We have a book called the Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Villages of France. As we are travelling through the various regions, we are checking for any of the villages that are close by.
After visiting Apt for the Saturday market, we backtracked a bit to visit two of the villages in the guide, Roussillon and Gordes.
Roussillon is also known as the flame of the Luberon. It stands out amongst its verdant setting with a variety of ochre shades lighting up the hills around the area.
The village’s rise in fortunes from 14th century was due to silk farming and the ochre industry took over in the late 18th century. It was developed due to a local man, Jean-Etienne Astier, who devised the idea of extracting the pigment from the sands. Since then Roussillon has built it’s reputation on this brightly coloured mineral.
We followed the ochre trail that winds through the former quarries and were bowled over by the contrasts of shape and colour against the variety of trees and plants.
The village as also an attractive place to spend some time. It is certainly a tourist attraction but, on our visit, it was relatively quiet. The broad palette of ochre shades is evident on the buildings and there are several shops specialising in the artists materials and products connected with the ochre trade.
Gordes is described in our guide, as the Jewell of the Luberon. It is a short journey from Roussillon, so we made it our next stop. There is an aire just below the town which was extremely convenient for our visit. We arrived mid afternoon and having parked up on the aire, we walked back along the road to have a proper look at the view of the town. It had wowed us on our drive up to the town and there were several visitors on the roadside taking pictures. The Rough Guide had advised that the best part of Gordes is the view from the road and we would agree.
We went back in the evening to see the town lit up but, there are so many street lights, it was not as impressive as we had hoped. The buildings alongside the road were illuminated which helped us to see where we were going and they looked very attractive in the dark.
After a peaceful night in the almost deserted car park (aire with no facilities at all), we went into the town to explore and we were a bit disappointed after the splendour of the view on the approach. The town is perched on the foothills of the Monts de Vaucluse, facing the Luberon mountain. The views out from the narrow streets of the village are spectacular and there are some wonderful residences with fabulous views from their terraces.
The chateau takes a dominant position but can only be visited by arrangement so we did not get to see inside.
We enjoyed our visit to Gordes mainly for the views of the town itself and for the sweeping views across the surrounding countryside.
This area of France is beautiful for the variety of landscape. We were delighted with the views as we travelled around and particularly enchanted by the fields of lavender bordered by great swathes of poppies.