Having Millie, our Golden Retriever, with us in France this Winter has been lovely. Not only is it nice to have her company about the house, it’s also meant that we have taken her on some delightful walks. Many are well trodden routes that we have got to know well over the years, but others less so.
I must admit that I am really enjoying having the option to take Millie for a good walk on the days that feel too windy or cold for me to really enjoy a cycle ride. It’s also been nice to be able to walk and chat with our eldest as I know it won’t be long before life fully takes him off into adulthood, so time spent together is very precious.
A couple of days ago though he headed off on the bike and I decided to pop across to the Abbaye de Senanque with the dog & walk back across the hill to Gordes.
We did this walk with the boys when they were much younger & it was really nice to revisit it, especially on a Tuesday, which is Market Day in Gordes.
The Abbaye de Senanque is stunning and known to so many people across the globe, thanks to the photos of it in the height of the Lavender Season, when it seems to sit in a sea of the purple flowers. At this time of year though, it is a truly peaceful place, with the beautiful corduroy fields, striped with the dormant lavender plants.
The Abbey itself was founded in 1148 with the first Church being consecrated there in 1178 and it has been considerably developed since then. Although it has been subjected to change and has witnessed some turbulent times over the centuries – it has survived and is now home to a community of Cistercian Monks, who work to tend the Lavender, keep bees and produce a range of products for sale both from the on site shop and online. The Abbaye is open to the public for visits and more information can been found on its website http://www.senanque.fr/accueil-senanque.htm
But for the purposes of this walk it is a great starting point, parking in the car park to the side of the Abbaye & following the stony track that leads away to the left, starting to climb through the woodland towards Gordes.
The route is highlighted with red & white striped markings, painted on stones & trees along the route as you quickly climb away from the car park.
The trail is made of loose stone & is quite steep in places, but you quickly find yourself looking down on the Abbaye and getting a very different perspective on the building with its cloisters and refectory, as well as the beautiful original structure & bell-tower.
The stone path continues to rise steeply until it meets the road, at the Côte de Senanque, where you have incredible views into the steep-sided valley that runs behind the Abbey…..
But also a vast landscape, where you can see not only the folded flanks of The Luberon, but also the jagged peaks of the Alpilles towards St Rémy and beyond.
Eventhough it’s still chilly at the moment it was just delightful to sit on one of the large stones on the edge of the road, watch the view and enjoy the absolute peace…..
I am sure that in the Summer this road would be much busier, but in mid-February it is incredibly peaceful and easy to pass time simply enjoying the moment and if I’m honest, taking a little breather after the climb up!
From here you walk about 50m along the road before taking another stony path to the right, marked again with red & white stripes and signposted to Gordes.
This path continues down through the garrigue, shaded by low-growing trees and shrubs.
After a few hundred metres you reach a crossroads turning right then immediately left (almost straight on) and on down the hill.
Here the path is bordered by beautiful old dry stone walls that open occasionally into Olive Groves or swell to form the side of a traditional stone ‘borie’, so typical of the area.
Again it is well-marked and although uneven provides a nice off-road path offering occasional views towards Gordes, reassuring you that you are heading in the right direction.
Eventually you arrive at a small tarmac side road……
…….. turning left and following this until you meet a larger road, turning right to walk down towards the main route to the village, meeting it on the junction next to a building with a pretty open-sided roof terrace.
Here you can turn right and continue down the hill for a few hundred metres to the viewpoint, which gives incredible views of the village and the valley beyond.
It’s a view I never tire of and even though I stop there every time I pass, I am still happy to sit on a stone & just smile at the sheer beauty of the setting – it is one of my ‘happy places’ at any time of year.
From the viewpoint it is only a short walk back up the road and round into the village itself, where there are plenty of ‘dog-friendly’ cafés and restaurants to sit at, have a drink and watch the world pass by.
Alternatively just get a coffee from the boulangerie opposite the church and sit on the stone shelf on the sunny back wall of the Chateau, which is always a nice place to sit and indulge in some serious people-watching.
From Gordes you follow the same route back to the Abbaye, using the signpost for the ‘No Through Road’ towards Les Dilais
……. as the marker to head back towards the off road path.
The walk is just under 2.5 km in each direction and can just as easily be done the other way around, starting from Gordes. I must admit though I enjoy finishing in the peaceful setting of the Abbaye, somehow it just feels better that way around.
One thing is for certain though and that is that we do have a very happy & well-exercised dog!