Bonus day in Provence
In keeping with last Sunday’s “accidental” theme, the bonus for us was discovering that our friends from northeastern France were on vacation in the vicinity of Avignon at the same time that we were there. They had a car and suggested that we spend the day with them exploring parts of Provence only half an hour or so south of the city. Their itinerary included the market town of St. Rémy de Provence and one of the gems included in the Most Beautiful Villages of France collection, Les Baux de Provence. This was all new territory for us but the day began at some place quite familiar when they picked us up at the train station.
As we approached St. Rémy de Provence it was clear that this was the Wednesday market day, their busiest day of the week. We had to search a bit for a parking spot but it turned out to be well worth the wait. The town population of less than 10,000 must double at times like this, attracted by hundreds of stalls and vendors stretched along winding streets surrounding the main square. Regional products abound such as soaps, lavender, cheese, and oil. Bill found beautifully carved salad spoons from olive wood while our friends picked up an array of colorful ceramic and wooden art pieces for their home. It was a rather misty morning, not great for picture taking, so the market photos you see here are courtesy of the tourist office.
With the shopping complete and a cup of espresso from a sidewalk café under our belts we got back into the car for another short trip to the village of Les Baux de Provence. Small villages with especially pretty features such as architecture, gardens, or natural scenery can apply for membership in The Most Beautiful Villages of France, and Les Baux certainly qualifies. Its mountaintop setting, stone buildings, curvy lanes, and magnificent views over the surrounding landscapes set it apart.
We arrived mid-day, without a lunch reservation so we had to wait for a table, but that conveniently gave us the time to try a glass of the local wine before lunch. The restaurant we chose, Bistro La Reine Jeanne, is perched near the cliff edge with windows, even in the restrooms, looking out on the valley below.
Vincent Van Gogh spent a year in this area of France in 1889 during which he completed at least 150 paintings of the wheatfields, cypress trees, and olive groves. References to the artist are apparent in many locations including at the foot of the mountain from Les Baux at Carrières de Lumières. This former quarry has been turned into a multimedia art exhibit where they project giant images of his paintings on the walls and combine motion and music to enhance the experience. Unfortunately the tickets were already sold out for the day we were there but their website (link below) gives you an idea of how fascinating it is.
Our last stop on this genuine day of discovery was at an olive grove for oil tasting. We tried 4 samples from mild to spicy, all natural without added flavorings, while surrounded by an array of products such as soaps, body creams, even honey, all with the olive connection to this mill.
Given how successful this unexpected day was, with such nice friends, perhaps Bill and I should “plan” more of these “accidental” vacations!
St. Rémy de Provence tourism: http://www.saintremy-de-provence.com/home.html
Les Baux de Provence tourism: http://www.lesbauxdeprovence.com/en
Van Gogh route: http://www.vangoghroute.com/france/saint-remy-de-provence/
Beautiful villages: https://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/fr/
Carrières de Lumières: http://www.carrieres-lumieres.com/