pundits practicing "the art of the deal".
Savvy travelers eventually learn that good planning is a matter of connecting
the dots -- and re-negotiating with yourself is just part of the package.
You want to see everything and -- alas! -- there's never enough time or silver.
Finding the the most magic for the money is
the end game -- so often easier said than done.
Once you begin to logically plot your path, you search out the happy medium,
a mix of what you really want paired with time, money and reality.
The Luberon is always touted as one of the most beautiful spots in Provence.
I wouldn't argue with that. The choices are endless.
One of the biggest peacocks in this area is the drop-dead gorgeous village of Gordes, famously included on the short list of "the most beautiful villages in France".
Home to countless spreads in glossy magazines, movies and books,
I was gently annoyed by its fame -- particularly the warnings that came with
the fanfare -- crowded, teeming with tourists, high-brow, pricey ..... certainly a recurrent theme that made me half consider bypassing the town
in lieu of undiscovered little burgs with less hullabaloo.
But then I remembered, this was my race and by George, I was going to win it --
and after years of travel, I know the best advice is to
forget the competition and run your own course.
Ignoring my own reservations, we confidently made off for Gordes one
lovely spring day, hoping to catch a glimpse of the magic
before the alleged army of sightseers vanquished the charm.
And you know what?
We encountered a happy surprise, a perfect reminder that when
you listen to outside negative voices instead of your own curious heart,
it's a dumb dumb dumb thing to do.
Hesitation and doubt are nothing but spoilers, eating opportunity alive
and diminishing the chance to find magic.
Now I know what all the fuss is about -- and it's worth the gamble.
Gorgeous Gordes is a bright spot on anyone's map and our little
re-negotiated side-trip was heaven sent.
Unlike most scenic villages, the best part is actually the approach.
Just be prepared for a few high pitched screams
as your vehicle makes its way up the hill.
The scene is so stunningly picture perfect, you won't be able to stop oohing
and ahhing until the car comes to a complete stop once inside the village.
If you want to experience that screeching-howling-magnificent sight again,
you'll need to walk back down hill (at your own peril) to the edge where you caught that first dramatic glimpse of gorgeous Gordes clinging to its rocky plateau.
The crowds are over-stated --- or at least they weren't bad the day we visited,
a bright beautiful morning in late May.
Either way, ignore the negative voices and raise your expectations.
Come early and enjoy.
we've come to expect -- a fortified castle, a couple of art museums, a
centuries old church, as well as a nice mix of galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
But what stands out most are the steeply cobbled streets filled with
pretty stone buildings and terracotta roofs.
Its harmony can only be described as exceptional.
Nothing looks shabby or ramshackle but rather
respectfully healthy in its very old age.
We enjoyed the spectacle of a small wedding party -- and they, in turn,
didn't seem to mind strangers snapping photos of their happy day.
It felt like a movie set -- which in reality, is not far from the truth.
Films such as Ridley Scott's "A Good Year" used the village square and its
pretty fountain front and center in the 2006 romantic comedy.
Fiery Russell Crowe and radiant Marion Cotillard's star power always shine
bright -- but in luminous Gordes, their light seemed to burn even brighter.
Gordes, after all, is dressed for success.
Surrounded by stone farmhouses, olive, poplar and almond trees,
this is truly a land of milk and honey -- and quite naturally,
honey -- not to mention wine -- is in abundance.
Arguably one of the most photographed fields of lavender is just a
few miles down the road at Senaque Abbey.
be denied, yet the very typical assortment of pottery, handicrafts and
up-market clothing doesn't annoy like it does in other popular places.
If it starts to get on your nerves, simply walk a few steps further
and bask in the panorama below.
This is, after all, an artist's city where famous luminaries such as Marc Chagall,
op artist Victor Vasarley and photo magician Willi Ronis
once gave birth to their miracles.
No doubt inspired by the rugged beauty of the village, these creative
geniuses -- and many others -- sought refuge in the tiny but stimulating town.
Peter Mayle published his epic "A Year in Provence", the hugely popular "bible"
of life as it should be lived -- starring, you guessed it, our town Gordes
and its nearby neighbor, Ménerbes.
But the so-called "Acropolis of the Luberon" wasn't always dripping in good fortune. During one of the more horrific moments of WWII, Gordes suffered
their own mean campaign of shock and awe.
Many local residents were slaughtered by the Nazis in retribution
for brave aid extended to a local arm of The Resistance.
The Axis power burned a dozen historical buildings to the
ground, including the village's centuries old archives.
For their suffering and bravery, Gordes received the Croix de Guerre,
France's highest military decoration honoring those
who fought for French liberty during WWII.
If you're the least bit curious, strike a happy medium and take a look.
You'll never know if you don't try.
After all, I almost scratched Gordes off my list -- and rather than it being a
travel headache, it was a stroke of luck and a happy introduction to the Luberon.
Put on your thinking cap and connect the dots -- it's the road map to magic.
Whether you've hit a travel slump or a navigational headache, loosening the
knots in your head will open up your heart to some sensational snooping.
Like Gordes, that famously over-wrought-over-hyped-over-promoted
(which must translate to "very worthwhile -- shhh -- keep it a secret")
village that's perched like a queen over the gloriously gorgeous
Luberon panorama, deep in the heart of Provence.
Art of the Deal?
That's so you.