Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Saint-Rémy-de-Provence’

Provence Odyssey | Saint-Rémy: Les Photos

You’ll excuse the photo overload, but of all the photos taken on my Provence trip, I think Saint-Rémy inspired the very best. Below I enclose 30 more of my favourite shots from this stay of 3 nights in the midst of the Provençal countryside, and as those photos aptly portray, it was a time surrounded by the very best of Mediterranean nature, by the quintessentially French sights of street markets, of savon, and of cafes, and an opportunity to be exposed by the Provençal landscape at its very best.

DSC03352 DSC03180 DSC04153 DSC04177 DSC04262

I think these photos pretty much stand alone in expressing the unbridled beauty of the region, and of the ravishing colours which met our every gaze. Of all the shots, I think the image of (what looked to be) a Monarch butterfly perched upon a lavender bushel is one of my favourites, the deep terracotta orange and black lace-like overlay resembling a wash of marmalade on toast upon a bed of the most fragrant lavender pillows. And then there were the bees and the cicadas, the buzzing of the former inescapable wherever lavender burst forth, and the chirping of the latter, the intrinsic accompaniment to paradise; the melody that partners a balmy Mediterranean afternoon.

From soft pony faces to the neon cerulean of a sun-dappled swimming pool, old rusty shop adverts to twisted freshly-harvested garlic bulbs, I present to you my third series of Provencal photo collections – Enjoy Saint-Rémy at its best, for we are off to Aix!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Provence Odyssey | Saint-Rémy: Day 8 – Picture-Perfect Provence

Much has been said about the surroundings of Saint-Rémy – the startling archeological remains of Glanum on its outskirts, the tranquil beauty of the Hospital of Saint Paul de Mausole, and the incredible beauty of nearby Les Baux – but I have said very little about the little town of Saint-Rémy itself. And it would be unfair not to give this little Provençal gem its fair mention, even though, as perhaps the photos below will demonstrate, the beauty of this town is better illustrated through photos than words.

For Saint-Rémy is one of those picture-perfect little towns about which the guidebooks rave, and the midwinter daydreamer, wrapped up against the cold, can only dream: A town of only 8 or 9 main streets, each winding around a charming central square with a trickling fountain at its centre, and a single local café covering the old cobbles with tables and umbrellas for those seeking solace from the sun. Radiating out from this centre point are clusters of little boulangeries, fish shops and delicatessens, while gift shops sell stylish selections of Marseille soap and bundles of lavender, all wrapped up and ready to go home where their sweet floral scent will imbue even the most dreary of homes with a Provençal perfume.

Saint-Rémy streets

DSC04266 DSC04212 DSC03748 DSC04267 DSC04244 DSC04211

Between the little boutiques, an impressive selection of high-end galleries are to be found – for Saint-Rémy has built itself a reputation as a rather chic Provençal destination, a town whose souvenir shops sell well-packaged, pastel-toned quality nicknacks of France, rather than the garish trade of lesser towns. And in its restaurants, freshly made cakes and pastries line up in the windows like the latest models of a fashion show, and menus de jour almost sparkle with pumped up prices and all the pomp of the promised culinary show.

Chic boutiques

DSC03843 DSC04254 DSC04217 DSC03138 DSC04263 DSC03131 DSC04246

Yes, Saint-Rémy is truly a gem of Provence, a town which is small enough to be unspoilt, charming and deeply atmospheric, yet sufficiently well-developed on the tourist map to bear all of the hallmarks of a sophisticated polished holiday destination. We were pretty much enamoured by the town from our first walk through its centre – by the narrow little streets, the delicately perfumed shops, the pastel-coloured shutters, old shop signs and bustling street markets. And on this, our last day in the town, we returned to those now accustomed haunts, once again gazing through the windows of the little boutique shops, enjoying the gentle pitter-patter of water in the fountain outside the town hall, and having a noisette or two (macchiato coffee) in the shady central square.

