Day 6: Roussillon to Gordes

Walking in France: Second breakfast, Roussillon
Second breakfast, Roussillon

Monday, 18 June 2007
Distance 15 km
Duration 3 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 408 m, descent 203 m
Map 60 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

During the night we had both had a return of the runs, and Keith was developing a cold, so in view of our poor health we decided to have an easy day, only going as far as Gordes.

This meant that we could allow ourselves a late start, and we knew we would get coffee and pastries in Roussillon on the way through, so we had no need for muesli. We left at 7:45 and were in the village at 8:15.

To our consternation, none of the bars seemed to be open, but a passing local told us that, although the tourist bars only opened at 9, there was one already open near the square.

Walking in France: Roussillon

This turned out to be a lovely place with an unimpeded view right across the valley to the north and west, and a chatty group of drinkers leaning on the counter.

We had breakfast and read the paper, which was full of the win of Sarkozy’s party in yesterday’s parliamentary elections, and equally full of the shocking separation of his rival Ségolene Royale from her husband.

Walking in France: Leaving Roussillon
Leaving Roussillon

Once again we were on the GR6, last seen near Rustrel. We wended our way down and out of the village into farmland, with our destination clearly visible across the fields.

A series of small roads interspersed with footpaths got us to the main road, the D2, and since it was starting to rain by then, we got into our plastic ponchos and followed the road, to cut off a corner of the GR.

We reconnected with it at the base of the village, where there was an excellent walker’s way up to the town. The car road goes for miles to gain the necessary height.

Walking in France: A non-standard, but easily understandable, GR sign
A non-standard, but easily understandable, GR sign

The promontory of Gordes was crowned with a gigantic fortress, around which spread a warren of crooked lanes with shops, cafés and swarms of tourists. Like our last two resting places, Gordes was a Plus Beau Village, and all three of them deserved the title, we thought.

To get out of the sprinkling rain, we sat down under a large sun umbrella in the square just outside the château, and ordered coffee. This turned out to be easily the most expensive coffee we had ever drunk – €5.90 per cup.

Walking in France: Dubious enjoyment of the most expensive coffee we had ever drunk in France
Dubious enjoyment of the most expensive coffee we had ever drunk in France

Having tried and failed to buy the map that we would soon need (TOP 100 number 59), and having laid in some lunch supplies, we marched off up the ridge to the camping ground, which was only two kilometres out of town this time, not three.

At the reception desk we asked our affable hostess whether there was a track from here to the Abbey of Sénanque, and she said there was.

It started just above the camping ground, she said, and was marked with blue paint. We could see on the map that we could cut out a big piece of tomorrow’s walk if we could get across to the Abbey, so this was good news.

Walking in France: Dinner at the Hostellerie la Provençale
Dinner at the Hostellerie la Provençale

The sky looked threatening so we put up our tent straight away and had to get into it almost immediately as the next band of rain swept in. We ate our lunch inside and then stretched out for a sleep. It rained lightly all afternoon but by evening it had eased off and we strolled back to the village without being dampened.

After a tour of the eateries around the château, we chose the old Hostellerie la Provençale, whose deep side verandah was covered with an awning. Keith had lamb à la Romaine (with rosemary, anchovies and lemon), and I had vegetarian moussaka, with which we shared a half-bottle of red as there was no house wine.

Walking in France: The château of Roussillon in golden light after the rain
The château of Roussillon in golden light after the rain

Rain fell while we were eating but then the setting sun burst out from under the cloud and lit the château in golden light.

The walk back to the camping ground was made memorable by a lordly rainbow that filled the sky, even after the sun had set and the sky was darkening.

Previous day: Lourmarin to Roussillon

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