The first glance of Gourdon is like something out of a legend, a lone village balanced on a precipice overlooking the Cote d’Azur. When traversing the winding road through the mountain passes Gourdon does appear to be a stronghold. It sits high above the valleys below and has somewhat a fearsome presence. It’s not until you follow the road behind it that you see it’s true beauty. The first sign you come to is one that proclaims it to be the most beautiful village in France. One must question this statement, as how could something that seems balanced so precariously be so magnificent.
The first thing you will notice as you step out of the car is the air, it’s littered with numerous fragrances the first noticeable one being lavender. Around the village and in the fields above and below there is copious amount of lavender and herbs de Provence. This combination in the fresh mountain air really begins to revitalise the senses. The walk up to the village is a short uphill stint. On one side you have a quaint fruit and vegetable garden that must belong to one of the original stereotypical French houses overlooking it. The other is an old stone wall covered by vivid hanging baskets. The smell of fragrances increases as you get closer and closer to the only way in and out of the village.
When you lay eyes upon the first street in Gourdon that has a perfumery, jewelers, soap and art gallery it takes a moment for it to sink in. In the distance you can see Nice and Antibes which is buried under a slight haze, above is the deep blue sky seemingly unaffected by any pollution. The buildings have not been changed in hundred of years, they have small archways, single pained glass and dated window shutters. The Church tucked away in the heart of the village dates back to the 12th century. If you’re after some history culture and fine dining then you have come to the right place. At the end of the street are panoramic views over the south of France, there you can find two restaurants which serve the most incredible steak tartar. You can overlook Nice, Antibes, Cannes and St Tropez while you indulge in fine food, wine and scents that make Channel Number 5 smell like vinegar.
Traveling isn’t anything if it does not give you a sense of adventure. The entire village is bursting with character and history, at every corner there is a small alley waiting to be explored. The village is also home to some fabulous art galleries that have some reasonably priced paintings that would fetch the asking price 4 fold if put on sale in London. Here is a wonderful example of the art on the streets themselves.
The last but not least important thing to mention is the people. The French somewhat have a bad reputation for being friendly. This could not be further from the truth, everyone in the village welcomes you with open arms. Do be aware that it’s worth learning or having a basic understanding of some French. France was recently announced as the most visited country in the world according to the BBC, and all the obnoxious tourists not bothering to attempt the french language might be the cause of many french nationals hostility.
Things to do around Gourdon
The village is small and takes about 2 hours to have a thorough look around but it’s not worth simply stopping there. Above the village is a breathtaking mountain walk. It takes 2 hours and involves 300m of climbing and will bring you to a secret lavender field that the locals use for their soaps and fragrances.
If walking in the heat doesn’t excite you then dropping down into the canyons below surely will. Head for Pont du Loup and then tuck your car in one of the few parking spots on the valley. Don’t be put off by the numerous danger signs there are plenty of canyoning groups and it’s perfectly safe. The scramble down is quite challenging and shouldn’t be attempted by anyone who doesn’t have some degree of athletic ability. Once down in the canyon you will come across crystal clear blue glacial water, that makes Evian taste chlorinated.
Where to stay when visiting Gourdon
Gourdon itself doesn’t have much in terms of accommodation let alone anything luxury. The best suggestion would be to source a villa rental in one the rural villages below. Why not follow our guide on villas in the south of france! For more information on this beautiful town go onto the towns website at http://www.gourdon06.fr/.