The village of Gordes (2000 inhabitants today) is located at the entrance of the Apt Valley, along the steep calcareous Northern side of the Vaucluse Mounts, and looking southward to the “Petit Luberon” Mountain. It is among one of the most beautiful villages of France, thanks to a superb site, dry stone-built houses and walls, and a typical Provence touch.
It is built around an 11th Century castle (rebuilt and expanded at the Renaissance, 16th century), which shelters local art exhibitions, and used to be the headquarters of the Vasarely painter’s foundation. It is since 1996 showing the work of Pol Mara, a modern Belgium painter.
The historical wealth of the village is due to the presence of two rivers: the Senancole and the Veroncle, allowing watermills for grinding flour and wool spinning, dams and irrigation canals until the end of the 19th century, when an earthquake made most of the water disappear underground. The watermills were then replaced by windmills over time. Until then, Gordes was known for cultivating grains, olives, garance (a plant which roots produce the rubis-red dye, used in the military uniforms until the First Word War), figs and almonds, together with silkworms. The work of leather was also famous in Gordes, with numerous shoemakers. Today, the traditional agriculture focuses on olives, lavender, truffles, cherries, honey and vineyards.
The village was badly hit at the end of the Second World War (the retreating Germans did bomb the village from the “Roc du Bel Air”, the place where today most tourists take a picture of the village), and during the reconstruction time, many artists came to Gordes such as Marc Chagall and Vasarely. Since then, the economy of the village is centered on real estate and tourism, focusing on the conservation of the site, high-class hotels and home-gîtes for tourists.
The “Village des Bories”, these drystone huts used by shepherds just west of the village, is also an interesting visit, together with the Sénanque Abbey (2 km north-west). A local market taking place every Tuesday morning around the Gordes castle is a big favorite among the tourists as well as the locals. . A festival, “Les Soirées d’Été”, is organized with jazz music and theater during the first two weeks of August.