Four villages in the Gard department wear the classified ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’ label. But there are more hidden gems to discover, like charismatic Goudargues in the heart of the Cèze valley. Known as the little Venise of the Gard, you can stroll along the tree-lined canal and have a lovely lunch in the shade of the centuries-old plane trees while overlooking the gentle babbling water.
In Goudargues, water has played an important role for centuries, as the presence of a spring made the place interesting to live in. The remains of a Roman villa and baths from the 3rd century- discovered when building the primary school- prove this. In the 8th century, Benedictine monks dug a canal from the spring to their monastery. This way, they could irrigate their crops and activate a mill to press olive oil and another for grain. The monastery didn’t stand the test of time though, and the only remnant is the Notre Dame de Caseneuve chapel.
Quai de la Fontaine
Nowadays, the spring still waters some vegetable gardens before it flows back to the Cèze river. But the canal mainly serves to prettify Goudargues. And it does a good job! Although the village is small, with just over 1,000 inhabitants, it’s worth visiting to have a stroll along the water. Especially the Quai de la Fontaine which is a sight to behold. I had a roam around some cute shops with local products, colourful baskets, and the inevitable souvenirs and knickknacks. The terraces along the quay looked tempting, but I continued my way to the right at the Avenue de l’Écluse. At the end of the canal is the former olive oil mill, now a private residence.
Taking another right brought me to the former washing place. As I was visiting on a warm summer day, it was a welcoming break to put my feet into the cold water of the basin. The lavoir was in such a good state that I could easily imagine the old times when women did their laundry there. This washing place dates from the 19th century, and you can still see the bronze frog watching over it.
Opposite the lavoir, I visited the Salle Capitulaire which regularly hosts various art exhibitions. I could already see the abbey church towering above the lower village houses. Parts of the ‘l’abbatiale’ still date from the 12th century, while most of it was renovated in the 19th century. Coming back at the ‘sourcette’ fountain, I had completed my Goudargues round and decided to finish it with an ice cream on the terrace of the Gelato bar. Not without peeking in the brocante shop next door, of course…