The Chaine des Alpilles have been described more than once as like the crests of a series of waves. At the northern end of this surge you will find St Remy de Provence and its population of about 9,500 souls. This is where Van Gogh did some of his best work while undergoing psychiatric care and treatment. I t is one of a number of unspoilt and beautiful villages, and a great base in which to explore more of this inspiring area. There is little of modern development to go through before reaching the boulevards of the older part of town. To the south is a Roman arch, the old Roman quarries and the ruins of their ancient town of Glanum.
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The local tourist office can guide you towards various routes for those on foot, horseback or cycle and will be able to give you addresses for hire places as well as the local gliding club. The only disadvantage to the area is that because of fears of fires, certain places may be out of bounds during the summer heat. The town likes to celebrate and so there are festivals, more than one a month, throughout the year so there is plenty to get involved in from Bastille Day – here for some reason this lasts two days and includes the running of bulls through the town. In September there is a 6 day festival in honour of the town’s patron saint. In mid winter there are lots of concerts and specially extended Christmas markets. There is a sheep migrating festival known as the Fête de Transhumance- I bet that is a new one to you, and a horse fair. On May day there are donkey drawn floral floats and in mid August the Carreto Ramado – a combination of Christian and political symbolism as a harvest thanksgiving. There are free concerts each Saturday during the summer so something for all.
Naturally the town has an attraction for those who like Van Gogh, and who doesn’t. There are often exhibitions of his works to be seen as well as reproductions, because of course his work is now scattered in museums all over the globe. Nostradamus was born here in 1503 and you can visit his house. Did you know that among many other things he wrote a cookery book?
Food and Drink
The town is where to buy many local food products, in particular those usually associated with the French 13 desserts of Yuletide, so look out for candied fruit, chocolates, nuts, nougat and many other goodies, though I cannot tell you how to keep them until Christmas. For live jazz to help those gastric juices to flow go to La Gousse d’Ail in Boulevard Marceau on Wednesdays.
Bistrot Découverte – 19, Boulevard Victor Hugo – 13210 St-Rémy-de-Provence – Tel no: 04.90.92.34.49, 16€
La Maison Jaune, 15, Rue Carnot, 13210 St Rémy de Provence
Tel no: 04. 90. 92. 56. 14, 56€
This is a three star hotel once featured in one of Van Gogh’s pictures and has more than it’s fair share of charm as well as a swimming pool. It can get busy and quite lively – not perhaps for those who want a real hideaway. The restaurant is open to visitors with menus from 25 euros, or just sit under the plane trees outside with a cool drink and a snack.
If you prefer to self cater, a style which gives you a little more freedom perhaps on a viewing trip then the tourist office should be able to supply a list of local gites to rent.
From renting of course one goes on to consider buying. If this is the area for you remind yourself that there will be a lot of other people in the same position, so , while not rushing at the first thing you see don’t put off until next time what you can do now. Contact Sextant properties who can put you in touch with a good local bi-lingual immoblier, someone with whom you can discuss your particular wants and priorities, and perhaps just as important what you don’t want. Work out a budget first, allowing for any extras and before very long you will be off on your search for your future in St Remy de Provence.