Sunday, July 20, 2014

Market Day in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The best things about blogs are meeting wonderful people you would never meet otherwise, in person or by email. I have heard from readers who have told me they planned their entire trips to Provence from my blog and from others saying the pictures reminded them of places they visited in the past.

Most recently, I heard from cousin Mauricette who told me my last post reminded her of summer vacations in Le Beaucet. She said that I included a picture of their vacation house, completely by accident, and the picture of the fountain brought back memories of fetching water for the household.

As I've told you, we don't spend a lot of time in Sablet. Being there for only a few weeks, we like to explore different locales, some of which I discover on other blogs. If we are going to a town or village, we try to go on market day as that is the best day, in our opinion, to visit towns and villages in Provence.

On our list of places to visit this trip, were Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Les-Beaux-de-Provence. Since Wednesday is market day in Saint-Remy, that was the day we decided to go. We would spend the morning in Saint-Remy, enjoy a leisurely lunch, bien sur, then afterwards go to nearby Les-Beaux-de-Provence.

Saint-Remy-de-Provence is set 13 miles due south of Avignon and 17 miles north-east of Arles in the Alpilles, craggy limestone hills carpeted with vineyards, orchards, market gardens and olive groves. The area is quite different from the countryside around Sablet.

It was founded by Celts in around 6 BC, became Greek two centuries later, then fell to the Romans who constructed a large city, Glanum. Saint-Rémy (the name came from a bishop said to have performed a miracle there) continued to flourish in the Middle Ages, when the walls and ramparts were built.

The most obvious remains of the 14th-century walls are the old portes (gates), still in use today as entry ways into the center of old Saint-Rémy. The old center is circled by a ring-road of boulevards, small enough that you can walk around the circumference in 20-30 minutes.

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

As I said it was Wednesday and market day in Saint-Remy. The stalls spill from the Rue de la République just on the edge of Saint Rémy down into the winding alleys and shady squares of the old town. They offer traditional and more unusual crafts as well as clothes, shoes and a huge range of fresh local produce, fish, meat, cheese and flowers.

Mimosa

Asparagus

Brightly Colored Market Baskets

Different Colors and Flavors of Vinegar

That Wednesday was also the start of Carnaval in Saint-Remy with the parade of Marmitons through the market.

Parade des Marmitons

Parade des Marmitons

Parade des Marmitons

Bell Tower of the Town Hall

Dried Fruits, Nuts and Fresh Garlic

Olives of Every Variety

French Flag Blowing in Front of Town Hall

Gothic Bell Tower of Collégiale Saint-Martin

Faded Blue Shutters in Saint-Rémy

Renoncules (top) and Primaveres (bottom) For Sale at Market

The beauty of the countryside and the quality of light has inspired artists, writers and painters. Without a doubt, the most famous was Vincent Van Gogh. After cutting off his ear, the artist voluntarily committed himself for treatment at Saint Paul de Mausole, a beautiful 11th century monastery converted into a psychiatric clinic, just outside Saint-Remy.

Shop Selling Local Specialties of Saint-Rémy

He arrived from Arles on May 8, 1889 and remained there just over a year until May 16, 1890. During this time, he completed over 150 drawings and 143 paintings of his surroundings over all four seasons of the year. They include some of his best known works such as Irises, Wheat Field with Cypresses, The Siesta and The Starry Night.

Saint-Remy Statue

Michael de Nostredame, or Nostradamus, was born in Saint-Rémy in 1503 in a house, tucked away down a narrow side-street. There is a plaque, but with its bricked up windows and modest façade, it's not terribly impressive. A more fitting tribute to the scholar and astrologer is the pretty fountain seen below topped by his bust on Saint-Rémy's main street, Rue Carnot.

Nostradamus Fountain

Shop Selling Souvenirs

Window Mural in Saint-Rémy

Located in the historic center of Saint-Remy at Place Favier, the Alpilles Museum is housed in the Hotel Mistral de Mondragon, a former Renaissance mansion. It has been listed as a Historical Monument since 1862, the building is built around a beautiful courtyard. Created in 1919 by Peter Brown, the museum was completely renovated between 2002 and early 2005.

