Avignon – Luberon Villages: Gordes and Roussillon

Waking up with the fresh smell of baked breads was definitely a treat while staying in the bed and breakfast. Anne-Lise and her husband prepared everything from breads to apricot cake from fresh local produce for our breakfast! We had breakfast at 7 am and then ventured out to explore the city. The Palace of the Popes open at 9 am and cost 13.50 euros for the palace plus the bridge (Pont d’Avignon). The palace is the largest Gothic fortress in the world. As like other fortresses, inside gave me a feeling of stone cold and emptiness as all the furniture has been removed. We didn’t purchase the audio guide as we are not history buffs and we had a limited amount of time. We walked from one room to another where they are marked with numbers for the audio guide but they are not in order so we lost track of which rooms we had been or not as the palace is huge! There are some rooms that forbid photography; usually rooms that are interesting to photograph sigh 😦 We took pictures whenever we could and here they are:

Some of the narrow spiral staircase:

Gothic style architecture!

Stone cravings on the wall…

The ceiling:

We navigated our path up to the roof for a good view of the city! Morning temperature was comfortable to visit the palace and it started to get warm; I would think it’ll be hot inside in the afternoon! There’s no AC inside and the air ventilation is poor! Tiles on top of the roof:

The views from top of the palace: the square filled with performances at night and a Ferris wheel far away:

The roof of the Palace of the Popes:

It was hot up there!

The theater setup inside the palace, I heard only the best performers get to perform inside there!

We walked back down and took a few more photos before we exit:

Exit out to the gift shop!

We spent a little more than an hour inside the palace!

To be honest, if you are not a history buff, I don’t think it’s worth the 13.5 euros to visit the palace!

It was still in the morning so we decided to check out the Les Halles Food Market. On the walk to the market, we saw this cat sitting on the purple chair! He was staring at us lol!

Inside the market…yep posters were there too haha! Inside the market reminded me of La Boqueria in Barcelona but smaller scale and not as crowded….and of course you don’t need to be that wary of pickpockets! We were very excited to check out different vendors!

The pink bakery stand!

Fresh fruits!

Potato, garlic, onions, mushrooms…

All sorts of cheese:

And even cooked food!

We were thinking to have an early lunch here but after second thought…..the seafood paella has been cooked since they open at 6am so it is been sitting there for 4 hours?

This is interesting…

Not just a pig head, looking side way…wondered what it tastes like?

Fresh seafood!

My favorite Mediterranean shrimps!

And all sorts of curries and sea salt…of course there’s lavender sea salt!

We walked the whole loop around the market and checked out all the stands. We walked out of the market and whole wall of posters!

My tummy started growling lol, it was lunch time! We walked to rue du Vieux Sextier, the original plan was to have lunch at Le Petit Gourmand but the menu didn’t look appealing to hubby so we continued to walk down the street to check out other restaurants’ menu. We stopped at L’Ardoise and were the first customers there haha I guess we were early!

The paper table mats were advertising the shows as well! L’Ardoise has a set 3 course menu for 20 euros so we ordered that and a main course. As we were waiting for our food, groups of performers came by one by one to advertise their shows by a short skit or song, love the atmosphere of the Avignon Theater Festival!

Appetizer, we ordered the salmon carpaccio…it was fresh and good!

Main course, we chose the duck….OMG it was the most tender duck we ever had! It totally changed our perception of duck – we never thought duck could be this tender…more tender than beef! Chinese (Cantonese) mostly prepare duck by roasting it..the famous roasted duck and Peking duck. I thought roasted duck is the best until this! The first bite I had, a mouthful of duck flavor and a burst of duck fat and its tenderness, it was unforgettable! Please, if you ever visit Avignon, you must try this dish!

The regular main course we ordered was the shrimp spaghetti:

Is it me or what, the first bite of spaghetti tasted like duck! My husband is not a creamy-sauce spaghetti person (he’s only okay with tomato sauce) that he could only take no more than few bites with the exception of this one. It was that good! The sauce was very flavorful and not too heavy! The shrimps were grilled to perfection, love grilled Mediterranean shrimps! The portion as you can see was huge!

Free entertainment too!

The dessert, we picked the strawberry creme, delicious as well!

The very satisfying meal cost only 36 euros; it was our best meal in France!

On our way to the parking lot, more advertisements haha!

and performers:

Urg…..

Hanging posters day and night LOL!

We got our car and the overnight parking fee was a whooping 17.30 euros!!! Luberon villages here we come! Our first stop after a 50 minute drive, probably the most famous of all Luberon villages – Gordes! Gordes is built on the top of the hill side cliff – this view attracted me to head to this region of France! When driving to Gordes, just before the village, there is a small parking lot to stop and walk to this viewing point:

A panoramic view of Gordes and the fields underneath:

Now I started to feel the Provence villages…..how beautiful and relaxing, forget about the busy city life!

