Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a fine example
of a charming rural French village with a special character of its own. Definitely worth visiting, the village is
located about 12 miles or 20 kilometers south of Avignon in the heart of Provence. It’s a good destination any time, but extra
special on a Wednesday morning with the outdoor food and flea market going strong, as we’ll
show you coming up soon in the program. Provence in the south of France is famous
for its outdoor markets and you’ll find the market at Saint-Rémy is one of the best. But just simply walking the pedestrian lanes
of this small town any day of the week is probably the most interesting thing you could
do here and we are going to show you all the places to see. The village center is small enough that you
can just walk any place you like, it doesn’t take long, and you won’t get lost, but this
map route gives you some idea of a sequence of lanes you can easily walk through the little
town. That would only take you about one hour altogether
to cover the entire village, but of course you’ll want to linger, do some shopping,
take some pictures and look around. St-Rémy’s Old Town used to be surrounded
by a circular protective wall, which has been replaced by modern busy streets, but the effect
of a sheltered refuge remains, with many structures inside going back to the 15th and 16th centuries.  Several old gates in the original wall remain
standing, a vestige of the Middle Ages, and they still lead you into the village. Entering from any angle will bring you to
the center in a few minutes, but perhaps the “front door” is the town’s main street,
Rue Carnot, on left side of the big church of Saint-Martin. This impressive neoclassical church is quite
large for such a small town. Rue Carnot leads into the small shopping district
with several pedestrian lanes, no cars allowed here, that forms a little retail “downtown.” Continue walking a couple of blocks east along
Rue Carnot and you’ll reach several more shopping lanes. One could easily wander up and down for an
hour or two in this heart of St-Remy, with lovely shops and a quiet pedestrian atmosphere,
featuring dozens of stores in surprising variety for such small village center. Indeed you’ll find that wandering along
on these pedestrian lanes is the number one activity for any visit to St Remy, except
for you shoppers: it might take you a couple of days to get through town. You’ll find several other little quaint
pedestrian lanes here, all converging in the vicinity of the little Place Joseph Hilaire. Rue Lafayette has more shops, and narrow Rue
de la Commune is especially nice, extending 100 meters from here with a lineup of traditional
shop fronts ending back at that picturesque, arched, gateway of Saint-Pauline, a remnant
of the old encircling wall. Passing through this gate is another typical
way that many people enter the old town because there is parking in this area and it leads
into that lovely street of Rue de la Commune, a lane that has been recently renovated with
new paving to make it delightfully attractive, which has rejuvenated this lane as a prime
shopping location. This video was photographed during three different
visits to St-Remy over the last decade and if you look carefully at the streets you’ll
see some changes with these renovations of the new paving that’s gone in. It’s been a major upgrade to the town and
really makes it a more pleasant place to stroll around. While St Remy may not have any spectacular
monuments or ruins in town, it has got a special charm of its own, nicely enhanced by the new
paving and renovated shop-fronts, which still retain their historic character. It’s the archetypical Provencal village. At the end of a two-week journey through the
South of France, we looked back on these brief hours in St Remy as some of the most enjoyable
of the whole trip. There are some poster boards about van Gogh
in the town and scattered around the outskirts that clue you into where he made some of his
paintings. Another favorite artform here is pottery. A lot of handmade pottery, and the yellow
and green are the theme colors of Provence, in, the fabrics as well as in the ceramics. A little hard to bring home, but you might
get a small piece and pack it carefully. Pottery and ceramic sculptures are very popular
in the region. And this little gallery is typical in that
the owner’s mother was main potter. You’ll find the artist craftsman very often
running their own shops here. The town itself relies on tourism primarily
nowadays, so you’ll find wonderful little shops with artistic goods, little squares,
beautifully maintained, of course. Everything here is very clean and yet it’s
not modern, it’s in the old style. Of course, the French love their dogs and
they bring them everywhere, into restaurants and food stores and out for a walk. It’s always amusing to watch the interactions
between a little dog and a big dog. Here’s a friendly face-off, no barking, probably
a couple friends who know each other, and then a sprint to safety, along with the mistress
heading back home. The most famous person associated with Saint-Rémy
