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where the eagles nest–gourdon

Have you wondered what it would be like to fly a paraglider? Have you watched a hawk making circles and imagined what it was seeing? When I was younger, I wanted to be Superman so I could plunge from the sky and then dart up, here and there, high above the ground.

I am not sure I would want to skydive. I don’t want to jump from a plane and then depend on the chute to carry me safely back to earth. But that crazy decision would permit a descent that I could control, somewhat. I would be high in the sky, and I could watch the toy houses and the Hot Wheels cars become too big. I could learn to manipulate the parachute cords, so I could move about, somewhat.

Another possibility would be more simple and less dangerous and, I am sure, would be less expensive. I might drive a car up a long, windy road to a village perché, high high in the mountains, park it, walk a short way to a wall that would keep me from plunging to my death should I become a bit woozy from a tad bit of vertigo. From the edge of the wall, I could then gaze down and far away and not worry about flying anything or pulling the wrong cords.

Gourdon is a village perché that offers extra-ordinary views from high up. It sits on a promontory about 760 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. From the edge of the village, one can look out over the valley of the Loup River, but gaze down as well, straight down, a precipitous drop, without fearing of losing ones way.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

In addition, Gourdon is noted for being designated as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. That means many more visitors than an “ordinary” village. That means gift shops and tourist menus and tourist buses and more moments for stepping aside to let others pass.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Queen Victoria, who loved southern France, visited Gourdon in 1891. A door has a plaque honoring her visit.

Gourdon is small. Singularly small. It has one short main street and a few side streets. Every where it is evident that the village has been carefully restored. (One wonders if anyone lives there.) Doors open to a glass blower and artisan shops selling perfumes, crafts, honey, nougat, paintings on silk.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Gourdon is old. It has a 9th century Château de Gourdon that was rebuilt during the 16th century. It has a Museum of Decorative Arts, a Medieval Museum, and surrounding it are gardens that Andre le Notre designed.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Unfortunately, the Château is closed. It is privately owned: « En 2015, le château a été fermé au public et appartient à une famille parisienne. »

One can visit the L’église Saint-Vincent, built in the 17th century. At one time it was the chapel for the Château du Gourdon.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I noticed that tourists tended go into shops or sit and drink rosé and pastis on a terraced cafe near the entrance to the village. Since many were in groups, they tended to stick together and not bother with some side streets that looked residential. I found myself alone. Hint.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I must admit though that some tourist shops looked fun and colorful. I have wandered into some on occasion and walked out with some wonderful artisanal jams and honeys.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

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