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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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van gogh's trail

On Van Gogh’s Trail

Now that I’ve seen the movie “Loving Van Gogh“- French no less, with no subtitles, I -remember my first visit to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

I started my quest for Van Gogh’s trail in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence early on a beautiful, sunny morning. Temperatures were in the high 70s, and a light wind was blowing. Planned stops along the way to St. Rémy were the towns of Remoulins and Beaucaire.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Remoulins

I’m not sure why I chose to stop in Remoulins because I had done no research — just a spot on a map. Nevertheless, a cemetery caught my eye along the way while passing through the town. Since being here, I’ve been intrigued by French cemeteries, so stopping in Remoulins gave me a chance to check one out. It’s interesting to find out how different cultures honor their deceased. In Remoulins and other areas of Provence, bodies are buried above the ground in family plots. Most gravestones in this cemetery date back many centuries. Many were adorned with elaborate porcelain flower displays and family memorabilia.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Beaucaire
Moving onto Beaucaire, the scenery definitely changed. The older part of town, where tourists visit, is centered around a busy canal. Marine traffic is active, primarily for pleasure boats, and cafes and restaurants cater to transients and locals. Some boat owners who tour the western Mediterranean in summer moor their vessels in Beaucaire in the winter.

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Finding the way
1 It is relatively easy if you’re wondering how I find my way around. On this trip, I had a Michelin Atlas of France. I know the main ways in and out of Uzes. So, with a couple of stops at petrol stations to ask directions, I got along fine. Note: Both petrol stations where I stopped had female attendants. Neither spoke English. I pointed out where I was going on the map, and they understood what I wanted. They gave me perfect directions. Not to be sexist, but a man giving directions would have described every landmark along the way. The females just drew straight lines from one turn to another. Simple.

Another guide for finding my way on the roadways is “roundabouts.”I’m not kidding; there are roundabouts every two miles along French roads. That means there are frequent direction signs that point your way.

When you get into a city, there’s usually clearly marked signage to follow. Keep going straight if you don’t see your destination on the sign. Soon, a sign will say: “Autres Direction” or “Toutes Direction.” Follow that sign. It will lead you to the right road.

If all else fails, ask a woman.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: St. Rémy de Provence

St. Rémy is advertised as the place to see if you want to experience Provence.

Nostradamus was born in SVan Gogh's Trailt. Rémy. Doctor Albert Schweitzer was “hospitalized” here in 1917-18 when he wrote The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization and Civilization and Ethics, part of his philosophical study of civilization.

Most importantly, St. Rémy is where the artist, Van Gogh, lived from 1889-90 in the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean.
Driving into St. Rémy, an almost “spiritual” feeling came over me. There was something different about the countryside. It felt like a movie set. The road into the city is lined with white-banded “plane” trees, like those leading out of Uzes. But they go on for miles and miles. Ancient stuccoed farmhouses and buildings are close to the road, with lush farmlands spreading deep behind them.

Van Gogh's Trail

The historic district of St. Rémy is set in a circle. I found a parking place in the public lot close to the town entrance. After depositing the equivalent of $5 in the meter, I looked for the tourist office. Before I had gotten far,  a menu special at a charming cafe caught my eye– salmon. I stopped for dejeuner.Van Gogh's Trail
Perfectly prepared salmon, risotto with tiny chunks of tomato and scallions, and a glass of rose.

I skipped the tourist office and took off to explore the shops. Of course.





Van Gogh's Trail

Interestingly, I saw more Americans in St. Rémy than anywhere else I’ve traveled in this area. I’m sure it’s because they’ve read the publicity about St. Rémy being the “place to be” in Provence. They head there on day stops while cruising the Med. There’s definitely a distinctively high-class atmosphere in St. Rémy. Its appeal to the “rich and famous” is apparent throughout the shops and boutiques.

Some of the architecture even looks rich– more “French” than “provincial” or “Provençal.”

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Art and Architecture

Walking around St. Rémy, there were so many times I reminded myself, “Van Gogh was here.” I could imagine how he was inspired. It inspired me.

In the footsteps of Van Gogh

My day’s creme de la creme was a tour of Saint Paul-de-Mausolean, the monastery complex, and the asylum where Van Gogh was voluntarily committed from 1889-90. From here, he produced two of his most notable works, “Starry Nights” and his self-portrait. I was transported to Van Gogh’s day and time by taking the photos below. I could imagine how he felt fortunate for all the beauty around him despite his imprisonment. The entrance, the buildings, the inside, Van Gogh’s Garden, the chapel, the view!

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Van Gogh was released from the hospital at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean in May 1890 and left for Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris. It is said he shot himself on 27 July 1890 and died two days later.

Fortunately, his art lives on.

van gogh's trail

Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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