Saint-Remy- de-Provence… some words need to be savored, softly spoken out loud and pronounced gently to explore their special brand of magic. Let the syllables tenderly roll from your tongue, and you might start to get a feel for the allures of this vibrant little town that has been enticing artists, world-citizens, and bon-vivants for centuries.
Saint-Remy: A Provencale town like no other
Located at the foot of the Alpilles National Park mountain range, Saint Remy offers the kind of soul-healing glory that only 300 days of sunshine per year can convey. It seduces its visitors’ palates with dozens of restaurants offering exquisite cuisine based on local products, and surprises them with quirky art offerings and quaint art galleries located throughout the narrow streets of the historic center. St Remy is truly the poster child for that unfathomable, typical Provencal je-ne-sais-quoi country town-charm.
Throughout the centuries, famous faces have been drawn to St. Remy like sexy bees to live-giving honey, and notable stars like Nobel prize winner Albert Schweitzer, who was interned here in 1918, have graced the French country town par excellence with their presence. Marie Gasquet, Provencale novelist and queen of the Felibrige, a literary and cultural association created to defend and promote the Provencal/ Occitane language and literature, was born here. Also, ethereal princess Caroline de Monaco chose St. Remy as a refuge for herself and her children after the tragic passing of her second husband Stefano Casiraghi.
The charms of the Provencal countryside even managed to entrap some talented musicians lately – pretty hardcore fellows if you ask me, who would almost certainly never cross your mind when thinking of this laid-back location. Any guesses? Alright, alright, I´ll spill the beans: Only this year, world-renowned Heavy-Metal-Band Rammstein picked St. Remy as their studio-location to record their latest album here. They might be cuddlier than their tough exterior leads on, after all!
A treat for art-lovers: Follow in Van-Goghs´footsteps
St. Remy´s magnetism does not only work its magic on expressive heavy-metal-men, though. Simply make up your own mind while strolling along the picturesque boulevards under the shade of the ancient plane trees, feeling the mistral-wind blowing against the side of your face and the warmth of the sun on your skin. By the way (pun intended), have you spotted any Van-Gogh-route-stops yet?
These stops are hard to miss, really! At several places in and around town, the signposts make reference to places that super-famous ear-cutter and inspired artist Vincent Van Gogh frequented while in town. The Dutch expressionist spent a year at the psychiatric hospital of St.Paul-de-Mausole in 1889. He created many of his most acclaimed works there, and he also found inspiration among the town´s beautiful olive gardens and cypresses, in the rugged Alpilles mountains and smack in the middle of the village.
A treat for lovers of the otherwordly: Pass by Nostradamus´birthhouse
Another hot spot, in this case for history lovers and astrology-aficionados, has to be Nostradamus´(Dec 14th, 1503- July 2nd, 1566) birthplace. I have to confess: I got really, really excited about this one! The house really doesn´t look like much, but knowing that those walls housed legendary seer, doctor and astrologer Michel de Nostredame was enough for me to feel kinda awe-struck. While the walls didn´t give away too many secrets, my imagination wandered off to construe how the life of this extraordinary being must have looked and felt like.
Like many doctors in medieval times, Nostradamus was a trained astrologer who incorporated astrology into the healing arts in order to aid in diagnosis, prognosis and even treatment. He worked mostly with the plague-stricken and published yearly almanacs – our friend Wikipedia clarifies that this is an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables.
The latter propelled his rise to fame during his lifetime, and his much-referred to prophecies only furthered his popularity. He managed to become a household-name for more than 450 years! Michel definitely outdid his 17 (!!!) siblings there! Curious abut what the big deal regarding his supposed psychic powers is? Take a peek here and be prepared to be dazzled.
A treat for everyone: French restaurants to revere
If you feel peckish after that much history, you´ll be spoilt for choice when in Saint-Remy-de-Provence! For a delicious French meal-experience, head to “Toute Epoque”, a typical French restaurant which offers fixed menus in the evenings. Alternatively, enjoy yummy buckwheat or dessert crepes and refreshing house cider at the charming little restaurant “La Celtie”. Or just let yourself be drawn into one of the many other lovely eateries in this quintessential French town.
What about you, dear reader? Have you ever been to Southern France? And if not, do you feel drawn to visit a particular place, town or area there? As always, I would love to hear from you!
Handy information part:
- Where is this town? Saint Remy de Provence is located about 20 km south of Avignon and just north of the gorgeous Alpilles mountain range. It´s easily accessible by the TGV (France´s high-speed-train), with the train station 20 km away from town. The closest airports are situated in papal-palace-place Avignon, noisy yet noble Nimes and messy, marvelous Marseille.
- To find the Van-Gogh-route stops, simply stroll along town or go prepared by checking out the according website here.
- Nostradamous birthplace is located on Rue Hoche 6, Saint Remy de Provence, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France. As far as I know, you can´t head inside – still fun to marvel at the famous seer´s provenance!
- For mouthwatering French cuisine, try the Toute Epoque restaurant, located on 21 Place de la Republique, 13210 Saint-Remy-de-Provence, or cozy La Celtie at 9 rue du 8 Mai 1945, 13210 Saint-Remy-de-Provence.