Before we head to the village, we first drive down to Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, the only lavender field with an abbey as the backdrop. We tried to get there before the tour buses! The road down is winding and narrow….very narrow only enough room for one car! From far distance, I can see a patch of purple color – those are the lavender fields ahhhhh!!! I couldn’t wait to be there! There’s a large parking lot but it quickly fills up! As soon as I opened the door and got out of the car, I smelled lavender. OMG the air is filled with the scent of lavender, I didn’t know fresh air could smell this good, no need for perfume! Walking along the dirt road to get to the abbey, there is a sign warning tourists of snakes and spiders in the lavender fields!!! Also, proper clothing must be worn to visit the abbey. There are small lavender fields on both sides of the dirt road and the we reached famous post-card lavender field but blocked by a wall!

People were trying their best way to get the famous picture:

Middle of the afternoon, too bright, no blue sky, and not even a cloud! There is a wired fence blocking access to the field…probably to avoid tourists from damaging it? I had seen photos of people inside the field online so maybe the fence is newly added? Since we couldn’t get in, we took photos from another field that is just across it with the side of the abbey as background. It still came out nice!

There were actually a lot of tourists there, they just didn’t know this view is also great for photos haha!

The purple….my favorite color, yes they are that purple!!! Many hardworking bees and butterflies too!

Then of course people started to follow us with their big DSLRs lol!!!

There’s a gift shop selling all sorts of lavender products (I figured would be more expensive than in the villages so I’ll wait till I get to the villages) and clean toilets! We used the restroom and cool down a bit by the air conditioner…it was brutally hot over 95 degrees!

The angle from the outside of the gift shop is great too but you can’t get into the lavender field:

Just like in a book?

Time to drive back up to Gordes…thankfully our GPS guided us another way up not on the side of the cliff! There were 4 tour buses there by the time we left so definitely visit the abbey early!

Our car GPS is very good as it displays all the parking lots nearby and is accurate too! Sharp-eyed hubby saw an empty spot and took it, that parking lot cost 4 euros for the whole day…very inexpensive! After we parked the car, we walked into the village.

And right around the corner of that fortress looking building, there was this decorated antique car – turned out to be there was a wedding going on 🙂

Gordes village center is pretty small, we walked around those small cobblestone roads…

View of the fields…

People who built this village were smart, won’t get slippery as the cobblestone roads we walked in Dubrovnik or Mostar!

I found it enjoyable to walk through charming little roads and stopped for photos here and there!

Silly hun!

Love the menu framed by the tree leaves!

Provence…famous for wines too!

I was a little bit surprised that there weren’t many lavender product souvenir shops as I would’ve thought! I checked out the bags of dried lavenders and those cost 6 euros each. Logic tells me never buy on the first shop and since Gordes is the most famous village, prices must be higher than other villages! Another surprising finding is that there’s not much stores selling cold water or drinks! Is it because the water from the water fountain is potable so they don’t think anyone would buy water? There is a cafe near the parking lot where we parked our car, we bought a can of iced cold Fanta there…the handwriting on the price list looked like 1.50 euros but it’s really 2.50 euros…OMG what a rip off GRRRR! It was a relief from the heat though 😦

The drive out of Gordes, we made a quick stop at the parking lot where we had the view earlier, it was fully packed with cars so hubby stayed in the car to wait while I walked out…not to that spot..but further along the road to check out the view from there…it didn’t have the trees blocking some parts!

The drive down the hill, we pulled over for photo woah!

After Gordes, we drove to Roussillon known for its orange to red colored clay! Before reaching Roussillon, there were large lavender fields!!! No way we’ll pass this chance for photos! No fence, no signs, so I guess it’s okay to enter. I was cautious on my walk to look out for snakes (the scariest thing of my life)! Ahhh the smell of lavender!

Another field we pulled over on the side of the road:

This was our car for the 6 days in Provence 🙂

The road up to Roussillon, another village on top of the hill but not built on the hill cliff. Once again, thanks to the car GPS, we decided to park in the lot further from the village center assuming there will be packed. Parking here only cost 2 euros! A map in the parking lot of the village:

As soon as we walked out of the parking lot…..all the houses we see are either red or orange and even the walls and the roads!

The different shades of red and orange houses were like in a painting, it was pretty unique!

Even I turned orange lol!

We walked out to the “center” of the village to check out the souvenir shops. The exact same dried lavender bags that we saw in Gordes cost 5-6 euros, a little bit cheaper. I bought one set of 5 bags and a magnet inside a store; there aren’t many souvenir stores! Before we visit or I should say “hike” the Sentier des Ocres (Ochre Path) – it’s a park was once an ochre quarry, we filled up our empty bottle of water at the fountain where it’s clearly marked “Eau Potable” which means potable water. But it has a weird mineral taste……so I bought another bottle from the nearby cafe for 1 euros, not too bad! Ochre is a mineral that gives the color of red in the clay and back in the day, they use ochre to die clothes so the mining of the ochre nearby Roussillon became a major source of income. Now, it’s prohibited to mine!

