I had heard a lot about market day in Saint-Rémy, so it was high on my list of places to visit while I was in Provence. I traveled there by bus from Avignon, which brought me right into the heart of the market. It was packed! It was overwhelming! There were so many vendors and so many shoppers that it was tough to move about. I did do a little shopping, especially for fragrant lavender, before making my way out of the throngs and to the Tourism Office. There, the very helpful woman gave me some ideas of sights to see that would be less crowded.
My first stop was les Antiques, the oldest Roman triumphal arch in France and a perfectly preserved mausoleum. They marked the entrance to Glanum, a fortified town on the Via Domitia, the Roman road that connected Gaul to Italy. I had hoped to also visit Glanum, but the heat was so intense at over 100 degrees Farenheit (or 40 degrees Celsius) that I just couldn’t face exploring stone ruins without a scrap of shade. So it was off to lunch.
On my way to les Antiques, I had noticed Villa Glanum, an inn and restaurant. They had salads on the menu, and that was exactly what I was in the mood for. I opted for roasted beet and sweet potato, with a big wedge of feta, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious and just what I needed to continue my explorations.
Basically opposite the inn was the entrance to Saint-Paul de Mausole, the asylum where Vincent van Gogh was treated for a year. The route from Saint-Rémy to the rest home is dotted with reproductions of van Gogh’s works in the places where he painted them. It was quite inspiring to look at gnarled old olive trees and wonder if they were exactly the same ones the artist had painted. Inside the rest home, I saw the cloister of the former monastery where van Gogh and other patients were free to wander as well as the artist’s tiny, cell-like room. I could see why he felt cured after a year of this peaceful, simple life and why he was able to paint some of his most famous works, including The Starry Night.
The woman in the Tourism Office had suggested some particularly photogenic spots in town, and now that the market was wrapping up, I was able to actually see the ancient stone buildings. Saint-Rémy is the birthplace of Nostradamus, author of that book of mysterious predictions from the sixteenth century, and there is a fountain in his honor. After a pleasant wander through the little streets, I took the bus back to Avignon and my blessedly air conditioned hotel.