A summer in Saint Remy de Provence, France

September 5, 2013 3 comments

We’ve had a wonderful couple of weeks in Provence this summer, near Saint Remy de Provence. This little town is  famous not only for its charm and fantastic location in the heart of the region, but also because Van Gogh spent a few years there at the end of his life, and both Nostradamus and the libertine Marquis de Sade were born there.

Colourful provence   Delicious provence   On the way to St Remy

I have put below some thoughts on what we liked the most but to give you the full story, we  bought an old mas this year (that’s how old farms are called), and we are / will be busy renovating it. So we spent a lot of time at home (this is a dream come true!) rather than BozingAround. The region has so much to offer, all year round.

Peak  season is May ’til September but Christmas time is equally thrilling, and perhaps the only months to avoid are  January & February when a lot of places might be closed.

Delicious food, sunshine (the Mistral wind famously pushes those clouds away), scenic roads, hidden trails, postcard-picture villages (Eygalieres, Les Baux de Provence, Paradou just within 10km of St Remy) and cities rich in history (Arles, Avignon, Nimes, Aix en Provence, Marseilles..). The list is long. The region is also rich in traditional village festivities and artistic festivals including great programs for families (classic music at La Roque d’Antheron, jazz in Luberon, theater in Avignon, lyric opera in Orange…)

Scents of rosemary

Lavender, honey, scents of rosemary. I can’t wait to share it all with you, little by little, once we are regulars in the region…

{DORMIR} = to sleep

With children, it’s always easier to rent  a house especially if you’re spending an entire vacation . This local agency and this one too came well recommended. Also, I’ve noticed that this house looks really pleasant in a village just next to St Remy. There are many more, the region is full of beautiful house rentals. For a few nights stay, the following b&b’s and hotels are good addresses:

Sous les figuiers: 5′ walk to the old town, tasteful, delicious breakfasts. The pool is tiny.

La Maison du Village: very charming, inside the old town. No pool so it’s more suited to a stay for one or two nights if you are with children.

Nap time

Le Mas de l’Amarine: only 5 bedrooms, used to belong to a famous sculpture and ceramic artist and his colourful work is still displayed throughout. The chef cooks incredibly well (go there before he gets his Michelin stars!), his wife runs the place and can be very helpful (on a good day…!). The pool is beautiful too.

Le Chateau des Alpilles: the more luxurious address, in a stunning setting just outside town. Charme a la provencale just like in a text book. They also have independent cottages on the property, a great option for families. And there is  a very large swimming pool and tennis.

{JOUER} = to play

Aside from soaking in the sun by a pool, there are tons of activities for the children, younger & older.

Bob is the man of town for sculpture classes. He is very patient, playful. Marcelo and Amalya loved going there for workshops. Open all year, he will also take just one or two children, pay as you go. Speaks (some) English (+336 75081358).

Chez Bob, sculpture classes   Wild flowers

– Horses are an integral part of the region, together with bulls! The natural reserve of Camargue nearby is their kingdom. You will find lots of stables everywhere. Ecuries des Dalennes is a very good address where our children even learnt acrobatic figures. Poney Club Le Rouget in Maussane came also much recommended.

Learning rock-climbing in Les Apilles (the small mountains surround the region), gliding at the little local airport nearby (for older ones..), cooking lessons, horseback riding (the children loved going to Les Ecuries de Dalennes), tennis, fishing at the local lake (get a permit right by the supermarket Intermarche, children don’t need one below 5. They also sell all the equipment needed!)…

Gone fishing

– At the archeological site Glanum, there are regular gladiators & roman workshops. There are also  graphic arts workshops regularly run at the local Musee des Alpilles. Further way in Avignon, great art courses for kids at the excellent Collection Lambert.

– Marcelo and Amalya loved  visiting the medieval castle of Les Baux de Provence just outside Saint Remy (voted one of the prettiest villages in France).

Pretending at Les Baux

Les Baux

There are regular children activities such as archery. It’s better to go there end of the afternoon, when it’s less hot and less crowded.

