#2, France, Feb. 20, 1997

Dear Everybody,

Continuing on in Nimes, we visited the Tour Magne and the Jardin de la Fontaine before driving out to see the huge aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, which brought water to Nimes in 15 B.C. We took a peek at a lovely small town called Beaucaire, and visited the Abbaye de St. Michel de Frigolet (frigolet means thyme). Apparently you can make a liquor out of almost anything, including thyme, and we bought some at the Abbaye. Later we arrived at Arles, with cold, windy weather, although except for tonight, the weather has been fine.

In the morning we visited the Amphitheatre from Roman times, which had been converted to a fortress but then had been restored in 1825.

 

 

 

 

Now we began to see many Van Gogh ‘views’ from which he made paintings, such as the Jardin de l’Hospice d’Arles.

They also had a café

 

 

 

 

made to look like Van Gogh’s night scene of a café in la place du Forum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day on the way to St. Remy we stopped to see the Roman Arch at Glenum, and the Mausoleum from 10 B.C.

 

 

 In St. Remy we traced Van Gogh’s steps to see where he made several of his paintings. They had set up photos of the actual paintings in front of the

‘view,’ which he painted. Some of these were The Olive Trees, The Mountains of St. Remy, The Quarry, The Poppyfield, and The Plane Trees.

 

 

 

 

 

We visited St. Paul’s Clinic where he spent the year from 1888 to 1889. His actual room was no longer in existence, as it had been demolished in 1960.

Near St. Paul’s was a troglytic farm, which we toured. We had a lovely young girl guide, who showed us the Roman quarries, the well, and the pyramid which was a 40’ high sliver of rock in the middle of a field of lavender, put there by the Romans. We met the farmer who lives there—his family has lived there for 400 years. He said that in 1951 there was severe flooding and so he temporarily moved into St. Paul’s Clinic, into the same room in which Van Gogh had lived.

The charming village of Les Baux was atop an excarpment called Les Alpilles—what a setting! Then we visited Daudet’s windmill, and a small Roman aqueduct. The weather was sunshiny and gorgeous with the cherry trees just starting to bloom.

 

 

Back in Arles that evening, we hunted high and low for a good restaurant but many were closed because it was Monday. We finally returned to one that we had looked at first and rejected because there was lots of commotion with children crying and it didn’t seem well organized. However, it seemed after surveying what there was that this would have to do. When we ordered, we just told the waitress (I think she was the proprietress) to just bring us what she thought we should have. Well, what a surprise! We had Kir for an aperitif, chicken livers with white wine, Camargue lettuce salad, French bread, Coquille St. Jacque, a variety of cheeses and coffee. It was wonderful!

Next was Aix where we drove on Tuesday. We stayed at the Hotel Caravelle, which was not far from the Cours Mirabeau, a wonderful boulevard lined with 18th century houses on one side and many outdoor/indoor cafes on the other. It also had two rows of planetrees, which were not in leaf this early, but which made a lovely border on the boulevard. At lunch we entered one of the cafes, but I told Jan I didn’t think we should eat here—poor vibes. We entered another and were seated. For some reason (I don’t normally do this) I again felt we should leave as this café didn’t seem right, either. We left and entered a third! We were seated and to Jan’s relief, I’m sure, this café seemed fine. As we were sitting there, she suddenly remembered that she had a recommendation for a restaurant in this town, Aix, from her good friends who had visited Provence a few months earlier. She dug around in her purse and came up with a slip of paper—the recommendation was for the café that we were now sitting in, the Mondial! Their specialty seemed to be moules (mussels) and Roquefort cheese with French fries, which we ordered. It was So Good that we returned to that café for another round of the moules for dinner!

Aix is very picturesque! The Fontaine de la Rotonde at one end of the Cours Mirabeau is beautiful and we could see it from our restaurant while we were having lunch (and dinner!) While walking around town, we visited the Natural History Museum, which displayed dinosaur eggs. Before leaving Aix the next morning, we stopped at Cezanne’s Atelier. There were some items there that he had included in his paintings,—a bottle, and a teapot from VietNam. His furniture, paint pots, and clothes were all there, as was a tall ladder. Unfortunately Jan tripped and fell while getting out of the car, cutting her eyebrow. This was traumatic, but luckily there seemed to be no serious damage.

We drove on to Marseilles, taking a walk around the port, then drove on to Cassis for lunch. What a lunch! We had stuffed mussels, sole, cheese and local wine. We spent the night in nearby Bandol. Several years ago Jan’s son, Brad, won a car race here over 200 entrants, but the French didn’t want an American to win so they disqualified him after all the races were run and he won, meaning that he also didn’t get the $100,000 contract for a year’s racing! Our Bandol hotel room (the Hotel de la Baie) overlooked the Mediterranean—what could be better?

 

 

 

 

 

This morning we drove along the Cote D’Azur and arrived in St. Tropez. It was not nearly as spiffy as I expected it to be, although there are some very large yachts in the port. We had more mussels for lunch (!) along with escargot this time, and decided that we would stay 12 miles away in a little mountain town called Rematuelle.

 

 

We walked around the lovely town in beautiful sunshine (68 degrees) enjoying the gorgeous view from all over including from our hotel room.

 

 

The hotel dining room was full of local things like farm implements, dried flowers, etc., and served up a wonderful dinner. I had salmon, lamb stew and a terrific chocolaty dessert. The food in Provence has been superlative!

We’re really enjoying ourselves!

Carol

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