes. If you felt the streets were quaint and delightful, you weren’t alone. I wish I’d stayed longer simply because I didn’t do enough of what I truly loved. My take on the Top 5 things to do in Gordes will tell you some unfinished tales. And some others I’ve kept for an encore to this land, some day. My real time love affair with South of France had just begun.
Have you been to Provence? Any place you’ve truly lost your heart to? Do share your stories. Am all eyes & ears.