Archery for kids

Many towns around the area have their own celebrations in the summer, with bulls running around town and men trying to catch and stop them. It’s fun, pain-free for the bull and very colourful..Saint Remy’s is always around August 15th. Check out the tourism office for the program.

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{MANGER} = to eat

Another reason to rent a house is for the pleasure of going food shopping at the many markets, and cooking simple meals with delicious ingredients. This is a super exhaustive list, day by day, of the markets in provence.

I found Ozebio a useful service of home delivery of organic fruit & vegetables, directly from the producers. I loved Alpilles Bio, the organic supermarket just outside town, as well stocked as a WholeFood! And the little organic farm just around the corner from our house, at the crossroad of Vieux Chemin d’Arles and Petite Route des Baux, where they sell the best strawberries that we’ve ever had (called Fraises Annabelle!). And right around there, you’ll be able to buy delicious olive oil at Moulin du Calanquet. Try their jams too, delicious.

Oh l'escargot

Yes we eat snails in France!

The chef Yvan Gilardi prepare feasts for large tables at home and he does wonders with the ingredients of the region. You’ll find some of the best bread in the whole area at l’Ami Louis, in St Etienne du Gres. The baker is a real artist with  creative bread aside from the traditional delicious fougasse. Do not leave without trying his chocolate cake! For fancy pastries, don’t miss the Patisserie Marshall in the heart of st remy. everything is delicious there. Last but not least…ICE CREAMS! AT Cafe Roma, that’s where everyone queues at night, conveniently located across the road from the super sweet wooden Merry Go Round. You can’t miss it.

A table!   French children don't throw food..yeah right..

Inside Saint Remy de Provence: we enjoyed our meals at Le Cafe de la Place, a young and happening bistrot with a great terrace near the carrousel. They use a lot of organic ingredients. Le Bistrot des Alpilles is an instituion with bull steak and many other traditional meals. We ate  well at Bistrot Decouverte on Cours Mirabeau, and the pasta-craving children enjoyed their meal at the only Italian place in town, La Cantina.

Outside Saint Remy de Provence: Chez Bru is one of the best addresses for a michelin-star meal, and the place is still fairly relaxed (although pricey as should be). There are even children eating out with their parents in true French Children Don’t Throw Food style… The hotel/restaurant is located in the countryside, outside Eygalieres. It must be a beautiful base for a vacation. They  own a more casual place inside the village of Eygalieres, Brasserie Bru, very good too.  Around St Remy, everyone raves about le Bistrot du Paradou although I was not so impressed with the food, the place and the atmosphere are very pleasant. La Place is another much-talked about bistrot in Maussane Les Alpilles, although we did not try it.. The list could be very long anyway..There are so many good places around.

And if all of this eating leaves you a bit full, go for a jog along the canal, rent a bike with Velo Passion, or take a wonderful vinyasa yoga class with Colorado-native Sabrina from Yoga-Saint Remy.

{ACHETER} = to shop

There are several cute shops in town, in St Remy, especially for accessories and interior decoration.

Pots and Pans   Flea market

– La boutique de Jeanne: across the street from the organic supermarket, this shop is a labor of love of the owner Jeanne, passionate about travels and constantly inspired by the gypsy cultures around the world.

– Rue de la commune is a little street inside the village full of cute shops, especially interior decoratio: Penates, le Bazar St Remois (cute old school things for children), Le Grand Magasin…More addresses here.

– Or visit the famous town of l’Isle sur la Sorgue, 30min drive with some world-class antique shops and flea markets (including the twice eyarly huge antique fair, on pari with the antique fairs in London and Paris in terms of quality. It always takes place around Easter week end and the 15th of August)..It deserves a whole other post of its own!

Last but not least, I just discovered the blog Provence Post a few days ago after I finished drafting my BozAround guide…Maybe I did not need to write this post, did I?!

Do tell me if you ever decide to go to Provence one day, or if you have special places to share there..I’d love to know.

 

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