If you are planning to visit the park, make sure you are not wearing your favorite pair of shoes or sneakers, keep reading and you’ll know why!

The site is so beautiful that an artist was sketching it 🙂

In the late afternoon, the sun lit behind the village so not good for photos but on the other hand, it’s great for the park! Looking back at the village from the entrance of the park:

We got there at around 4 pm and it was still hot hot hot! There it is OMG, my eyes were blinded by the bright color – the shades of yellow, orange, and red, I have never seen anything like that before!

The entrance ticket is only 2.5 euros each! The path started with wooden staircase going down….

Then, you get to walk on the red/orange powdery soil/clay!

Reason why don’t wear your favorite pairs of sneakers or shoes? Your shoes will turn orange/red and hard to clean the red/orange soil off! Flip flops or sandals would be the best choice! The park is actually quite small, there are two hiking trails: short (30 minutes) or long (60 minutes). It’s a small place but plenty of photo ops!

It was absolutely amazing, when I was researching for Roussillon, I saw some photos of the park but seeing it myself is like 10 times better!

The tree trunks are orange too!

The whole trail is on the color soil!

When it rains…urg…

The two different colored arrow signs marked the walking trail…the yellow is the short path and orange is the long path; we were on the short path hehe! It was just a loop back to where we started!

The trail is pretty flat so not hard of a hike at all! Back to where we started and more photos!

Is the staircase really orange or caused by the soil on people’s shoes?

Out of the park, we poured the water from the fountain to rinse our feet 🙂 Then, we walked back to the parking lot! On the walk back, more red and orange houses to enjoy!

Doesn’t this look like in a painting?

We only visited two Luberon villages today, completely throw off my planned schedule lol! I was planning to visit 3-4 per day since the villages are quite small but noooooo – each of the villages (Gordes and Roussillon) is so unique and beautiful that we spent lots of time on each. But no regret at all, we took our time and enjoyed every single minute of it! It was nearly 6pm, we were debating should we visit one more village or go back to Avignon? We didn’t want to wear ourselves out so we headed back to Avignon where more free entertainment 🙂

The smartest way to advertise haha the umbrella should help to block the brutal sun!

Ads, ads, and more ads!

Didn’t know how this BMW made it in the center but it sure was in “traffic”!

A tour van haha at least the driver doesn’t need to sweat!

We walked back to rue du Vieux Sextier and checked out menus from different restaurants but no one was appealing to hubby so we decided to have dinner at the same place where we had our very delicious lunch – L’Ardoise. The same waitress recognized us and we said it was so good that we came back the 2nd time! And we sat at the same table haha!

We ordered the 3 course meal for 20 euros and a main course from the regular menu again. We picked the same appetizer – the salmon carpaccio. For main course this time, we chose the steak instead of the duck to try something new. The steak quality was excellent and grilled perfectly – medium rare yummy!

The main course from the regular menu was the fisherman’s plate with big prawns and cod fish filet! I am not a fish person but this cod fish OMG was unbelievable good. Even the seafood king – hubby – said it was the best cod fish filet he ever had! He didn’t know cod fish can be made this good! It was cooked perfectly, not dry at all, and it was so flavorful! How tasty cod fish could be right? But this…wow out of this world! Oh yea, it was that good that I kept talking about the cod fish and not my favorite Mediterranean shrimps yet, that tells you how good it is!!!

Free entertainment again!

Dessert, we picked the creme brulee!

Another 100% satisfied dinner for 37 euros! If we stay more nights in Avignon, no doubt, we’ll come everyday!!! The best value for the money!

More performers:

We walked to the pharmacies (more than one) and they were all closed!  Ahhh, I need to buy sheet mask to moisturize my face after the whole day outside with the brutal sun! Even after constantly reapplying sunscreen, the sun still dried out my skin. Ladies, please do your face a favor, if you are planning to visit Provence in the summer, pack some sheet masks!!! We walked back to our bed and breakfast, it was only like a block away! We will be leaving Avignon tomorrow so we went back and packed up. The room was warm when we got back so we opened the door and let the cold air from the air conditioner in the kitchen to cool down our room a bit. At night, it was okay with the fan on! We enjoyed Avignon Theater Festival, the atmosphere was lively so we made the right decision to stay some nights in Avignon 🙂 The only inconvenience was not able to drive our car into the center after 1 pm.

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5 thoughts on “Avignon – Luberon Villages: Gordes and Roussillon

  1. Lovely trip report as usual, Lisa. You made me wanting to visit Southern France badly. Soon!

    And yes, definitely agreed with you. We love Mediterranean shrimps too. I have been dreaming of going back to Spain just for the seafood :))

    ~ Phebe

  2. Hi Lisa,
    Like you we loved Gordes and Roussillon. Sadly we were there in September so missed the amazing purple haze of lavender in some of your photos. The good news was that there were less tourists and we could move around more easily. Cheers, Mark

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