“Beautiful Cities” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_0924 - CopyGordes is classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France, listed on Les Plus Beaux Villages de France website. This coveted destination is featured in movies, shown on glossy touristic brochures and considered one of the “in” villages for movie stars and others of the elite, dripping-with-money crowd.IMG_0926 - CopyJim and I parked our budget rental car down the hill from Gordes and we saw immediately to our right a Sotheby’s International real estate office with listings for the aforementioned crowd, not for the likes of us, or the other folks who shop with coupons beside us at the discount grocery outlet. The reflection in the glass window of the real estate office showed our faces covered in sticker price shock. Even the lowly can look.

We started our climb up the hill for the most photographed view. Thankfully, we had cool weather and a nice breeze. The parking places at the top fill very quickly, so we had parked below and we went with the full endurance experience. I can only imagine how uncomfortable all of this would be in high season during the heat of the summer. A massive motor home was turning in a U-turn at the top parking area, completing a miraculous feat. No summer visits for us! No motor homes on my agenda!

Then, we were there standing before the astounding view, seeing the houses of white and gray stone clinging to the hillside and wrapping their way to the top of the perched village which is crowned with a Renaissance castle and church. IMG_9302Narrow streets with cobble stones meander their way down past beautiful flowers and trees, small gardens and pools. IMG_9298We hugged each other and looked around at every possible angle, enjoying the exceptional charm of the famous village.IMG_9297The view from the phenomenal hillside is a panorama of the valley and mountains of the Luberon. The owners, lounging in the beauty of their homes and gardens, must surely see tourists atop the opposite hill, huffing and puffing back to the parking lot and motor homes narrowly avoiding the crunch of metal on stone walls. We called “Hey Ya’ll!” just in case. You wouldn’t want us to be unfriendly, would you?

This village compared to others was more uniform in appearance, especially the newer homes tucked away with their pools just beyond the hillside with the cascading beauty. Now, I’m not saying it was a cookie-cutter subdivision, but there was something about it that didn’t tug at my heart. Now, don’t get me wrong. Gordes was not awarded its place as most beautiful without good reason, and I would crawl on my knees uphill for the tiniest apartment if some generous soul would sign it over to me. Yet, would I feel at home?IMG_9310

Somehow, I just wasn’t drawn to it in comparison to other villages in France with more variation in appearance. Where were the chickens, donkeys and goats? I didn’t see any gnome ornaments in the garden, or laundry hanging from the window, or sheets flapping in the breeze on the clothesline.

Later, I found a list of general rules that stated: “All the new buildings in Gordes are made of stone and use terracotta roof tiles. No fences are allowed, only stone walls. All electrical and telephone cables have been put underground, except for some locations on the border of the commune not made already.” I’m sure this accounts for the uniform beauty of the community.

I’m all for preserving beauty. I hope you understand, but I have to get on with the story with high hopes that I am not pelted with cobble stones, or stale baguettes.

All of this reminded me of the time when Jim and I moved from Coconut Grove, Florida to Coral Gables, Florida. At the time, the lovely city of Coral, Gables, which claims to be “The City Beautiful” on its website, had many, various rules on architecture and scores of homeowner regulations. Most of the homes and gardens were polished perfection in uniform compliance. Meanwhile, basically across one street to the other side, Coconut Grove thrived with individuality, a lush, colorful treat with peacocks wandering the lanes. Some of the homes have large colorful murals on the walls facing the street, while down the street an English Tudor home seems transported from Britain. But we left this realm of creativity to cross the divide to the prim and proper for a few years. What were we thinking? We should have seen our mismatched clothing in the looking glass before we called U-Haul.

Shortly after we arrived, I cleaned the front porch of the pretty home with the traditional red barrel-tiled roof and I positioned our outdoor furniture on the large front porch with its decorative, black ironwork of swirling design which wrapped around the veranda. Our front yard was filled with hibiscus and other tropical flowers. The seat cushions on the porch daybed needed cleaning, so I took them to our walkway and grabbed the garden hose to wash them down with a small amount of liquid detergent and a brush. Sounds simple enough, right? While I was immersed in my quick cleaning job, a neighbor walked past and glared at me without returning my greeting. She quickly flipped out her cell phone. I grabbed my cushions and hurried to the front porch just in time before a community patrol car whipped around the corner to the front of the house. The evidence was gone, so he paused a minute and went on his way while I stayed inside peeking through the curtains. The seat-cushion police didn’t catch me flagrantly soaping-up the sidewalk. What could they expect from an Alabama redneck? I could have washed my dishes in the front yard instead of my flowery cushions. A friend of mine had plumbing problems, and he sent his pretty teenage daughters outside to wash the dishes with water from the garden hose at a picnic table. Now, get that picture Mr. Seat-cushion policeman! Oh, and by the way, we did move back to Coconut Grove within a few years. Just CLICK HERE to read more about the Coral Gables house where a movie was filmed before we arrived, and enjoy many stories about France.

Oh, I’m getting carried away. I’m probably just green with envy for the Sotheby listed mansions. Yet, I do love a dash of whimsy and enough freedom of expression for a person to feel happy with their personal space. Are you with me, or am I on a ledge by myself?IMG_0930 - CopyBack to Gordes which shares the title of “The City Beautiful” with Coral Gables, and each of these cities deserve all of the accolades. We went to the village of Gordes and nearby several times during our autumn visit, including a couple of days when the weather was threatening with heavy, dark clouds. I photographed Gordes and the surrounding area during this time when it was severely windy on the high plateau facing the gorgeous village. It was difficult to select only a few photos for the blog, so others will appear on Google+ and Facebook.IMG_0927 - CopyGordes has survived multiple invasions, the religious wars, the plague, two earthquakes, a bombing at the end of the Second World War and all the consequences including starvation and depopulation. Somehow, I believe it will survive my attempt at a blog story.IMG_0951 - CopyThank you kindly for visiting and please come again! Share the link with others if you would like.

2 thoughts on ““Beautiful Cities” – by Debbie Ambrous

  1. The location makes it a beautiful city, but I tend toward more individuality myself. I imagine that I am more of a Coconut Grove type than a Coral Gables or Gordes type. 😉

    • Hi Audrey,
      Seems that we think alike. I read a book since I wrote the blog and it described some of the homes as Bel Air, so it seems that I wasn’t off-track in my thoughts. However, the hillside featured in the blog and many others places is incredible. I couldn’t believe it was real! Thanks for your comment, very much!

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