Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Market Day in Gordes


We drove south east on the N7 from Avignon to Cavallion, but after crossing the A7, which runs south to Marseilles, we went east on the Route D’Apt, the D900 to Coustellet. I think it should be called the Perch Village Highway. North of the D900 the villages of L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Gordes and Roussillon are easy accessible. Turn south from the D900 and the perched villages of Ménerbes and Bonnieux are not too far. Near Coustellet we turned north on the D15 to Gordes. If it’s Tuesday, it must be market day in Gordes.   

Along the way we stopped when I eyed this classical Romanesque-style chapel. Probably from the 12th or 13th century.

As we continued to climb into the foothills of the Monts de Vaucluse and made another turn in the road, the view opened up. On the right the valley stretched far into the hazy morning sunlight until it backed up against the Luberon Mountains. On the left, through cypresses and native shrubs, perched on a spur, Gordes. At the top, its centuries old castle next to the church, and down the slopes, its narrow alleys and stone houses cascade down like exquisite layers of lace over a flowing satin ballroom wedding gown.

The perfect French hilltop village.

I wondered for how many centuries they have held market day in the shadow of the Gordes castle. Typical French country, beret and all.
For nearly a thousand years, the castle has been standing sentinel supreme over the village. Thought to be built in the 11th century by Guillaume d'Agoult, one of the earliest ancestors of the powerful feudal family who ruled large parts of Provence, including Gordes. However, habitation goes back probably to about 6000 BC when flint was mined here. D'Agoult successors strengthened the castle in 1123 to make it a nobile castrum – a noble fortress, and one of the most well-known among the many nearby castles. It was further strengthened through the centuries and then mostly rebuilt between 1525 and 1541, parts in the Renaissance style, by Bertrand Simiane, the Marquis de Simiane, who was then the lord of the manor.

Quintessential Mediterranean - Olive, garlic, chillies...

Cured Meats.

While M continued to meander through the market I explored the outer edges of the market square.

That sure is the biggest wine bottle I have ever seen.  

It seemed that door and that entrance were there for ever.

Time to explore the village. Down we went.

It doesn’t really matter which way you go. The important thing is to get yourself lost. And that is exactly what happened. Here and there were natural openings on the side of a street to lookout over the valley; places to adjusts ones perspectives again. But around the next corner the tall stone walls and darker shadows engulfed the narrow uneven cobblestone alleys again.     

A feline sentinel high above street level.

Another on street level. Totally disinterrested in the tourists.

We eventually found ourselves on an opposite hillside of the village with excellent views of the village itself and the valley below.

This house was for sale. It came with a beautifully carved stone cross.

And this is why the villagers moved up the hill to be under the protection  of the castle. The view. Probably not for the beauty of it, but as a lookout and an early warning system. Warnings against feudal armies and religious zealots during the Wars of Religion in the 16th Century. Theview is not bad either.

Totally stoned.

We walked back to where our car was parked on the outskirts of the village and continued our journey through the valley towards Roussillon.