Another Day in Provence
What could be better than a day in Provence? Two days! While that's not nearly long enough to explore this enchanting region of France, it was a good start.
Les Baux de Provence
In the last blog, I wrote about my sister and I pursuing Van Gogh's painting locations in Arles. Many of you wrote to say you'd done the same or enjoyed virtually sharing our trip. Van Gogh's art never ceases to amaze me, and I'm definitely not alone in that opinion.
After our time in Arles, we drove down the road to the charming St. Rémy de Provence––another town with connections to the artist. Sadly, Van Gogh was a patient there in the Saint Paul Asylum. While there, he painted some of his most celebrated works:
The Starry Night (1889)
Although Van Gogh didn't consider this painting a success, it is arguably his most famous work. I love this quote from him: "I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."
Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun (1889)
Landscape with Olive Trees (1889)
The central village in the "Alpilles," the little alps region of Provence, St. Rémy is full of the winding limestone paved streets that never grow old. I love the adventure of discovering interesting architecture, unique shops, and great restaurants.
St. Rémy de Provence
On the way to our next stop, we passed by Glanum, one of the oldest and best preserved Roman ruins in the south of France. After Julius Caesar's conquest of Marseille in 49 B.C. (!!), the Romans spread and settled throughout the region, building aqueducts, bridges, roads, monuments. One can almost imagine life as it was then through the vestiges of this town.
Further down the road, we arrived at our destination for the day: the spectacular Les Baux de Provence. Officially considered one of the "Most Beautiful Villages" in France, it doesn't disappoint.
Perched high on a rocky plateau, it provided a secure and strategic location for the original settlers, pre-dating the Middle Ages. Its history is long and fascinating. Legend has it that after the birth of Jesus, one of the three Wise Men, Balthazar, continued his journey and followed the star of Bethlehem as far as Les Baux. Today, his descendents use a beautiful 16-pointed star on their crest, and the star motif appears throughout Les Baux.
Later, King Louis XIII gifted Les Baux to the Prince of Monaco for loyalty to the crown. The Grimaldi family lost possession of the village during the French Revolution, but the title of Marquis of Baux continues on, given to the Crown Prince of Monaco, currently the young Prince Jacques.
Let's go visit Les Baux! Besides the amazing site and history, it's a wonderful place to shop. Streets wind their way up through the village, full of Provençal wares.
Then there's lunch with a spectacular view of the valley below...
This photo from the restaurant rest room window wins "Best Bathroom View Ever" award.
Do you see the home built into the cliff? Fascinating! I would LOVE to visit inside one day.
Are they dark? Are they damp? I have so many questions. The gardens with the additional buildings look lovely enough.
A few years ago, my mother visited and to celebrate a significant birthday, we stayed and dined at the Michelin starred Oustau de Baumanière, nestled in the valley pictured above. It was an incredible experience, to say the least.
Since it opened in the 1950s, many well-known people have enjoyed the hotel and restaurant, including the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. In fact, my husband and I stayed in the same room as they did in 1972.
"Invited by President George Pompidou during her official tour of France. Queen Elizabeth II of England slept in this room,17-18 May 1972."
Do you see a young Prince Charles, on the left of the photo? We're not told which room was his...
There's now a new photo and inscription in the room: "Invited by Michelle Joanou during her birthday tour of France, Dudley and Janet Weiner slept in this room, 23 May 2019."
Haha! Needless to say, it was a surreal experience to think that Elizabeth and Phillip stayed in that exact room.
Back to the present...
After lunch, my sister and I continue on up through the village which reveals more ruins, more shops, more views. I've been to Les Baux many times and I discover something new every visit.
The Post Office!
At the very top, we find medieval war machines, like this giant catapult. Let your imagination run wild...
...and enjoy the amazing views of a patchwork of olive groves stretching to the "Alpilles."
What goes up must come down––in this case, us. So many unusual boutiques tucked in along the way; one of the best was all about truffles. I don't have any photos as we were too busy tasting the oils, salts, spreads flavored with the earthy "black gold" fungus.
Then, on to "Les Carrières des Lumières," an incredible art/light/music show. Situated at the foot of the plateau, in an old bauxite quarry (hence the name "Les Baux"), it is a unique experience. I first saw this show, on a whim, in the late 1990s and was blown away. With technological advances since then, it's even more marvelous.
This year's theme is art in Venice, which was good, but honestly not as wonderful as the Van Gogh show of 2019. Stepping into this vast quarry, with projected and moving art, set to music, all adapted to the space... well, you really have to see it for yourself. Thankfully, this show has now been duplicated in numerous cities around the world.
Not a great video, but just to give you an idea.
Traveling is one of life's joys. To see fresh sights, breath different air, and take in unique countryside and cultural aspects almost always brings new perspective. With the limits of the past few years, I treasure such moments all the more.
La vie est belle...