In short, we had found picture-perfect Provence, and were determined to make the most of it. For later that day, our planned departure would whisk us away once again, voyaging south to our final destination: the city of Aix. But before that, I leave you with some more of my photographic moments. Adieu.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Provence Odyssey | My Journey in Paintings: Beau Les Baux

When I was planning my trip to Provence, I always had in mind the kind of imagined utopia, where Dominik and I would walk, carefree, into lavender fields and poppy fields, he taking a rest amongst the sweet smelling flowers, and me setting out my sketch book and paint box, beckoning the Provençal muse to meet my embrace, inspiring me to transfer the glory of Provence to the blank pages of the sketch book before me. In this sense I suppose I am similar to so many artists who have gone before me; such as Van Gogh, who was so driven by the concept of establishing an artistic community in the region that he painted some of his best works just as decoration for the house which would be at the centre of that movement.

While Van Gogh’s dream was sadly never realised, my own artistic imaginings have, happily, come closer to fruition. After 6 days on the trip, I had already completed two works. As for my vision of utopia, well, Dominik had already found rest in amongst a Poppy field (as the photo below aptly demonstrates!), while in Saint-Rémy, we finally found the opportunity to stroll through lavender fields and olive groves, having got no closer to lavender in both Avignon and Arles than the bags of dried stuff littering up the souvenir shops.

Dominik takes a rest amongst the poppies, Oz style.

Dominik takes a rest amongst the poppies, Oz style.

But once Les Baux entered the equation, my artistic stirrings really began to take another stir, as with one glance at some of the most stunning mountain scenery in all of France, I became involuntarily, but very willingly sucked into another hypnosis of creative motivation, as the sweet-smelling lavender-haired Provence Muse took my hand in hers, and led me to a third page of my sketchbook to complete yet another ode to this paradise.

As I described yesterday, Les Baux-de-Provence could not help but inspire artists such as Yves Brayer to manifest the exquisite village and surroundings in paint, but then again Saint-Rémy’s impressive surroundings are surely worth their weight in inspirational gold also. So for my third painting, another of my freely-conceived “compositions” series, I couldn’t help but paint the limestone chateau-topped spur of Les Baux, its stunning surroundings of patchwork-quilt fields, and, in the distance, the ruins of St Remy’s great archaeological site, the Roman town of Glanum.

Composition No. 4 (Beau Les Baux) (© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2013, guache on paper)

Composition No. 4 (Beau Les Baux) (© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2013, guache on paper)

So there you have it: Composition No. 4 (Beau Les Baux). An undulating patchwork landscape, rocky citadel, blue skies and all topped off with a picnic of baguette, cheese, saucisson and of course a little wine. Ah…La Bonne Vie. I hope you enjoy it.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Provence Odyssey | Saint-Rémy: Day 6 – The Grandeur of Ancient Glanum

You join us in the Provençal village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a picturesque little town, at one time home to none other than Vincent Van Gogh, whose insatiable appetite for Provence’s mighty colour palate was more than satisfied by the staggering beauty of these undulating landscapes, peppered with olive trees and cypresses, with fields of golden wheat and others with lavender, and stood in the midst of them all, the towering limestone massif of Les Alpilles, a 24-km chain of mountains between the Rhone and Durance rivers.

Yet while the mighty majesty of the Alpilles mountain range towering above the horizon has the power to hold tourists and artists alike in its all-conquering grip, there is something else set amongst the foothills of this great imposing mountain range which has the power to inspire awe-struck admiration in equal measure: this time a structure built not by nature, but by man, but a structure so ancient and yet still so classically magnificent in all its detail and grandeur that it appears to have defied nature itself. For as it turned out, Van Gogh is far from being Saint-Rémy’s only attraction: For a mere stroll along from Saint Paul de Mausole, where Van Gogh was an inpatient for a year between 1889-1890, are the incredible ancient remains of the Roman town of Glanum, an archeological site which is so comprehensive that it is a rival to Pompeii; an ancient monument so beautiful that it glows like a precious crystal in the midst of the limestone hulk of the Alpilles around it, the vast mountains into which this ancient Roman town appeared to integrate so seamlessly as though nature herself had intended it.

