Even if you spent two weeks in Provence, you wouldn’t run out of villages to visit. But whatever you do, don’t leave St-Remy-de-Provence, next to the Alpilles mountains, off your list. It is a popular town (maybe not so secret) however you will feel mesmerised by the Provencal charm and character. And it does have a secret spot for wonderful views…
Les Alpilles, like Mont Ventoux and the Luberon Mountains, run east to west. They’re characterized by limestone up-thrusts formed about 100 million years ago. Saint-Remy-de-Provence, or as the locals say, Saint Remy, is located at the base of very long and jagged limestone deposits. With a bit of imagination, they look like dragon teeth!
What to see in Saint Remy de Provence
The town is laid out in a circle and surrounded by tall plane trees. Shady squares and pedestrianised streets make this a great place to relax and enjoy a glass of local wine and watch the locals going about their day.
“Just above the town centre is the perfect viewpoint for lovers of Van Gogh’s paintings. Many of his most well-known artworks were created during the time he spent in the asylum at Saint Remy. Unlike other patients, Van Gogh was allowed to venture beyond the protective walls. Have you ever noticed the steeple in Starry Night? Remember his series of olive trees and the jagged mountains in the background? The sensory world of Van Gogh surrounds you in this magical spot above Saint Remy” says Emily Durant of Your Private Provence
Driving into Saint Remy de Provence, it is impossible not to notice the avenues of plane trees that are gnarled and knobbled like the arthritic hands of an old man. Their crowns are pollarded once each year, to keep them from knitting together over the road.
Plane trees are enormous, tolerant of pollution and drought. London plane trees are abundant on the streets of that city too, but in France, these avenues are celebrities themselves. They appear in the paintings of Sisley and his fellow Impressionists. They’ve even been cast in the films of Jean-Luc Godard. Novelist Colette of “Gigi” fame adored them apparently and Albert Camus the French writer, philosopher and winner of the 1957 Nobel Prize for literature, had a fatal connection with an avenue of plane trees.
Saint Rémy is 20km (12 miles) south of Avignon in Provence. A small town of around ten thousand Saint Rémy positively hyperventilates with life, a classy town oozing style and plenty of activity. It’s a living photo album. A blindfolded person could take stunning photographs in the ancient village. Hold up the camera, click. The boulevards, the narrow cobblestone streets that wind through the old city, the central shopping precinct and the fountains dedicated to the town’s most famous resident are all fodder for the photographer.
Saint Remy de Provence market
Every Wednesday, areas of the old town of Saint Remy fill with stalls just like the other markets dotted around regional France. There is something special about buying from these farmers. They’ve risen at dawn each day to coax their produce out of infanthood, through a maze of uncontrollable conditions dished up by the weather, to the perfect moment for harvest. Food is the focus of the markets but there are also clothes, Provençal fabric, linen and home wares.
Rows of neatly packed vegetables form a rainbow-like display. Tomatoes of every size and shape. Blush coloured apricots and squash the shade of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Incidentally, Van Gogh loved the colours of St Remy and many of his paintings were inspired by his time here. A sour dough baguette tempts the taste buds and caviar de tomate and fromage de chèvre call out to be eaten…
Take a tour of St-Remy de Provence with Your Private Provence – lavender, photography, truffles, wine and harvest, Christmas and more, perfect Provence tours.