If you are in the South of France for two months then you really should visit the places that inspired Van Gogh. If you are married to an artist, then it is mandatory for you to follow the Van Gogh trail. We decided to start in Saint-Rémy assuming it would be the more depressing of the sites we planned to visit. It was here that Van Gogh entered the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum on May 8, 1889, accompanied by his caretaker, Frédéric Salles, a Protestant clergyman. It was not what we expected.

Saint-Paul was a former monastery in Saint-Rémy, some 20 miles from Arles.  Walking onto the grounds one is met with an enormous sense of calm and serenity. Van Gogh had two cells with barred windows, one of which was to be used as a studio.  The clinic and its garden became the main subjects of his paintings during this period. He made several studies of the hospital’s interiors, such as the Vestibule of the Asylum and Saint-Rémy (September 1889). Some of his works from this time are characterized by swirls, such as The Starry Night. He was allowed short supervised walks, which led to paintings of cypresses and olive trees, including Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background (1889), Cypresses (1889), Cornfield with Cypresses (1889), Country road in Provence by Night (1890). In September 1889, he produced two further versions of Bedroom in Arles.

You can take the Van Gogh walk to see the locations he painted during his supervised walks. The locations are marked by information signs with a reproduction of the paintings and a short text. The texts are often from his letters. The scenes have changed but you still have a sense of his presence in the fields, the olive trees, and the cypresses.

If you go, and you should, then start with a visit to the center of Saint-Rémy. You can find pay parting near the Church of St. Martin. Enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes and then visit this old church. It needs to be restored but you can still see its former beauty. After your visit, drive to the arena where you can park for free. From here you can follow the Van Gogh walk mentioned above and visit the asylum.

If you still have energy and time then Glanum is just a few steps past the asylum. It is particularly known for two well-preserved Roman monuments of the 1st century B.C., known as les Antiques, a mausoleum and the oldest triumphal arch in France.

Next stop, Arles.


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