is Vincent van Gogh, who lived nearby in the hospital for about a year during which he
created over 150 paintings including some of his most famous like Starry Night. He only created one painting in the village
and that was of the boulevard that still runs around and you can see those same trees today. At the end of the program will drive out and
have a quick look at the hospital he stayed at. Getting to Saint-Rémy without a car can be
a challenge because there is no train station nearby. You take the bus, public bus from Avignon
or you can take a public bus from Arles. From Avignon, for example, go on bus number
54 and that’ll take you about one hour to get to Saint-Rémy. And the bus services not very frequent. It’s every hour or sometimes every two hours
during the middle of the day. A good option if you’re staying in Avignon
or Arles without a car is to buy into a day tour that’ll go visit some other nearby places
such as Pont du Gard and Nimes. Don’t expect to run into a lot of street musicians
in this little town, but occasionally you might get lucky and walk along with an impromptu
sidewalk jam. [music plays] The town does have one famous person who was
born and grew up here, and that is Nostradamus, born in 1503. He was famous as a man who could supposedly
foretell the future. He wrote a book called The Prophecies, which
were actually vague, poetic ramblings that really predicted nothing. But he’s famous and he was great for other
reasons, and so he’s commemorated here in town with a statue and a fountain, on Rue
Nostradamus, at the corner of Rue Carnot. Nostradamus was a brilliant doctor who was
ahead of his time in trying to encourage hygiene as a way of controlling disease. The plague was running rampant in France at
the time. Burning rat-infested rags and sterilizing
graves of the victims, feeding patients garlic, vitamin C, and aloe, all of which had antibacterial
properties, and generally maintaining clean hygiene as a way of controlling the disease. Later he went on to become the physician to
Catherine de Medici and King Henry. Continuing to another highlight of this neighborhood,
Place Favier is a picturesque square in the center, surrounded by ancient, ivy-covered
buildings, some going back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  The entire village has charm but this particular
square is extra special, with the small castle tower rising above, and old stone walls all
around with a fountain monument at the end. This peaceful little park is a good place
to listen to the Tourist Information Office description which says “in this village
in the heart of Provence you’ll find all the charm of a typically Provençal way of life. You will be strolling along under the shade
of century-old plane trees wandering around the narrow little streets, discovering squares
where fountains play, and the attractive boutiques and art galleries that make the town’s historic
center so lively.” Adjacent to Place Favier, through a cobbled
alley spanned by an ancient arch, is the Hôtel de Sade, still owned by the family of the
Marquis de Sade who had ancestral connections with this town. The medieval atmosphere of the lane is complemented
by the small Musée des Alpilles in a former Renaissance mansion, whose original inner
stone courtyard is encircled by galleries featuring archaeology, ethnology, graphics
and photography. Some of the historic artifacts in the museum
are ancient Roman remains that were excavated from Glanum, the historic site on the south
side of town. We will be showing you later in the program. This little courtyard is easy to find if you
know where to look. It’s just behind Place Favier, and you could
easily overlook it, but it’s got a certain historic charm that’s different from any of
the other buildings in town, so it’s worthwhile. From there you can walk a little bit into
the residential district, but more interesting for you to stick with Rue Carnot and the shopping
area. You don’t really need to walk along Rue
du Parage just north of Place Favier unless you have time for a stroll in a simple residential
neighborhood on this end of the village. There are no shops or historic sites for visitors
back here, just a residential zone, a local place for people who are living and working
in the town. Sometimes it’s refreshing to get off the
beaten track, especially if it’s a busy market day, and there are lots of people on
the main pedestrian lanes, and just take a breather and head into the real part of town,
the residential area. Better to get back over on Rue Carnot with
its many shops and lively pedestrian atmosphere. The wine stores are outstanding here, of course,
in the heart of France offering local and regional specialties. We were lucky to be here on a Wednesday morning
which is market day. It only happens once a week. Provence is famous for its outdoor markets
with hundreds of them taking place on a regular basis and many travelers look at the schedule
and plan their trips accordingly, so they can visit one of the markets. And this one at St Remy is one of the most
