The second stop in our Provence virgin trip was St Remy. This town is picturesque with its tree lined streets and has a great selection of art galleries, gourmet shops and museums, spread throughout the main boulevard and the tiny streets. I love especially the mixture of pastel and bright coloured windows that accent the old buildings through the various tiny streets, it makes for a perfect picture.
It’s also most famous for being the place which inspired Van Gogh and where he produced many of his most important works while staying in the asylum at Saint-Paul de Mausole monastery. Remember the famous Starry Night?
We stayed at Hotel L’Image, a 4 star boutique hotel with 32 rooms. Upon check in, we were given a tour of the premises before being brought to our room and was told it used to be an old Music Hall cinema during the 1970s in this premises, which explained for its name as well as many of the movie memorabilia we spotted.
Location is excellent right in the heart of the town, so we did not even have to drive to explore the town. Service was pretty good as well. But I do find the rates a bit expensive for what we paid. The room was large but definitely more minimal and basic in design, felt more like a 3 star holiday chalet. Paid 445 euros (including taxes) per night (for a larger duplex suite). Room rates start from 200 plus euros a night.
View from our suite, probably the best part of our room.
Our 2 dinners were spent out of this area, which I will definitely share with you in my separate Provence restaurants post. Thank goodness I had researched and booked really lovely restaurants as the town’s selection of F&B options seemed rather ‘touristy’. But for an affordable and decent breakfast and lunch, the all day dining Brasserie Les Varietes is a great choice and was conveniently located next to Hotel L’Image, where we stayed.
Can’t do without my daily cappuccino.
Try their red mullet, it’s delicious!
St Remy is most famous for its Wednesday markets which sees all the vendors sprawled throughout the windy streets in the town. I saw some similar vendors from the L’Isle Sur La Sorgue market such as my favourite olives guy, but this market is definitely on a much larger scale and worth checking out. Although they don’t have the antiques market known to L’Isle Sur La Sorgue, we saw lots of fresh potted herbs and even mini olive trees and lots of colorful pottery, straw hats and bags.
The market in action!
Tons of potted herbs!
Care for an olive tree?
I can’t resist the cheese.
Flowers of the season.
Homemade Provence soaps from Savonnerie Artisanale de Provence.
Random cute walls like this can be spotted in the streets.
View of some of the historic buildings in St Remy town.
As we walked around the market, it was common to see street baskers singing, and this French lady singing in the middle of the streets with cars going by was just lovely!
Given most of our time was spent driving out of St Remy to neighbouring areas of Les Baux Des Provence and Gordes, we did not have much time to really explore the town in detail, but we with our sharp eyes managed to spot some pretty good shops here.
The first is this wonderful gourmet shop – Premiere Provence Pression that sells lovely olive oils, their flavoured ones like basil, lemon, garlic infused ones are just the best, as well as tapendades and liqueurs. Be sure to pop by and get some of these. It was located just across our hotel, which explained Y and I popping there twice to buy for ourselves and also they make great gifts as well.
27 Blvd Victor Hugo, Tel:+33 4 32610809
Front of Premier Provence Pression along Blvd Victor Hugo.
Too many choices with limited luggage space.
Comptoir Des Alpilles
2 Place Jules Pelissier, 13210 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Tel: +33 4 90948676
This beautiful linens store is again another great place if you wanna buy tea towels, table runners, napkins, towels, yes you get the picture. The choices are amazing and the prices are pretty reasonable. The challenge will be deciding what color and pattern to buy here.
Look out for the front entrance, can be hard to detect on Wednesdays with the market in full force.
Linens, towels, napkins and more..
Other than many design and homeware shops spotted, you will find many cute shops selling just the cutest toys and signs. We found this shop along Rue Carnot, unfortunately don’t know the name but look out for this yellow corner shop. The teddy bears at the front attracted me but in the end what got me were the roosters, which according to Fengshui, is a good thing for Y, not sure if it works so far.
Nice shop with cute bears and roosters.
EXPLORING VAN GOGH
So as I mentioned earlier, St Remy seemed to be the key inspiration behind many of Van Gogh’s works. Apparently in the past, and we are talking like in the 1889 time when he stayed at the Saint Paul asylum, there were a lot of sunflowers and other flora and fauna which inspired many of his works. Unfortunately, seeing sunflowers presently in St Remy is pretty non existent.
There’s a Van Gogh trail that starts from the heart of town before eventually winding down to Saint Paul asylum whereby in front of it lies grassy fields and olive trees, with certain key spots marked out to show us the spots that inspired some of his famous works. Hmm, all I can say was it does take a bit of imagination to visualise. The closest was probably the one with the olive trees – The Alpilles. What do you think?
If you have time, you could do the full trail and visit the asylum which operates till today, and the room where Van Gogh used to paint can be viewed by visitors. Otherwise honestly, you can just do what we did, drive to the fields in front of the asylum and take some photos. It’s pretty sufficient!
TIPS IF CONSIDERING ST REMY AS A BASE CAMP
When researching online, if one had to choose a ‘base camp’ in Provence to explore the region (Luberon, Aix En Provence, Avignon), St Remy came up quite a fair bit over Aix En Provence. Aix En Provence is a bigger city and notorious for its traffic in peak seasons like summer which we got to experience, while St Remy was bustling with activity but car traffic was hardly an issue. The neighbouring area Les Baux also seems charming.
There’s no right and wrong to this, most important when visiting Provence is to really map out and decide where you want to go, and then the lodging can be worked around that. We decided to stay in 4 places over 6 days, which was pretty tiring, but it was efficient in covering the areas we wanted to see in such a short space of time. It all depends on what type of traveller are you.