Saint-Remy de Provence
by Wendy VanHatten
Saint-Remy is a delightful town of about 8,000. Located about halfway between Avignon and Arles, this is definitely a farming town. Set in the middle of vineyards, fields of sunflowers, vegetables, and lavender, and peach orchards there are fruit stands along most roads outside the town. Not only fruits are for sale. Eggs, honey, lavender soaps, and olive oil are plentiful.
These stands are not only for tourists as most tourists are gone from Saint-Remy by late September. Produce is a business here, for locals and tourists alike.
In the middle of town huge trees, many from the 18th and 19th centuries, shade common areas and cafes. Fountains, almost as old, find their way into every square. Visit on Wednesday for the Saint-Remy market. Every street, every single one, has vendors with their stalls.
We visited Saint-Remy for the second time in four years. The laid-back, small town is perfect for our time in Provence. It’s central enough to take day trips to parts of Provence, close enough to Avignon and larger cities, offers great restaurants, and allows us to chill on days when we don’t want to go anywhere but a café for coffee, shopping at an elegant boutique, and a wine bar for cocktails.
At the Wednesday market we found porcelain knobs for a dresser, olives of too many types to count, cheeses we were not familiar with, sausage with a spicy kick, sweet fat strawberries, and pastries that melted in our mouths. Wandering down another street, we saw jars of duck fat, mounds of light purple garlic, dark purple eggplant, bright red peppers, and even some live chickens to take home and raise.
One more street and we found cashmere scarves, table linens, shoes, and purses. Something for everyone.
Visiting the small Van Gogh museum gave us insight into what his life was like and what happened to him over the years. From there, we wandered to some of the places he liked to paint. His sunflowers, olive trees, wheat fields, and cypress trees come to life once we saw them through his eyes.
Another site not to be missed is Glanum, or Comptoir de Glanum. This is one of the oldest archeological sites in Europe, founded in the 3rd century BC. The ruins have witnessed several civilizations.
More to come…running of the bulls, eating at Michelin quality restaurants, day trips to Les Baux, and more.
If You Go: St.-Remy-de-Provence is 434 miles south of Paris, 13 miles south of Avignon and 15 miles northeast of Arles. There is no train station in St.-Remy, but there are buses from the Avignon train station (telephone 90.92.07.35).
Hotel reservations for July and August must be made far ahead, by mid-June at the least. A number of restaurants are booked for dinner a day or two in advance.