Alpilles Museum

Near the Alpilles Museum at the back of Place Favier, an antiques dealer has installed her shop. She has set up mannequins in front of her store and dressed them in traditional Provencal costumes. Her shop is framed by old houses and a tower.

Antiques Dealer at Place Favier

In the 15th century, Agnès Hugolen de Fos, a daughter of Saint-Rémy nobility, married a member of the renown Provencal family de Sade, and built a house on this site, which was substantially restored after 1945. The Hôtel de Sade belongs to the French Monuments Nationaux authority.

Hôtel de Sade

Saint-Remy Arched Gate

The Collégiale Saint-Martin, pictured below, is a Catholic Church built on the site of a medieval church which collapsed in 1818 and was reconstructed three years later. The style is mostly neo-classical, though it's topped, by a Gothic bell tower. Its pride and joy is an organ which was restored in 1983 by Pascal Quoirin and is pressed into service each year for the Festival Organa, a series of free Saturday evening concerts by some of the finest organists in the world.

Collégiale Saint-Martin

Saint-Remy Street

Memorial to the Children of Saint-Remy who died in War for France 

Looking Down the Street to the Bell Tower of the Town Hall

Step into Huile du Monde and La Maison de la Truffe seen below where you can sample the best olive oil and vinegar in the area and see a good display of truffles.

Arched Entry Gate to Huile du Monde - La Maison de la Truffe

The Saint-Paul gate seen below is the entrance from the south into Saint-Rémy, onto Rue de la Commune leading to the main square called Place Pelissier where the town hall is located.

Saint-Paul gate into old Saint-Rémy

Saint-Remy Fountain

The city of Glanum built by the Romans a little south of Saint-Rémy is on the road, which today links Saint-Rémy and Les Baux de Provence. Having been covered for centuries by alluvial mud which slid down the hill, Glanum is uncommonly well-preserved and is one of the most important ancient sites in Provence.

Excavation work on Glanum only began in 1921 (so van Gogh would not have known of it) and it is believed that much more remains to be discovered.

The mausoleum seen below dates from 30-20 BCE. Particularly well preserved, it is famous for its unusual structure, unique in Roman architecture: from a rectangular pedestal with four magnificently carved faces rises a triumphal arch, on top of which stands a small round temple housing the effigies of two members of the Gallo-Roman family of the Julii, to whom this monument is dedicated.

The Antiques of Glanum Mausoleum

The Triumphal Arch seen below dates from about 20 CE, it has lost the pediment which once crowned the arch. It is decorated with beautiful reliefs illustrating Caesar’s conquest of the Gauls, with fruit and foliage, symbolising plenty, carved under the arch.

The Antiques of Glanum Arch

The market in Saint-Rémy runs on Wednesdays from around 7am to 1pm. Be sure to arrive very early or be prepared to park well away from the center of town. After we finished our stroll through the market and walked up and down the warren of streets and squares, we headed to lunch. I will tell you about a great place to have lunch nearby in my next post.

Have a great week. Chat soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sunday Lunch in Le Beaucet

We do everything we can to help guests enjoy themselves at our home in Sablet. In addition to information about the house and advice about where to find the best bread, fish, and cheese, the best outdoor markets, and lots of other information, I also give them a list of recommended restaurants.

Initially, we assembled the list of restaurants from what we believed to be trustworthy sources. Over time, that list has evolved into a list of mostly favorite restaurants in the region. I say mostly, because we had not dined at one or two of the restaurants on the list despite several efforts to check them out.

That is until we had to choose where to eat one Sunday and discovered that one of the restaurants that we had not tried serves lunch on Sunday. So off we went to Le Beaucet to dine at Auberge du Beaucet. Le Beaucet is a small village set in the Vaucluse hills topped by the ruins of a stone castle.

