May 9 and 10, 2012. Mid-week in Provence found us in St. Remy, and to our surprise, Wednesday was Market Day in this town famous for the fact that it is the home of the mental hospital at which Van Gogh spent about 15 months. Down the path to the hospital and surrounding it are eighteen plaques, what I call the Van Gogh Stations of the Cross . . . on each plaque is a reproduction of one of his paintings, along with an excerpt from his journals, or a letter to his brother, or some other bit of his writing which helps put each painting in context.
No matter how many times I enter the hospital, I am always struck again by the austerity of the room in which he slept, the simple horror of the tub where he received his shock treatments, and the beauty he created despite his tortured mind. The hospital is still functioning, and the young patients take great inspiration from Van Gogh’s dedication to his work despite his mental illness. Many of the patients’ paintings are for sale in the inevitable gift shop.
The presence of the street market made today’s visit to St. Remy even more full of color and the buzz of the local shoppers. Fresh fish, vegetables, eggs, jams, sausages, olives as well as table linens, purses, dresses, and street musicians filled the streets from downtown to the visitor’s center.
Though we are beginning to recognize some of the vendors, the variety of booths and tables of merchandise never stops surprising me.
Next time I come to this intriguing little city, I won’t even look for a restaurant. I’ll just graze ecstatically among the market’s offerings!
On our way back to our villa after lunch, we spotted a glowing field of poppies, so we pulled off the side of the road, walked to the field, all of us with cameras in hand, and clicked and clicked until we thought we might have had our fill of the view. Incredible!
Our days are full and lazy in that order. Plenty of places to see while it’s sunny, and then back to the villa to relax, read, swim, graze at a table full of market fare, and sleep, sweet sleep before we begin again.
Thursday’s market venture found us in Aix-en-Provence, where the market stretched down long avenues and wound through alleyways and plazas. After a morning of shopping and lunch in front of the merchandise market, we returned to the villa in anticipation of our dinner, prepared for us on site by Chef Ronald, http://www.chefronald.fr, and we were not disappointed. You can check out his website (click on “English”) and go to the menus for a mouth-watering list of possibilities, with photos.
More on that in the next post!