popular, with such a delightful setting. It’s a good idea to arrive at this market
early because it’s very popular. It’s a huge market and it gets quite busy. It does open at 7 AM so if you can get here
by then or 8 o’clock in the morning that would be good, especially if you’re driving a car
and need a place to park it, you really want to get here early. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk quite a while
from the parking space you find to the market. Naturally, there is a huge variety of kinds
of olives here, and you can get tapenade as well, the crushed olives. Olives are grown all throughout the Provence
region, so it’s really one of the major agricultural crops, carrying on a tradition that’s thousands
of years old. You’ll also find excellent olive oils, but
that might be kind of a heavy thing to pack if you’re traveling. Just buy some olives, and you can eat them
on the spot. Have them for a picnic that day. There is a much smaller market on Saturday
mornings and there, they’re just selling food, so if you’re around on a Saturday that
might be fun as well, and it is a lot less crowded, so that’s a nice advantage. You’ll be happy to find that tourists are
not the only ones out here shopping. The locals come out every Wednesday morning
to buy their fresh produce, so this might be a chance for you to strike up a conversation
with some local people, maybe ask for their opinion on what to buy. And it is basically divided in two general
areas, one for food in the main lanes of the village, the other in front of the church
for clothing and antiques and knickknacks and junk. The many different aspects of this one market
are really quite remarkable. It’s almost like you’re at an outdoor shopping
mall, there’s a diverse collection, some items brand-new while others are very old. You’ll find some antiques, you’ll find some
cutting-edge modern design, tools and hardware, handmade works of art, clothing, textiles,
furniture. It’s going to be a fun experience, and you’ll
find that the merchants are not pushy at all. In fact, they’re really quite friendly. So this is a chance to talk with some locals,
talk with some merchants and maybe buy something. You can certainly try and talk them down over
in the flea market side. People always seem to be in, a loose and sociable
open mood when they’re walking around in the market. Fancy, scarves and printed cotton fabrics
in the Provençal colors and patterns are some of the most popular items you might purchase
here. It’s a lot easier to carry than pottery and
it makes an excellent gift. You’ll find this colorful fabric is crafted
for you into some useful items like little purses and carrying bags, sometimes potpourri
wrapped around the fragrant flower blossoms. This entire region grows countless flowers
for the perfume industry and there is even a small museum of aroma nearby. By noon the market is winding down and by
1 PM they’re finished so don’t get here too late. Of course, the shops in the village are going
to stay open all afternoon and you’ll find more opportunities to spend your money, or
just browse with some window shopping. You are not likely to find any street food,
ready-to-eat at this market. They’re really not selling sandwiches and
bowls of soup and that sort of a take-away food thing, but you can surely get supplies
that you’ll put together later for a lovely picnic, especially delicious that wide variety
of French cheeses, or if you just want to eat in the café there are many of those all
around the market area. If you’re hungry for some great food, try
and pick one of the ten different gourmet restaurants listed on the Tourist Information
website for St Remy, and dozens of other affordable places to eat with the variety of cuisines. You’ve got Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, sushi
bar and of course many French picks. You’ll never go hungry in this town. As we were wrapping up our visit to St Remy,
we noticed something a bit unusual, there’s a singer out in the middle of the street. She was there on the main traffic island with
cars and trucks driving around on all sides of her. [music]
We will show a little bit more of her music at the end of the program. While the pedestrian zone of the Old Town
is certainly going to be the main place you’ll be spending time, don’t forget about this
lovely boulevard that runs around the old town, following the route of what had been
the medieval wall. There’s a whole stretch of restaurants and
shops here that you would find quite interesting especially on the south along Boulevard Victor
Hugo. You could walk along the boulevard on one
side of the street and then cross over and walk back on the other side, and there are
several places where there is connecting lanes it will bring you right back into the old
section That covers our visit to St Remy and now we’re
going to take you out of town to a couple of nearby historic landmarks. First, let’s go see the hospital where Van
Gogh spent the final year of his life, just on the outskirts of St Remy. “He was here from May, 1889 until July,
1890.” Wow. Driving past the same olive groves that inspired