Le Beaucet

We found parking near the monument honoring Saint Gens. He was born in Monteux, near Carpentras, in 1104. He was a hermit, lived in renouncement, praying, working and doing penitence. He is called upon for rain during droughts. He died on May 16, 1127 in Le Beaucet. Many miracles are attributed to his intervention, and his veneration is approved by the Catholic Church.

Monument to Saint Gens in Le Beaucet

A street runs north and south through Le Beaucet and ends at the two 14th century stone gates through the original ramparts that once defended Le Beaucet. The road on the north end of the village seen below is called "Coste Froide," because it is literally the "froid" (cold) side of the village where the Mistral hits Le Beaucet.

Le Beaucet North Gate

The steep narrow streets pass houses and ancient stone walls that merge into the cliffs and rocks behind, and enhance the appeal of the village - some troglodyte dwellings are even built into the rocks themselves. The center of the village is restricted for pedestrians only.

Looking Down the Street out the North Gate of Le Beaucet

Le Beaucet Window

We walked below the 12th century L'église de l'Assomption with clock tower and a typical Provencal campanile.

L'église de l'Assomption

Le Beaucet Door

The water for the village lavoir and fountain comes from a spring up above the village in Barnouin Valley. The water from this spring was divided between Le Beaucet and Venasque. The lavoir was rebuilt in 1896 and has a tub for washing and one for rinsing with a roof to protect the women from the sun, rain and wind. The mural was added in 1998.

Le Beaucet Lavoir

The hexagonal fountain at Castel Loup Place was built in the 19th century. Castel Loup Place is outside the southern arched gate of the village at the end of "Coste Chaude," literally meaning this is the warm, sunny side of the village.

Fountain at Castel Loup Place

Le Beaucet House Built into Rocks

Le Beaucet

Le Beaucet Stone House

Cross of the Spirit in Le Beaucet

The ruins of a castle built in the 11th and 12th centuries for the Count of Toulouse stands on a rock above Le Beaucet, that you can reach by climbing a steep flight of stairs in the rock. From the castle, there are wonderful views across the Vaucluse countryside.

Le Beaucet Castle Ruins

Le Beaucet

Throughout Provence, there are many examples of dry stone construction including homes and streets including the one seen below in Le Beaucet. The term “dry stone” refers to a practice of assembling stones without using a cement or other binder, simply a clever stacking and fitting of undressed stones.

Dry Stone Walkway in Le Beaucet

Le Beaucet Window

The striking Assomption Church in the village was built in the 12th century.

L'église de l'Assomption

Statue of Virgin Mary and Baby over Door to L'église de l'Assomption

We found our restaurant at the southern end of the village down a few steps below the main street. Auberge du Beaucet is owned by Amélie L'hôte who oversees the front of the restaurant and Clément Bazin who is chef. The young couple have owned the restaurant since 2011.

Auberge du Beaucet

We were shown into a dining room with wood beams across the ceiling, a stone tile floor and an ancient fire place. We chatted about the menu and made our selections and then turned our attention to the wine list. I was very happy to find one of our favorite rosé wines on the list from Domaine de Valdition. We were off to a good start.

Auberge du Beaucet Dining Room

Wife Shirley

Friend Kari

Our meal began with an amuse bouche from the chef. Unfortunately, I can't find my notes so I can't tell you exactly what were the ingredients in our various dishes.

Amuse Bouche

Ravioli

Fish of the Day

Beef

Cheese Plate

Mignardises

I was happy to confirm that Auberge du Beaucet deserved a spot on our list of recommended restaurants. I hope our guests will make their way to try it out, we will certainly return again in the near future.

Le Beaucet Town Hall

We exited Le Beaucet through the southern arched gate at the end of "Coste Chaude," meaning "chaude" (warm), sunny side of the village.

Castel Loup Place and the Southern Arched Gate into the Village

Auberge du Beaucet
Rue Coste Chaude
84210 Le Beaucet
Tel: 04 90 66 10 82
www.aubergedubeaucet.com

Have a great week. Chat soon!