Day Trip 4 - From Rome to Van Gogh: St-Rémy-de-Provence (Eygalières, Les-Baux-de-Provence)
St Rémy pulls in the tourist coaches for a good reason. Compact and attractive centre ville, extensive market, pretty shops, the Roman ruins of Glanum, famous residents like Van Gogh and Nostradamus, gnarly Alpilles as a backdrop and plenty of eating and drinking places give it wide appeal.
The drive from the Isle is pretty simple with one proviso. Driving towards Cavaillon, we would recommended that you skirt the town and its big lump of hill by choosing the route that runs between the river and said hill. This misses the centre of town and delivers you right to the bridge you need to cross the Durance. Then drive west on the D99 to St Rémy.
The ruins of the Roman city of Glanum sit to the south of the town. The painter Vincent van Gough was a self-admitted patient at the Saint-Paul du Mausole from May 1889 to May May 1890. He painted many of his best know works in the grounds and surrounding area including the gnarly provençal trees and rocky outcrops of the Alpilles. The grounds of St Paul are a tranquil oasis after the chaos of market day down in the town centre. The gardens are lovely and the lavender out the back was more in flower than much we have seen in the area in early June. Since my last visit 10 years ago they have put up a lot of reproduction works in the grounds in a way that adds to the experience. The area upstairs where the recreated bedroom is found has some interesting panels (bilingual) describing psychiatric treatment at the time. For example, there is a bath with a restraining cover where those with mania could be doused in cold water without warning to shock them out of their disturbed thinking - well that was the theory. This upstairs area is very small and you are best to go when there are no tour groups or crowds around. €4.65 admission charge.
The Wednesday morning markets make the town come alive but the attractive and very walkable town centre boasts lots of shops and restaurants and is always pretty populated over the summer.Many good restaurants but we think L'Estragnol has a lovely setting. This is part of our Tripadvisor review:
"St Remy might not be on the seaside but the oysters seemed have been just chipped off the rock and the bouillabaisse had the aromas of a Marseilles port restaurant. This is mainly a seafood restaurant but the lamb with cream and garlic sauce was delicious. We had the 34 Euro menu and enjoyed all our choices. There was a cheaper menu still with three courses and an even cheaper, simpler lunch menu with a choice of two dishes and then a coffee/dessert plate to follow. This restaurant has such a gorgeous courtyard it would be a shame to come when one had to dine inside."
Geographically it would make sense to include Eygalières and Les-Baux-de-Provence in this route, both towns in The Most Beautiful Villages of Provence book. We have been to St Rémy about three times without making this inclusion but they are on the list.