Van Gogh to create some of his most famous paintings. He worked very fast to catch the fleeting
light. Van Gogh checked himself into this Asylum
Hospital of St Paul in May of 1889, and he fell in love with the area’s natural beauty
that inspired him to create 150 of his best paintings in his final year, ranking among
the most prolific artistic outputs in history. The hospital is now a museum and they’ve created
a picturesque walk with reproductions of many of van Gogh’s paintings on the original sites
where he created them. Van Gogh was initially confined to the asylum
grounds but eventually was able to walk out into the countryside where he set up his easel
and created some of his greatest works. It’s a sad irony he only sold one painting
during his lifetime and the town of St Remy never thought to purchase any of his work,
so there are no original paintings by van Gogh in the area. You can take this free walk along the self-guided
trail of 3 kilometers with a brochure from the Tourist Information Office, viewing an
array of 21 reproductions of the artist’s paintings at the locations he painted them. Images we’re showing here are not necessarily
on that walking trail. These are from the Google Art Project of van
Gogh’s work in St Remy. The trail near the asylum seems to be the
most rewarding, but some travelers feel the section near town not worth doing because
the landscape had become more urbanized, and the posters faded. Yet overall satisfaction with this walk on
TripAdvisor is 4 stars, with 80% rating the walk as either excellent or very good. Quite nearby, you’ll find St Remy’s other
notable historic attraction, the ruins of an ancient Roman city called Glanum. Glanum first began as a fortified settlement
founded in the 6th century BC by the Celto-Ligurians. The tall monument is a well-preserved ancient
mausoleum standing next to a Roman triumphal arch. There is no charge to see these two impressive
structures, but if you want to see a lot more you do pay a small fee. The excavated ruins have been preserved in
a national park. These original people were in early contact
with the Greek colony in Marseille, and they merged into that spreading Greek culture. However, by the 2nd century BC, the Greeks
were being rated by aggressive neighboring tribes, and so they called upon the assistance
of their friends in Rome, who marched over and took control. The Romans developed a thriving community
that lasted 400 years, so most of the ruins uncovered today are from that extended Roman
occupation. In the 1st century BC. The Romans built a new forum, stone roads,
temples and other public buildings, clad in marble, including an aqueduct that supply
water for the town’s fountains and public baths, and that curved, triumphal stone arch. However, Glanum did not survive collapse of
the Roman Empire. The town was overrun and destroyed by the
Alemani in 260 A.D. and subsequently abandoned, its inhabitants, moving a short distance north
into the planes to found a city that eventually became St Remy. After that abandonment, Glanum became a source
of stone and other building materials for St Remy, with the ruins eventually covered
by dirt and mud blowing and flooding in. It was rediscovered in the 1920s when the
first archaeology work began, which has continued to this day, restoring the site and welcoming
visitors. We complete our tour to St Remy and Glanum
by rejoining our guides in the van, who are having some more fun. [laughter]
Let’s finish up the program with a few more images of beautiful St Remy and music from
our singer in the street. [music]
We have many more movies about Provence and the south of France in our collection. Be sure to look for them.

13 Replies to “Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France”

  1. Just magnificent! The video is high quality, with just enough audio to get an understanding of the place. I'll never be able to travel Saint-Rémy-de-Provence myself, so thank you Dennis for bring this beautiful town to me.

  2. A whole lot of editing going on, lol. It's an excellent video. In fact I first discovered this video years ago, living in Scotland. I now live in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Life is weird. Anyway, if someone comes here to visit & uses Saint-Remy as a base I can assure you the villages that surround the town are exquisite. I'd suggest avoiding High Summer though as the temperatures can be frightening (I'm a Scot after all). Late Spring & early Autumn are the best.

    Keep it up mate, Love your videos.

  3. Dennis you've changed my life! What a joy to sit down with an espresso and walk along with you, often to places I've been, recharging me with a jolt of exhilarating deja vu. I always learn so much from you, though I've been to some places like France 10+ times. You are so generous. I don't know why you do it because it must take up so much of your time but THANK YOU for being so generous !!!!

    PS I can only locate 3 of your 5 Netherlands episodes– can you help me find ROTTERDAM and I believe it's Maastricht part 2 ?

    Your fan in Toronto,

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