As promised a while back, here are some shots from my roadtrip in Provence. The first place after Isle-sur-Sorgue was Gordes, a hilltop village with great views and quaint stone buildings.

Totally typical village square with water fountain (that had water running in February because freeze? What freeze?)

First: I had a list of villages to visit, which I had compiled over the years from magazines, then Instagram and blogs. I also did some quick research of travel tips for the area. What I found was not encouraging. One blogger complained that roads were narrow and that she had no idea what the speed limit was.

Stone charm to your heart’s content.

Let me tell you: On the autoroute, unless it’s marked otherwise (like when it goes through larger cities), the speed limit is 130 kilometers per hour, unless it’s raining and then it’s 110 kph. On national highways where there are two lanes in each direction and a barrier or green space between them, the speed limit is 110 kph. Inside city limits, it’s 50 kph, unless it’s semi-rural, where it might be 70 kph (that will be marked) or unless it’s where schools or other factors slow traffic down to 30 kph. Everywhere else, on national or department roads that have one lane in each direction, it’s 80 kph. And that often isn’t marked because you are just supposed to know it. It’s nice to know what you want to see, but if you’re driving in a new place, you should also research the rules of the road. Here’s my summary.

At the top of the village, the church dedicated to Saint-Firmin, the patron saint of the village. The church was restored in 2017.

I did not find Provençal roads to be narrow. I thought they were normal. Narrow is where you have to have the right-side tires on the shoulder grass in order to pass the oncoming car (and they also need to have their right tires on the grass on their side). I wrote about my mishap with another driver who didn’t bother to move over here. The roads in Provence had enough room for two lanes, with painted lines. I can imagine that in the summer, when they’re clogged with tractors and tourists, they might feel a little stressful. I was there in February. On a Sunday. No problem.

Clearly no parking.
But here there’s parking! The château has been around since at least 1031, not for fancy living but as a fortress in battle. Of course it has changed and been enlarged over the centuries.

Everything I read about Gordes said parking was a nightmare. It being February, and a Sunday at that, I figured I would venture to the upper parking lot. It was mostly empty. A sign said I had to pay, even on a winter Sunday (parking is free on Sundays even in big cities like Toulouse, so that surprised me). As the gendarmerie was at the end of the parking lot, I decided not to tempt fate and paid up. Sucker. The village was empty. I could have parked my tiny car anywhere. For free.

Cedar trees for my aunt. How about that sky? Provençal blue.

Gordes was very clean and well-restored. Great views. A few restaurants and touristy shops and galleries, most of which were closed. I had a nice plate of pasta at Le Jardin, which was a combination tourist shop and restaurant.

No idea what this is/was. A former lavoir (laundry place)? A cave for wine that got opened up? A borie? But it wasn’t free-standing. Je n’ai aucune idée.

The village of 1,600-ish residents reminded me of Minerve or Caunes-Minervois or Montolieu, among many other little villages around here, except that it clearly was geared more toward visitors than toward locals. There were some hotels and I bet there are lots of AirBnBs. If you are a tourist, these services are great. I cannot imagine living there. Living in a touristy place myself, I find the influx of outsiders energizing and fun, except when they go the wrong way on one-way streets or block my driveway or litter or do other reputation-destroying actions that range from clueless (they don’t know better) to thoughtless (like littering–they know better but don’t care) to disgusting. But that’s in town, and really the crowds are only in la Cité, which I visit a couple of times a week all year but not in July or August, when it’s mobbed. My old village got some visitors, but not enough to notice.

Cute, cute, cute. This isn’t really a calade, but close. Gordes is known for its calades–stone-paved streets with broad steps measured out so that donkey-pulled wagons could go up the next step at the same time the back wheels got over the previous one.

Because everything was closed, I don’t have recommendations. Yes, it’s pretty. You would quickly run out of things to do, so a stay there would have to be about relaxing, reading and hiking. That kind of vacation can be wonderful. No shade from me.

I mentioned it was on a hill?

Feel free to share your experiences of Gordes if you’ve been there! Next stop: Roussillon.

The reward for climbing the stairs. Stunning views.

19 thoughts on “Provence Pit Stop: Gordes

  1. Never mind. I signed up to get the blog’s email with the new email address. You’ll start getting a bounce back on June 3 from the email address.

    Cheers, Lisa V

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe I’ve been twice, once passing through for lunch on a terrace: one of the best salades Niçoises ever, followed by an afternoon wandering vaguely amidst mostly closed shops (my bad—siesta time). The other visit dearer and equally stunning, despite more exotic/less pleasing food: a dinner with our family of 12, including kids, again a stone terrace with a view, under a full moon, our table completely isolated from the rest of the restaurant, so that the kids could romp a bit and we could laugh, sing, and imbibe until closing. Fond memories, to be sure, I share your disappointment with the excessive stillness, though the Village des Bories at the top was pretty fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In 2016 we spent the month of September in the Provence area. We stayed 2 weeks each in Uzes and Menerbes and ventured out on day trips. We have been to the places you are highlighting, and your blog brings back so many wonderful memories. We had an amazing meal in Gordes—all locally sourced ingredients, but I didn’t save the name of the restaurant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds delightful. I also hit Ménerbes and Uzès…those coming up. I can now say confidently that you can find charming villages and excellent, fresh, local food all across the south of France.


  4. Good info on French driving. In our rural area most of the driving is on roads with the wheel on the edge to pass. I am currently in process for my French licence, your info on speeds was good, though knowing which roads are 80 and which are 90 can still be a puzzle, and the driving school text book is not always clear. C’est la France. Where we are in Normandy most all the main roads are 90. But like you said, “you are just supposed to know.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Check your département. Some years ago, all the départementale roads were put at 80, then some less-populated départements got unhappy and put the limit back at 90. So know where you are! If in doubt, slow down.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The skies are glorious and you’ve captured the peace and charm of the off-season beautifully. It looks so dignified and serene. And Poo! to the complainers – whatever happened to doing a bit of homework before embarking to foreign lands? Anyways, having hair-raising driving experiences in Europe is essential for one’s store of adventures to look back upon in our dotage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the homework is about where to stay, where to eat, where to get the best photos for Instagram. Sometimes drivers have unwarranted confidence about their abilities.
      But all the more reason to travel off season.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.