Awaken to Gourdon in Provence.
Bonjour my friends,
Today you’re going to a little village in the south of France but first of all, I’d like to make it quite clear from the start that there are two villages by the name of ‘Gourdon’ in France and I’m writing about Gourdon located in the Alps-Maritime region of Provincial France (not the town of Gourdon in the southwestern Lot.) Secondly my friends, I want to make it just as clear that YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT when you get here!
If there was ever a place that belonged in a book of classic European fairytales, it would be this tiny village of Gourdon. Nestled precariously like a hawk’s nest on a cliff face high overhead…
Gourdon is custodian to the Vallee du Loup-with its gorges and canyons, forests and Loup River that snakes its way to the Mediterranean while the birds soar in circles over farmsteads in the greenest valley I could ever imagine.
To get to Gourdon is an adventure in itself. Choose your driver and your means of transport well, for if you take the road, be aware that it zig zags sharply without relief for quite some time and for some part of the journey you may well trigger a small rock avalanche which begins collapsing beneath your vehicle and propelling debris into the airy depths below. This way will bring you to the Northern entry of the castle.
The alternative is to hike along the skinny spaghetti trail winding up and around the mountain to the castle from almost a thousand meters below. The old mule track, ‘Chemin du Paradis’ is steep and stony and was the only way of hard core artisan and construction workers centuries earlier lugging stone to build the castle in the eleventh century. This way is not for the faint hearted.
Your choice maybe raises a question as to how you approach life itself.
If Pinocchio were French, he would drunkenly tumble over Gourdon’s cobblestones and vaulted lanes, pass inner courtyards of provincial stone houses with their fountains…
sun dials and gargoyles and other eccentricities…
and then perhaps he would hop-step his loose way toward the warm aroma of bread ovens and medicinal herb shops reeling lavender, hyssop and comfrey. Copper distillation equipment of some Medieval alchemist making perfume breathes fragrant history into shopfronts…
and once inside, he would be mesmerised by glittering crystal glassware in electric colours as the afternoon sun works its magic.
Pinocchio would be smiling no doubt. Just like Le Notre, the landscape gardener of the Palace of Versaille, when he completed his new project in Gourdon and thoughtfully created its magnificent Chateau gardens.
Gourdon is exactly what you want in a fairytale. Hot pink shots of mountain rhododendrons and teeny erigeron daisies popping out everywhere…
and very friendly locals and a close knit community spirit of shopkeepers selling joy in Florentines, soaps, perfumery and art. (When the baker asked me to marry him, I told him I had five children. He cheekily replied, ” De rien. J’ai six.” (no matter, I have six!).
Breathing in Gourdon’s air is cool and fresh, as you would expect from such a dizzy altitude…
but the sunlight is strong here and paints Gourdon with a warmth overlooking a sweeping panoramic view of the Cote D’zure from Beaulieu to Cannes.
If you bother to look hard enough across the horizon, pass today’s hang gliders at eye level, you may even see Corsica on a really clear day but you’ll be forgiven if you don’t even try, as by now you will have decided to join the others dabbling in hand made ice creams or at The Salon de The’
on a rocky outcrop. Or, more casually, decide to have a cold beer on the very popular terrace in front of the old church… A splendid idea as you watch the sun go down.
Truth be known- Fairytales have a very happy ending in Gourdon.
Getting there: Gourdon is about 37km from Nice Airport by car and 14km from Grasse. Local tour companies will get you there very inexpensively. Enjoy and tell us of your experiences here.
Best Wishes, Therese Waddell
copyright@2013 Therese Waddell