Vaucluse (84190) Population: 612 Altitude: 400 m
Gigondas is a small Vaucluse village with a great namesake wine, tucked between vineyards and the flanks of the Dentelles de Montmirail hills. The village is located a few minutes off the main roads. Amenities are limited but adequate, with a selection of restaurants, variable café(s) [see below] and hotel. Gigondas village tempo is quieter than the busier and more touristy nearby places.
Visitors are drawn to Gigondas for the wine and for the hiking. Village sites include Medieval fortification walls, 11th-century Ste-Catherine's church with period campanile and sundial, covered lavoir, ancient fountains and a some narrow hillside streets. The ruins of the ancient fortifications extend up from the rocky ridge high above the village, and most of the old defensive wall still runs down from the top along the east edge of the village. High to the right, the ruins of the castle of the Princes of Orange still stand sentinel over the village and vineyards below.
The main village square is large and nicely shaded by huge plane trees, with an old fountain on one side and the ever-present wine "caveaux" where you can taste several variations of the superb Gigondas wine, and of course obtain a few bottles to take home.
Out to the left (north) of the village, on the road up to the Dentelles Montmirail, the ancient Chapelle Sts-Cosme extends up out of the forest on a hilltop, giving an added medieval feeling to Gigondas.
Variable Village Cafés
We didn't find a classic café open in the village of Gigondas. There is a substitute, the picturesque Epicerie, but that shop's café offerings are limited. Service by the the proprietress is great, but the shop is intended more for groceries, fruit-vegetables, post office, tabac and museum. It makes a reasonable stop-gap café, but it's just not the same, and there's no terrace.
With a typical case of poor timing, we did see a closed-up café on the main street, open six days a week, except for Wednesdays. We were visiting, of course, on a Wednesday. The Café-Restaurant "Les Copains d'Abord" advertises a open-air grill in its shaded garden.
A vintage, early 20th-century, schoolroom is on display in the Gigondas cultural center. It's set up for about six months every year, from Nov to April. During the summer months, the private (and barely funded) group responsible presents the display in other villages.
The collection was started when a couple discovered an old school was throwing out all the old desks and other out-of-date school materials.
We were talking to the lady in the Gigondas "Epicerie" about jams and jellies. She told us she made jam from dandelions. We've often eaten dandelion salad and of course we know of dandelion wine, but the jam was new to us. She said she used about 350 dandelion flowers for every pot of jam, that it was very good, and tasted quite a bit like honey.
Village WC Coins Issue
There is a public toilet in the village, a modern automat style. A village toilet is a pretty good idea, especially since there's no village café that could provide that important service. Unfortunately, the automat style, which costs 20 centimes, takes only 10- or 20-centime coins only; 50-centime or 1-euro coins need not apply.
This might seem like a very minor issue in the greater scheme of life, but it could be a serious embarassment to a desperate tourist with a limited coin purse.
A large, very old sundial is on the front of the Sainte Catherines church at the top of Gigondas village. It's an afternoon-only sundial; at the end of March (2017) the sun first touched the face at 11h15 (with daylight saving time having started the week before). In our photo taken at 11h05 (12h05 daylight saving time), the shadow indicates 10h20.
A very small and also very old, sundial is etched into the front of the Saint Cosme chapel, high up near the left side of the transept facade. It's missing the pointer, but the engraved dial is still very clear.
St Cosme Chapel
The Chapelle Saint-Cosme et Saint-Damien de Gigondas is located 800 m (12 minute walk) north of Gigondas village.
The chapel (also spelled "Saint Côme") was built in the 11th century. It's not know if it was left unfinished, or completed and then partially destroyed in the 16th century. It is known that the chapel was rebuilt in the 17th century, but the larger part, the nef, is today an exposed ruin.
History of Gigondas
First record, 951 Jocundatis (probably Roman)
Prehistoric: Built against the cliffs, Gigondas has many prehistoric artifacts, including polished axes and bronze-age furniture.
Gallo-Roman: Roman artifacts found here include the head of a statue, coins, tiles and urns.
Medieval: Gigondas was a "Seigneurie" of the Principality of Orange.
July - Opus 99, Theatre de Verdure; chambre music of Gigondas
Sep (1st weekend) - Fete Votive - Village Festival
• GPS: 44.164159, 5.005164
IGN (1/25,000) #3040 ET "Carpantras, Vaison-la-Romaine"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #27 "Ventoux"
Gigondas is at the base of the rugged Dentelles de Montmirail, and clearly-marked hiking trails go from the village up into these beautiful hills.
There are some good dining possibilities in Gigondas, from the very nice Restaurant (and hotel) L'Oustalet to the Pizzeria De Luca. LOustalet menus range from 60 to 96 euros (2017). We ate at the Carré Gourmand which has a sunny terrace just off the main town square, and offers salads and "plats chauds" in the under 15-euro range.
Department 84, Vaucluse Buses
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 2: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map [Plan global des lignes] and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Avignon has train or bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Saint Remy-de-Provence, Paris.
• Cavaillon has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Saint Remy-de-Provence.
• Pertuis has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.