France #2: Notre-Dame of Sénanque Abbey

Sunday, 27 October (morning) A hike to the Notre-Dame of Sénanque Abbey

After a couple of trips to the bakery for pastries (Stephen notes that he’s always loved the almond pastries and went back for 2nds), we started our stay in Gordes with what we thought might be a short hike to the Notre-Dame of Sénanque Abbey- maybe a couple of kilometers away. Up through the town of Gordes, past our favorite bakery with a side trip into a tucked away church, a game of quick tag in the town square, then onto side roads marked as hiking roads, through the edge of town, then up over and down, down, down the hill. 


Did we mention that there are a lot of stone walls around?

The countryside here is wild- filled with stones, caves, cacti, and other Mediterranean plants. It doesn't take long to walk out of domestication and into a much more desolate and open place. Ravines drop into impassable looking gorges. Hills lead up into headwalls. Caves open up in unexpected places. And the rocks are everywhere- piled into stone walls in part perhaps to clear up space to move, to plant, to live. 

The Abbey itself is apparently a quite famous tourist destination, but also a working Abbey (not continuously through history but for much of the last 60-80 years). We hiked down a hill and saw the Abbey peeping through the shrubbery, then gained more and more a sense of its size and scale as we descended the hill. The monks grow lavender here- not just a bit, but massive amounts of it. The lavender had been harvested but even the sheared plants give some sense of just how much was there. 

We poked a bit around the Abbey as much as we could, then found a spot for a picnic lunch: French baguette, cheese, and absolutely amazing pears. Chris and Stephen went exploring up the hill while Linda, Steve, Elizabeth and I worked our way more casually up the path. Met on the far side, found a treasure trove of snail shells, and made it back after a long while- total hike ended up being about 8 km round trip, so a bit further than expected (seems to be the story of our explorations).