We drive east from Avignon and approach Gordes along a picturesque road that threads through light stone walls to arrive at the village parking area. What a pleasure it is to walk through Gordes, where tiny shops and restaurants share cobbled lanes with the ancient chapel and cliffside homes.
One of the abundant hilltop villages that seem to be delicately carved from the stone crest, Gordes is recognized by the Plus Beaux Villages de France organization as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. It enjoys triple blessings of natural beauty, history and attentive restoration. The terraced village is both rustic and elegant, made entirely of stone, and splashed through with the vibrant colors of flowers and window shutters, tall Italian poplars and sweeping views of the Luberon valley below.
When you step carefully along the arched alleyways that work their way down and around the village, you gain a sense of the quiet and refreshing nature of village life, of sun filtering through the trees and paths, of steps lined with welcoming geraniums and the refreshing fountains that date to back to Roman times.
We visit luxury textile shops and petite businesses offering lavender and honey products, truffles and Provencal wines and, always, a bright collection of pottery. In the open square, canvas umbrellas shield carefully set tables, where locals and visitors enjoy their luncheon fare.
Gorde’s feeling of permanence and charm is not by accident. Strict architectural requirements allow only stone walls and terracotta clay-tiled roofs and a subtle palette of exterior wall colors – white, honey or beige-tinted stones. The result is understated and authentic, long popular with visiting French artists and, more recently, with upscale French and international visitors. From the walled perimeter, you find a spectacular view of the Luberon Valley that spreads below Gordes, as if to highlight the perched village atop.
The invasions during the 16th century religious wars have been replaced by seasonal invasions of tourists, who may begin their visit at the tourist information office in the medieval castle at the village summit. The devoted restoration belies the turbulent village history that extended from the Roman Empire through World War II, when Gordes served as a resistance stronghold.
Should you want an extended visit, you have excellent lodging choices in lovely vacation homes and hospitable inns. The selection of restaurants is also exceptional, though many of Gorde’s experiences are expensive to enjoy.
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