Gordes is a beautiful old village about 1 hour southeast of our home in Sablet. The small village (pop. 1773) sits on a rocky outcrop of the Vaucluse Mountains and dominates the plain and Calavon River Valley, offering a view of the Luberon mountain across the way.
Cubist painter André Lhote discovered Gordes in 1938 followed by Marc Chagall, Victor Vasarely and other artists who visited and summered in Gordes. More recently Gordes gained fame as one of the locations for a movie filmed in the region, "A Good Year" 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, he just wants to sell it quickly and get back to his life being a successful London securities trader and miserable loner.
Instead, stuff intervenes to keep him hanging around and before he knows it, he's forgotten how to be lonely and falls for beautiful café owner Fanny Chenal played by Marion Cotillard. OK guys, I know its not an Oscar, great movie as film making goes, but I love the setting in the Luberon and I am a sucker for a love story.
The original Romanesque church in Gordes was dedicated to Notre Dame. Rebuilt in 1704, it has a colorful interior and was dedicated to its patron Saint Firmin, a former Bishop of Uzès, the bell tower of which can be seen in the photograph below.
|Gordes castle and St Firmin church bell tower in background|
The fountain in the square by Hôtel Renaissance seen below, is where Max waits for Fanny Chenal, the character played by Marion Cotillard in a memorable scene from the "A Good Year" movie to get off work.
|Fountain near Hôtel Renaissance in Center of Gordes|
Some streets in the village are paved with stones called calades - small paved, sometimes stepped alleyways lined with gutters defined by two rows of stone as seen in the photograph below.
|White stone house and typical Gordes' street with calades.|
Hôtel Renaissance was transformed into Fanny Chenal's bistro for the movie, a location seen several times, and where Max famously tells an obnoxious American couple that "MacDonalds is in Avignon, fish and chips in Marseille. Allez".
|Hôtel Renaissance in Gordes|
In the picture below, Shirley stands on the steps going down from Fanny Chenal's bistro where a wonderful encounter occurs between Max and Fanny in the "A Good Year" movie.
|Shirley doing her best imitation of Marion Cotillard|
Around the center of the village near the castle, you will find various cafés, restaurants, art galleries and souvenir shops. Every Tuesday morning is market day. Merchants from around the area set up stalls on Place du Château and sell their wares; fresh fruits and vegetables, Provençale pottery and linens, art work and clothing.
|Tourist shop in Gordes|
The memorial to the children of Gordes who died in wars for France is in the main square and where Russell Crowe's character, Max Skinner circles several times in his little yellow smart car looking for the notaire, a self-employed legal specialist with public authority to draw up real estate contracts for clients, in the "A Good Year" movie.
|War Memorial in center of Gordes|
The Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, translated into English as the "white penitents chapel" is located near the castle. Dating from the 17th century, the chapel is an art gallery today.
|White Penitents Chapel|
At the top of Gordes and in the center of the village sits the castle which dominates the village. Built in 1031, reinforced in 1123, the castle was rebuilt in 1525. Today the castle is home to the Pol Mara museum, a contemporary Flemish painter who lived in Gordes, and the Gordes tourist information office. In summer there are concerts and plays in the castle's courtyard.
Another view of Gordes from the Luberon Valley can be seen in the photograph below. The strategic defensive possibilities of Gordes' location are clearly evident. The village 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. If you are lucky enough to be in Provence between late June through the middle of July, make sure you take time to visit nearby Sénanque Abbey.
It is a beautiful Cistercian abbey located in a deep valley a short distance north of Gordes and well worth a visit anytime you are in the area.
You can drive to the Abbey from Gordes on the narrow D177 road or if you are in the mood for a hike, you can walk there on the GR6 hiking trail. Don't forget, you will have a hike back up.
Along the way, you will come upon an "aerial" view of the Abbey down in the deep Senancole valley where Sénanque Abbey is located.
|"Aerial" view of Sénanque Abbey|
The Sénanque Abbey is an active community with a handful of elderly monks that I told you about here. The monks grow the lavender and tend to honey bees to earn income for living and upkeep of the Abbey. The Sénanque Abbey along with two other early Cistercian abbeys in Provence, Silvacane Abbey and Le Thoronet Abbey, are sometimes referred to as the "Three Sisters of Provence"
If you have comments or questions about Gordes, Sénanque Abbey, or elsewhere in Provence, please leave your comments below or send me an email at my address below.
If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.