Engaging country town with a lovely market
www.saint-remy-de-provence.com. A thoroughly engaging country town tucked in the lee of the Alpilles, Saint-Rémy basks in the shade of its plane trees, waking briefly for market day and the Whit Monday Fête de Transhumance. Market day is Wednesday when the Old Town, crammed into a circle of broad boulevards,, is transformed into a colourful jumble of stalls and local farmers (also Sat am). The transhumance marks the summer migration of sheep and goats to the Alps amidst much general merriment and a parade of the four-legged beasts.
Two small museums share admission with the Roman ruins to the south of town. The Musée des Alpilles, place Favier, offers local history and crafts, wonderful turn-of-the-century photographs and mementoes of the 16thC astrologer Nostradamus, who was born on rue Hoche. The Musée Archéologicueis laid out in the Hôtel de Sade, rue du Parage, with displays of Greek and Roman antiquities, mosaics and carvings rescued from the ruins of Glanum.
Just south of town off the D5 lies the sanatorium and former monastery of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life (1889-90). Across the road, Les Antiquités consist of a well-preserved 1stC mausoleum carved with battle scenes, believed to be dedicated to Caius and Lucius Caesar, the young grandsons of Augustus, and a Triumphal Arch with fine fruit and acorn reliefs which would have marked the northern gateway to Glanum. The excavations at one of the most important archaeological sites in France have revealed a fascinating if rather confusing layer by layer picture of a 1stC Roman town, built over a Greek-style earlier settlement, which was in turn founded on the remains of a 5BC Celtic-Ligurian trading post.