Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gordes, A Jewel In The Luberon

Gordes is a beautiful old village in the Luberon region of Provence about 1 hour southeast of our home in Sablet. The houses of Gordes rise majestically from the Luberon Valley in tiers which curve around the hill to the top where the château dating from the Renaissance was built on the site of a medieval fortress.

The village's setting is striking and lots of tourists come to visit in the summer. Gordes is classified as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, literally translated, one of the most beautiful villages of France; Gordes is one of 156 French villages with that classification. It is said to be the #1 tourist attraction in the Luberon.

Cubist painter André Lhote discoverd Gordes in 1938 followed by Marc Chagall, Victor Vasarely and other modern artist who visited and summered in Gordes. More recently the village gained exposure as one of the locations for a movie filmed in the Luberon, "A Good Year" directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe.

If you have not seen the movie, it is based on a novel by Peter Mayle and tells the story of Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) who when he inherits a château and vineyard in Provence from dear Uncle Henry, all Max wants to do is sell it quickly and get back to his regular life being a successful London securities trader and miserable loner.

Instead, stuff intervenes to keep him hanging around the lovely old château and before he knows it he's forgetting how to be lonely and falls for beautiful café owner Fanny Chenal played by the très belle Marion Cotillard. OK guys, I know its not a great movie but I love the setting in the Luberon.

A scene like this picture of Gordes perched on its hill which follows is shown at the beginning of the "A Good Year" movie as Max's plane is on approach to land nearby in the Luberon it seems.

The Renaissance château stands on the highest point in Gordes. It is home to Gordes' town hall and the Pol Mara Museum where the works of contemporary Flemish painter Pol Mara (1920 - 1998) and a citizen of Gordes are on display.

The weekly market in Gordes is held every Tuesday morning at Place du Château.

The main square and memorial to the children of Gordes who died in wars for France which Max Skinner circles several times in his little yellow smart car looking for the notaire in "A Good Year".

Cafés and shops near the main square in Gordes.

A pretty shop located on the main square of Gordes.

The fountain in the square by Hôtel la Renaissance where Max waits for Fanny Chenal to get off work. Hôtel la Renaissance is Fanny Chenal's bistro in the movie, a location seen several times and where Max famously tells an obnoxious American couple dining at the Bistro that "MacDonalds is in Avignon, fish and chips in Marseille. Allez".

This past October, we went with our friends Rick, Deb, Mary and Steve to visit Gordes on a perfect Provencal day and they paused with wife Shirley for a picture at the fountain.

A Gordes shop with a pretty display of colorful market bags.

We enjoy strolling along the maze of narrow street which crisscross Gordes over calades - small paved, sometimes stepped alleyways lined with gutters marked by two rows of stones.

The interior of the Romanesque St.-Firmin Church which was constructed in the 18th century. The church is named after a Bishop of Uzès.

One of the numerous art galleries which can be found throughout Gordes.

Entrance to the church.

An alcove with a statue of a saint over the entrance to the church.

One of the tall stone houses which can be found throughout Gordes.

An excellent example of a street with calades.

An artist studio and gallery.

A pretty window we found as we strolled through Gordes.

A section of the ramparts.

Another one of the many small shops which sells typical Provencal souvenirs.

Another view of Gordes from the Luberon Valley. The strategic defensive possibilities of the location are clearly evident. The town was never taken even during the brutal Wars of Religion.

During World War II, Gordes was an active resistance village and was later awarded a medal, the Croix de Guerre 1939 - 1945. On the 21st of August 1944, just 6 days after the start of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France, a German patrol was attacked by members of the Gordes resistance and the day after, the village was subjected to violent reprisals and much of Gordes was destroyed.

It is definitely worthwhile to visit Gordes. Make sure you also leave yourself time to go and visit nearby Sénanque Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian abbey, that is surrounded by lavender fields. We have been quite a few times and I will tell you about our last visit in a future post.

Bonne journée mes amis et à très bientôt.


  1. I had a very good ice cream sitting by that fountain a couple of summers ago.

  2. Another place to add to my 'must see' list. It keeps growing. Love your photos, they are excellent. Diane

  3. Lovely photos Michel. They brought back fond memories from when we first used to come to Provence many years ago.

  4. I love A Good Year. I'm going to have to watch it again to see if I recognize any of the sights :-)

  5. Meredith - If my memory is in tact, I believe there is still a place near that fountain where you can get ice cream cones.

    Diane - Thanks for the kind feedback about my photographs. Gordes and the surrounding villages in the Luberon are definitely worth a trip.

    Barbara - Thanks for nice feedback. I assume you are saying you have not been to Gordes since your first trips to Provence. I think that is the way it is everywhere. When we first moved in Washington DC, we went to the monuments and museums every time we had visitors but after a few years rarely. When we first moved to Northern California, we would be in San Francisco every week it seems. Now except for the airport, we don't go hardly ever especially with our Bistro taking up most of our free evenings.

    Sara - I am embarrassed to say how many times I have watched "A Good Year". I love the scenery and some of it is very authentic to me at least. In addition to the scenes I mentioned in Gordes, you will also see Bonnieux, Lacoste and Oppede le Vieux and some local vineyards.

  6. I love this town. I only visited it once and it was a very long time ago. One of my husband's most favorite movies is "A Good Year". He's watched it more times than I can count! We always talk about going to visit this town because we want to take photos of ourselves in the spots made famous by the movie. We are so touristy like that! I love your great photos. Even though I live here, I still "miss" France. If you get my drift!

  7. Ashley - I suggest you go in Spring or Fall to avoid the hordes of tourists who descend upon Gordes during the Summer. Of course, than you miss the chance to see the Abbey surrounded by the Lavender fields. I guess you have to make choices. Thanks as always for your comments on my blog.

  8. Thanks for the tip. I think we might go in the spring. I don't much like the tourist crowds. If you are around when we visit, it would be great to meet you!

  9. Can you recommend a reasonably priced English language cooking class for my small group tour? Thanks alot, Cynthia cynthiacaughey at Hotmail dot com

  10. I tried to email you but it wouldn't go through so I have something wrong. Barbara at Cuisine de Provence offers an excellent one day class at a reasonable price at her home in Vaison-la-Romaine. Chef Johanne at Les Abeille in Sablet offers one day classes too.