I arrived safe and sound at a beautiful Airbnb in Provence after a grueling 8-hour drive from the Dordogne. Equipped with copious Monster Blues I managed to avoid falling asleep at the wheel and completed the journey to Saint Remy at a marvelous restaurant that immediately found space for me. They must have sensed my condition, and had food on the table in five minutes.
My first day in Provence began with a visit to the massive Saturday street market in Arles. Frankly, I prefer the smaller ones with better quality goods and smaller crowds, but I figured I could hit the market and see a bit of Arles in the process.
Little did I anticipate the clusterf*ck that awaited me that would take me into a seemingly alternate reality and ultimate descent into the tenth ring of Hell. More about that later.
ARLES MARKET – Local Lavender
ROMAN AMPHITHEATER – No comparison to the arena in Nîmes.
Used to this day for non-lethal bullfighting and concerts, this arena is one of two fantastic specimens in France that surpass those in Italy. The Roman Coliseum is a ruin by comparison to the arenas in Arles and Nîmes.
ESPACE VAN GOGH – After becoming lost and incapable of finding parking after the Saturday market, we circled the city for an entire hour as our sanity slowly ebbed away. At some point, I managed to find a space, but at this point, I had more than adopted Van Gogh’s pathologies and felt very much in need of treatment ourselves. Thus I entered Vincent’s former hospital on the verge of snapping my twig. What I found nearly put me over the edge.
Today’s Sad Reality – Here is the angle that Van Gogh painted the above artwork. Obviously, the grounds were better tended, before degrading into the sorry excuse they are today. This human being was the patron saint of all suffering artists, and this is the legacy the city of Arles has left him?
I was completely underwhelmed by what had become of this decaying place, but I was shocked and dismayed that such a great man who fought his way through such devastating mental illness could be so thoroughly dishonored by the same city that mocked and threw stones at him before the turn of the nineteenth century.
Until this space is properly renovated and transformed into a proper milieu to honor his legacy, Arles will have good cause to hang its head in shame for this affront to this giant of the art world.
Fading paint and filth adorn this hallowed space.
Dead leaves adorn the neglected garden.
The few sad flowers are choked out by yet more necrotic foliage.
The non-functioning fountain is the centerpiece of this pathetic and muddled palate.
Tacky souvenirs poorly displayed line one side of the yard. One shop is dedicated to children’s toys, and another sells lackluster Van Gogh paraphernalia. A most depressing venue reflecting the mood of its most famous occupant. After becoming lost and incapable of finding parking after the Saturday market, we circled the city for an entire hour as our sanity ebbed away. At some point, I managed to find a space, but at this point, I had more than adopted Van Gogh’s pathologies and felt very much in need of treatment myself. Thus I entered Vincent’s former hospital on the verge of snapping my twig. What I found nearly put me over the edge.
Cafe Van Gogh – Purported to be one of the worst restaurants and malignant tourists traps in all of France, it bears all the shabbiness of the local hospital where Vincent stayed and fails to capture any of the glowing charm exuded in his painting that made this spot famous in the first place. I’m sure if he were to dine here today, it would take more than a few absinthe to take the edge off of this wretched spot.
Terraza Café d’Arles – Hopefully brandishing this piece of art will serve to cleanse your aesthetic sensibilities of that horrid hospital visit and the currently nauseating café that occupies its space in the painting.
Unsuspecting tourists sit unaware of the hideous cuisine, and the potential gastrointestinal distress that awaits them.
FONDATION VAN GOGH – One of the few hopes we had to encounter an actual Van Gogh artwork and to restore my faith in humanity and the decency of Arles at large were not surprisingly dashed in an unceremonious fashion.
This new building evidently has serious plumbing problems and was closed for repairs. It makes sense since it wouldn’t be completely out of character for them to cause irreparable harm to his actual artworks since Arles has done such a good job of harming his legacy throughout the rest of their shabby town.
