Visiting Vincent in Saint-Rémy

That’s what you do when someone you care about is in the hospital, right? And so we went today to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where Vincent van Gogh was treated in the psychiatric center at Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole from 1889 to 1890.

What a lovely place. We found it as peaceful and serene as he did, as many of his most remarkable works were painted here, including Starry Night. The irises are in bloom now, and it is stunning to think we are seeing them where he saw them. It was a very moving experience to stand in the very olive groves he painted.

Just up the hill is another Saint-Rémy attraction – the Celtic/Greek/Roman city of Glanum, which prospered from about three centuries before Christ, and fell with the Roman Empire about 260 AD, when everyone moved down the road into town. Striking ruins, gorgeous day.

Then it was on the town of Les Baux de Provence.The defensive possibilities of Les Baux, perched high on a major stone hill and occupied as far back as 6000 BC, are quite remarkable. During the Middle Ages it became the seat of a powerful feudal lordship that controlled many towns and villages in the vicinity. The lords of Baux claimed ancestry from king Balthazar and placed the Star of Bethlehem on their coat of arms. Now that’s what I call provenance in Provence

The town was granted in 1642 to the Grimaldis, although administratively the town is entirely French. In 1822 the mineral bauxite was discovered near Les Baux, as a result of which we now have aluminum on our lives.

Les Baux today is now the ultimate tourist town, with a reputation as one of the most picturesque villages in France. Today – a Tuesday in April – it seemed that half of France and a good sprinkling of every other country’s vagabonds were headed here for lunch. Getting a parking place was my finest achievement of the day, though making the climb up to the village without a defibrillator came a close second. Worth it for the views.

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