Gordes is probably the best known village in the Provence. It is therefore not surprising that it can be pretty crowded during the summer – but thankfully, this is not the case for this property. The small village houses surround an impressive castle that towers over the plains. In fact, Vaucluse is strewn with picturesque hilltop villages; some of the prettiest villages are Ménerbes, Bonnieux, Roussillon, Lacoste, Seignan and Goult. Further east, about an hour by car, you find the Haute-Provence, known for its lavender fields, flocks of sheep and quaint little towns such as Sault, Manosque and Banon.
Near Gordes, at about 3 kilometres, you find the Sénanque Abbey, which is one of the best-known monasteries in France, coming second only to that of the Mont-Saint-Michel. The buildings are still home to monks belonging to the Cistercian Order. The beauty of the Sénanque valley and the architecture of the abbey are nothing short of breathtaking. Visits to the interior of the abbey are also possible, but need to booked in advance.
If you wish to go north and see the Mont Ventoux, we highly recommend taking a break in a little town called Carpentras. With its numerous fountains and monuments, Carpentras is one of those towns that characterize the south of France. In addition, it is known all over the world as the capital of the black truffle.
During the summer months, almost all towns and villages in Vaucluse organise (farmer’s) markets, where you can buy the best and freshest food and products at reasonable prices. A list with these markets can be found in the house.
Vaucluse offers more though: wineries, countless restaurants and bistros, stalls offering fresh fruit and vegetables, olive groves, and cypress trees, the real ‘Cavaillon’ melons, the list is endless. If you want to live the good life, Vaucluse is the place to be.
Gordes is a perfect point of departure is you want to visit the world-renowned cities of culture in the south of France.
Avignon, with its famous city walls, the ‘Palais des Papes, the remaining arches of the Saint-Bénézet bridge, and its various squares and museums is only a half-hour drive away.
The ancient Roman cities of Orange and Arles with their ancient theatres and Roman ruins are only 50 of 60 kilometres away.
Other possible day trips include cities such as Nîmes (with the arena and the ‘Maison Carrée), Aix-en-Provence (with the Cours Mirabeau and Cézanne) and even Montpellier.
All these cities organise festivals and other festivities during the summer months. If you are interested in participating, it is best to be well informed.
Driving to the coast will take only an hour. However, with the busy summertime traffic, your driving time will be considerably longer. We can recommend Cassis, a quaint port city where artists such as Matisse and Dufy spent their holidays. The city is surrounded by the so-called ‘Calanques’, the rocky formations that characterize this area and which form the perfect backdrop for boat trips.
Cassis has few high-rise buildings, and the evenings are a perfect time to stroll along the quays. There are numerous restaurants where you can enjoy a ‘fruits de mer’ platter or other local seafood and fish specialties.
Cassis is only 20 kilometres away from Marseille, the third largest French city. The well-known Camargue, the nature reserve, with its extensive beaches, is very nearby.
A two-hour drive from Gordes takes you to the Côte d’Azur, but this area, too, is incredibly crowded during the summer months and will leave you longing for the peace and quiet of the domain.
Vaucluse, and especially the Mont Ventoux, is the perfect destination for cyclists. The best times to climb the Giant of Provence by bike are May/early June, and September/October.
Fans of modern art should definitely visit ‘Le Château La Coste’ –in the famous village of Lourmarin (www.chateau-la-coste.com). The owner of this winery asked several star architects (Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel) to design several new buildings and the result is impressive. He also created a magnificent sculpture park with art created by Louise Bourgeois, Franz West, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Sean Scully, Yumi Sugimoto and many others; this is a definite must-see.
Adventurous types can kayak in the area of Fontaine de Vaucluse and both children and adults will have fun climbing trees in a park that was specifically constructed for this purpose (www.parcours-aerien.fr).
Roussillon was built on top of an ochre rock, and after Gordes, it is one of the most popular towns in the area. With its red, yellow and orange roofs and houses, the city seems to just blend into the surrounding landscape.
The natural ochre pigment meant an important source of income for the village, as it was mined commercially. However, with the arrival of artificial colouring, the ochre mines lost their importance. One of these old mines is now a magnificent hiking trail where kids can play to their hearts’ content.
The trail takes you through the marvellous surroundings with their bright, warm colours that form an interesting contrast with the deep green of the Mediterranean foliage and the azure skies.
A similar but more expansive landscape characterized by ochre rocks and cliffs can be found in Rustrel, near Apt. (www.colorado-provencal.com).
Do we even need to mention that Vaucluse is a hiker’s paradise? Over 4000 kilometres of trails take you over hills and mountains, from the Mont Ventoux in the north to the Luberon in the south. Hikers will love the magical, wild nature, the perplexing views, and the magnificent interaction between light and shadows. All hiking trails are marked, and they are often family-friendly.
Spring, fall and winter offer the best conditions for hiking, as the summer is simply too warm. Some even say that Vaucluse is even more beautiful in winter than it is in summer, and choose that time of year for their holidays. We offer special winter rates for these hikers who wish to stay on the domain.
For more information on Gordes and the surrounding area, please visit www.provenceguide.com