DSC03508 DSC03520 DSC03524

The gateway to the Glanum remains is pretty startling: a triumphal arch built during the reign of Augustus and the Mausoleum of the Julii, said to be one of the most perfectly intact mausoleums remaining from ancient Rome. Both monuments are brilliant in their complexity and incredibly intact – and yet these imposing structures stand innocuously by the main road from Saint-Rémy to Les Baux, with no cordons, no tickets and no guards. The result is a superb opportunity to interact with the indomitable grandeur of Roman architecture, and to do so quite freely with neither impediment nor cost. And yet it worries me – for how long can these incredible structures remain in their current excellent state of preservation, when they are so unguarded from harm?

DSC03525 DSC03526 DSC03531 DSC03527 DSC03529

While this magnificent arch, which once formed the Northern entrance to the town of Glanum, was free to see, the remains of the town were not – but such was to be expected from an archeological museum almost as vast as the great remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum. And what they may have lacked in Pompeian decoration, they surely made up for in scale, in the variety of buildings discovered and on view, and in the magnificent setting of this town which, carved literally into the steep sides of the Alpilles must surely be strong competition for Pompeii’s Vesuvius-backdrop.

DSC03554 DSC03559 DSC03564 IMG_2825 DSC03655

Glanum, which today includes monuments aplenty, half-preserved temples, the remains of public baths, the roman forum, and several houses, was built in 27 BC but abandoned in 260 AD when it was overrun and destroyed by the Alamanni. Subsequent floods and weather conditions meant that the abandoned ruins of the town gradually became covered with sediment and mud, and there it lay, undiscovered, until excavations began to rediscover the town in 1921. Now it is one of Provence’s most visited sites, and one can see why. The scale of the find is pretty unique, and the ability to scale the steepsided valley of the Alpilles and see the town from above, with the modern Saint-Rémy in the distance is particularly special.

DSC03638 DSC03623 DSC03578 DSC03688 DSC03577 DSC03611 DSC03641 DSC03575 IMG_2814

We adored Glanum, and for us it provided a much unexpected cultural delight on the outskirts of a little town already proving to be so abundant in sensual delights for the earnest visitor. A hearty slice of history in an area so exuding charm; a man-made ancient monument which so artfully augments the beauty of its celestial natural surroundings.

DSC03591 DSC03612 DSC03644All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Provence Odyssey | Saint-Rémy: Day 6 – In search of Van Gogh (Part 2)

As Van Gogh neared the final climax of his prematurely shortened life, his movements around France, and the paintings which resulted, became more and more dominated by his health needs. In May 1889, after his famous ear self-mutilation incident in Arles and the hospital stay which followed, Van Gogh moved to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, some 20 miles North-East of Arles in the foothills of the Alpilles mountains, in order to voluntarily commit himself into the care of an asylum. That asylum was the hospital of Saint Paul-de-Mausole, set within the tranquil grounds of a former monastery to the south of Saint Remy, and was where Van Gogh set up home, with one room and an adjoining studio, for the next year of his life. Come May 1890, Van Gogh was off again in pursuit of medical assistance, moving to his final destination of Auvers-sur-Oise, this time to be nearer to Dr Paul Gachet. He would be dead some 3 months later.

Despite the nature of what some could see as a mental crisis dictating Van Gogh’s relocation to Saint-Remy, there are two undeniable factors about his stay in the town and the output that resulted. The first is that the asylum and the town to which he relocated are both exceptionally beautiful examples of Provence at its finest. The second is that, understandably, the paintings which resulted from this time are some of Van Gogh’s very best.