PONT VAN GOGH – One last try to enjoy some Van Gogh in this wretched town. As you can see some helpful citizen has scratched off the arrow that leads the way to the bridge.
Vincent VAN GOGH – Pont de Langlois – 1888 (Faded Copy at Site)
PONT VAN GOGH
At least they didn’t find a way to ruin the bridge other than the graffiti-riddled building in the background.
LES BAUX DE PROVENCE
Time for a little Provencal beauty to scrub away the grime and misery of Arles.
Back in Saint Remy, the festival continues with some French performers singing tunes from Grease among other things. They were actually quite good. It was refreshing after Arles as I went in search of some quality charcuterie food to eat in our wonderful home.
After catching this jaunty performance I made a beeline back to the house with my gourmet treasures.
MAJOR OUTING DAY
Château de Lourmarin
Weather had been so unpredictable throughout our trip that we felt we best do as much as we could while the weather was nice. So I really pack a lot into this day since our forecasts were not looking good.
Roussillon has the world’s largest deposit of ochre. It does seem to figure into a lot of Van Gogh’s work.
It’s a charmer of a town with many boutiques, specialty and gourmet shops.
Perched atop a hill it also offers some nice views.
Great composition and unmistakably French.
Peter Mayle of “A Year in Provence” fame, lived here for many years before being inundated by writer groupies. Evidently, his work is quite amusing for a travel writer.
How many times did he dine at this restaurant I wonder.
This flotilla and about 20 of their friends enjoyed the leftover baguettes we had been saving up for them, unaware that I would be eating one of their relatives later that evening as I sat by the river. It’s the circle of duck. I feed them, they feed me.
La Balade des Saveurs
I have no idea what this was other than the fact that it was tasty. The restaurant was a Rick Steves recommendation and was also highly rated on TripAdvisor. It was clearly the non-touristy choice of French diners. Their set menu was priced well and delicious.
Magret de Canard
Poire Belle Hèlene
FREE DAY AT MY HOME BASE IN SAINT REMY
COMMERCIAL GRADE KITCHEN
ONE OF THREE OUTDOOR LOUNGES
SUNKEN LIVING ROOM
It was a well earned respite after all of my running around for two weeks without a break. Merely sitting around working on my blogs or heating up some nice gourmet for lunch was just what was needed. I covered so much ground the day before that it was totally guilt free as well.
Brasserie Les Variétés – Dinner after a relaxing day at home.
Pumpkin Soup – Scrumptious
Daube – Famous Provencal Stew – Hearty and Satisfying
LE PONT D’AVIGNON – IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT THE BRIDGE
LES ÂNES DE PROVENCE
Donkeys are the region’s most noteworthy creature and I am into noteworthy creatures. As fortune would have it there was a place near St. Remy that kept them, but unfortunately, the owners were away and unresponsive. So I punched the coordinates into the Nav system and found this bunch of cuties. With a little minor trespassing, I was afforded a donkey encounter. I followed instructions on the fence and didn’t feed the animals.
CANOEING THE GARDON THROUGH PONT DU GARD
Don’t let this photographic tribute to serenity fool you. This trip was the canoeing equivalent of the Bataan Death March. Sights such as these were incapable of offsetting the agonies of the two plus hour agony that was to follow.
Due to lack of rain, every ten minutes or so I would encounter shallows that yielded countless rocks scraping the bottom of the canoe, often bringing me to a halt and requiring me to stick a leg out and shove the canoe along I was moving once again. This drama continued unabated until I arrived exhausted at the Pont du Gard.
What a beautiful sight, but one we could hardly appreciate at the time due to our condition.
This is the picture that made all the suffering worthwhile. It was worth every push and shove to get over those rocks.
LA MAISON CARRÉE
REGIS MUNIFICENTIA ET CIVIUM AERE VOTIVO
Vincent Van Gogh Walk – Markers to Follow
MAISON DE SAINT PAUL
Vincent Van Gogh – Bronze