01 of 06
How to Spend a Day in Saint-Remy
Our 24 hour itinerary in St. Remy revolves around the southern section of town in the shadows of Saint-Paul asylum, an area where Vincent Van Gogh painted some of his most famous paintings, within easy walking distance of the ancient Roman ruins of Glanum.
- Glanum, the interesting Roman site built upon a Greek one at the foot of the Alpilles mountain range, with some interesting drainage features, a wine smoking room, an intact mausoleum, triumphal arch and more.
- Visit Van Gogh's rooms in the Saint Paul asylum (Maison de santé Saint-Paul) and stroll the grounds. Still an active mental hospital, it was once an Augustine monastery built in the 12th century and still carries some of the features of its Romanesque history. You can visit the van Gogh's (reconstructed) rooms, the gardens and landscapes familiar from van Gogh works.
- Have lunch outside your hotel, the Villa Glanum.
On a recent trip to St. Remy we walked along on the Promenade dans l'univers de Vincent van... Gogh, an art trail with information markers which snakes through the city, heading south from the parking lot of the Tourist office. The promenade allows you to visit the spots where van Gogh had set his easel and painted some of his most famous paintings.
Sound artistically idyllic? Harrumph! It was a bust. We looked at fences. High walls. Cut forest. It seemed there was nothing left of the Provence that inspired the famous painter. Wealthy suburban dwellers with a very high budget for very tall cement walls had cut off all the great country views.
Later, a bit despondent, we rounded the wall of the Saint-Paul asylum and turned right on the country road that would bring us to the end of our trail. We found ourselves behind a French family herding some English-speaking tourists. "This is completely idiotic. There's nothing to this," one of them sputtered.
"We must make it to the end," the French man said.
The Frenchman was right. The magic of the whole walk was where the tour came together--at the end. It was the golden triangle of St. Remy de Provence, anchored by the medieval monastery/asylum, the ancient Glanum, and a decent lunch in the shade of trees around a country hotel called Villa Glanum.
And right in the center of this golden triangle was a single sign, number 3, which actually showed the exact location of a van Gogh painting called Les oliviers (ciel jaune et soleil resplendissant)--sprightly olive trees right in front of the hospital van Gogh checked himself into and which we would visit. You could see, finally, the exact scene that inspired van Gogh.
So, if you're driving through Provence and are looking to stop for a night or two in the countryside with lots to do right out your door, follow along with us as we spend a day exploring this corner of Provence.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Van Gogh's Rooms at the Maison de santé Saint-Paul
The public entrance to the Maison de santé Saint-Paul has tourist information on the wall surrounding the hospital. You need to buy a ticket, then walk down the gravel road toward the chapel, Passing the statue of Vincent and turning right at the stones with "Visite Touristique" carved and painted on them.
The picture shows the reconstructed room of Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh had two rooms, one of which was to be the studio. The second room you see now holds a pair of bathtubs. Van Gogh had a weekly two hour bath as part of his therapy.
If the rooms were the only part of the visit, you'd feel a bit cheated. But the self guided tour also includes a visit to the Romanesque cloister and garden, as well as the area in back of the building, a wheat field that Van Gogh painted, in the late spring resplendent with red poppies.
The full name of the asylum is Maison di sante Saint-Paul de Mausole. The "Mausole" refers to the Roman Mausoleum which sits alongside the triumphal... arch, making up what the locals call "Les Antiques." We'll see it next.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Mausoleum of the Julii
Mausoleum of the Julii sits on a rise just outside the Roman city of Glanum. It's one of the best examples of a Roman mausoleum in the world.
The second half of Les Antiques is the Triumphal Arch of Glanum, which you'll see next.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
The triumphal arch of Glanum
The second half of Les Antiques is the triumphal arch. It was built during the rein of Augustus Caesar--10-25 B.C. The arch was a sign of the power of the Romans, and is certainly well-preserved.
Les Antiques are surrounded by trees and blocks of stone. Painters congregate here to paint the monuments. To get to the Roman site of Glanum, you cross the road and follow the path.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
The Roman site of Glanum is built upon an earlier town along La Via Domitia, a Roman road that takes you from the Alps to the Pyrenees. When you enter the site, you're looking right down the main route through town, toward the Alpilles mountains. The site is ringed by hills; hills that protected it when their alluvial run-off covered and preserved the site.
Interesting things to see: the wine smoking room which you might mistake for a section of Roman bath, as the heat generation was similar--and remnants of the water, sewer and drainage systems along them main road. The sacred spring that the older town was built upon is also part of the self-guided tour, steps leading down into a cistern with goldfish swimming in it.
In 2013 the entrance fee to visit Glanum was 7.50 euro and the site is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm from April through September. There is a restaurant/snack bar on the premises and a small book store selling local products.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Where to Stay and Eat
On a very hot day we found sanctuary in the shad of the wooded grounds around the Villa Glanum Hotel, 46 Avenue Vincent Van Gogh, where we slipped in for a light lunch after being exhausted by the trip around the archaeological site of Glanum, which is just down the street.
The menu includes a great many salads, which make a fine meal on a summer's day with a glass of beer. I had the one above, a "salad" generously "larded" with lardons and a boiled egg. Alongside is a bit of eggplant caviar, some smoked duck breast, and a heaping helping of foie gras.
The hotel is highly rated by folks who've stayed. It's easy to get to by car and a great place to retire to when you've done this itinerary. Everything on this itinerary is a short and relatively flat walk. See: Hôtel Villa Glanum - Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
Of course, you can easily get into the city by walking or by car, so see our guide to Saint-Remy for more information. Wednesday is market day in... Saint-Remy, and it's a good one if you like those sorts of things.
Where to Go From Here
Arles is a short drive from Saint-Remy. It's also the gateway to the Camargue, where wildlife abounds right next to the famous Camargue cattle. To the north, Avignon and the Palace of the Popes is a must-see.