My first instinct upon seeing the village of Gordes was to stop the car, get out and photograph this most unique commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. Perched high on a giant calcareous rock between the Vaucluse Mountains to the north and the Luberon Valley to the south, Gordes is an impressive town. Once occupied by the Roman empire, Gallo-Roman substructures can still be found along its narrow streets. In the 8th Century, a Benedictine abbey known as Saint-Chaffret was founded by monks on the site of an ancient cella destroyed during the Arab invasions. In 1031, a castle was built and the Latin word castrum was added to what thus became Castrum Gordone. After many centuries of wars and occupation by outsiders, Gordes was eventually incorporated in 1481 into the kingdom of France as a “province royale française”.
We arrived midday and set out to find a café where we could eat lunch and watch the stream of tourists go by. That café sits on the edge of the square at the top of town across from the castle mentioned above. Aware that a movie or two had already been produced here, I wanted to see for myself what had attracted them to this Vauclusian lookout. The architecture coupled with the town’s rich history were certainly part of that attraction, and there was no dearth of side streets or alleyways in which to shoot a film. I wondered if our little movie could survive the attention that Gordes seems to receive on a regular basis. It was teeming with people when we arrived and we left most of them there upon our departure. Still, there’s something altogether regal about Gordes, and I can’t think of much that would keep me from returning.
After thoroughly touring up and down several streets and pathways, we ended our afternoon in Gordes with an espresso on a balcony overlooking the valley. We were so high above it that the view reminded me of the powerful placement of this once coveted fortress. To conquer it, I imagined armies of soldiers fighting their way upward and wondering if they might never reach the top. The largeness of Gordes is its most impressive feature and it would easily tower over the story of our film. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I’m curious to learn more about this royal French province.