Painted in Saint-Rémy…

Wheatfield with Cypresses

Wheatfield with Cypresses

Irises

Irises

Mountainous landscape behind the hospital Saint Paul

Mountainous landscape behind the hospital Saint Paul

The Olive Trees

The Olive Trees

Cypresses

Cypresses

It was consequently to Saint Remy that we proceeded on this third leg of our Provence Odyssey, as much guided by the promise of a pretty mid-countryside town as by the legacy of Van Gogh which seeps into its very foundations. While a stroll around the pretty boutique-filled village proved that the town is abundant with its own Provençal charms, albeit on a far smaller scale than Avignon or Arles before it, it was in pursuance of Van Gogh’s story that we begun our explorations of Saint-Rémy, and the out of town stroll which this trail required.

Unlike Arles, whose exploration of the Van Gogh story left me somewhat wanting (there were postcards sure, and a café mock up on the Place du Forum, but where were the museums, the recreations of paintings, the story?), Saint-Rémy’s small but ample tourist office provides an excellent self-guided Van Gogh walking tour, which takes you out of the village and into the stunning surrounding countryside, in order to visit the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum where Van Gogh lived, and see recreations of his many Saint-Rémy based paintings along the route.

Right where he painted it - the Van Gogh walk brings his paintings to life

Right where he painted it – the Van Gogh walk brings his paintings to life

Van Gogh's hospital bed and easel

Van Gogh’s hospital bed and easel

Taking this route, we were delighted with the pastures new before us, strolling as we were along small residential and field-lined roads which we may never otherwise have discovered. While much of the landscape is a little more developed now than it might have been in VG’s day, as we neared the asylum, wide expanses of olive tree-lined fields started to open up before us, and with the wild craggy outline of the Alpilles mountains in the backdrop, and swirly dark cypress trees popping up all over the landscape, it really started to feel as though some of Van Gogh’s most famous landscape paintings were coming to life before our very eyes. For as the little VG walk soon made clear, the artist produced some of his best works in this little town, painting at his swirliest (for example his famous Starry Night and his depiction of cypress trees and swirly leafed olive trees) and his most imaginative.

Painted in the Saint Paul hospital…

Trees in the Garden of the Hospital Saint Paul

Trees in the Garden of the Hospital Saint Paul

The gardens of Saint Paul hospital

The gardens of Saint Paul hospital

The gardens of Saint Paul hospital

The gardens of Saint Paul hospital

Stone Bench in the garden of Saint Paul

Stone Bench in the garden of Saint Paul

Entrance Hall of Saint Paul

Entrance Hall of Saint Paul

And no wonder. As we turned into the high-stone walled gardens of Saint Paul-de-Mausole, filled with multi-coloured flowers moving slowly in the light breeze, I could not help but feel inspired myself. This reaction only grew, as we wandered through the former monastery, gazing in wonder and the beautiful sun drenched cloister, and then, behind the building, the stunningly manicured Provencal gardens, loaded with rows of lavender, sunflowers and poppy fields, creating the kind of floral backdrop which would have had Van Gogh painting feverishly all day long.

The landscapes and the hospital that inspired Van Gogh…

DSC03698 DSC03273 DSC03294 DSC03699 DSC03305 DSC03319 DSC03317 DSC03296 DSC03231

With only a camera to hand, Dominik and I met our own inspiration through the medium of photography, taking hundreds of photos of the flowers, the lavender, the old monastery and the surrounding landscapes, strolling around the gardens, mesmerized by the scent of flowers, and the low murmuring of hundreds of bees buzzing around the lavender bushes. This was true Provence – the true stunning countryside that the guidebooks had all promised.

Eventually we broke away, not only from the asylum, but also from our Van Gogh trail, for what we found just down the road from Saint Paul was an entirely unexpected, quite stunning historical treat – a find of such exciting archeological proportions that I’m going to devote an entire post to it! For that – see you tomorrow. And in the meantime, I leave you with the lavender, the poppies, the olive trees and the sunflowers that so inspired Van Gogh, and now me in equal measure.

Provence at its finest…

DSC03344 DSC03431 DSC03310 DSC03451 DSC03468 DSC03367 DSC03354 DSC03401 DSC03488

A demain.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.