Van Gogh's Provence

Trip Start Jun 28, 2007
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Trip End Jul 27, 2007


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Where I stayed
La Maison d'Amelie, Lourmarin

Flag of France  , Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mostly sunny and 26C

Today was another day for the market, this time in St.Remy. Although not as extensive as the other, this one featured more produce. I bought a packet of "Herbes Provencal" and we all enjoyed freshly squeezed juice from oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. in one small square we ran into a jazz trio called Gig Street. Originally from New Orleans, the band leader moved to France where his wife was expecting a baby. After 6 years in Gordes, they recently moved to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Their catchy sound featured Dixieland with some blues and cajun thrown in for good measure. We ended up purchasing one of their CD's and it became the soundtrack for the rest of our travels.

Just outside St.Remy is the Roman ruin of Glanum where we shared lunch. A short walk too us to the monastery at which Vincent van Gogh convalesced for a year. Reproductions of his art work are displayed at the locations from which they were painted. In a period of 53 weeks, van Gogh produced 150 paintings and a similar number of sketches. It was interesting to see the facilities in which he was confined at a period when the usual treatment for mental illness was cruel at best and often torturous. Today the monastery still treats mental patients using art therapy.

We limited the day's explorations so that we could return early, pack our belongings, clean the house, eat some pizza, and watch a movie (The Mask of Zoro). This was our last full day in Provence and it was a lovely way to finish our visit to the region.

Celine's Thoughts
I didn't want to be gone as long as yesterday and if possible, I wanted to go to the local pool in the afternoon. As a result, we only went to St.Remy, which was lovely and took up the better part of our day. First we meandered through le marche, this time staying together as we looked through the various wares. We ended up buying an exquisite olive wood bowl as well as other souvenirs: a lavender satchet for Mom, a bird whistle for Rachel, and framed pictures of an olive tree and lavender.

After lunch sitting on a stone wall by an olive tree, we made our way over to St. Paul Monastery to trace a portion of Vincent van Gogh's life. This still-functioning mental hospital treated van Gogh from 1889 to 1890, after he lopped off his earlobe. We explored and got a sense of the peaceful world he temporarily inhabited. There is a re-creation of his bedroom, an intimate cloister, and a small stone chapel. It was simple, peaceful, and utterly silent. Without a word, we sat and absorbed the atmosphere. What a wonderful feeling. I offered a prayer for Paul and Memere and Pepere to Mary our Mother, her arms opend wide. What a sacred place.

Van Gogh had a very tortured life both in regards to his relationships and poverty. He was estranged from his father but close to his brother. Despite his illness (he was likely bi-polar and epileptic) he was an avid artist. While at the hospital, he completed over 250 pieces in just over one year. It appears he was given some leeway as he left the grounds to paint. At that time, treatment for mental patients was cruel if not barbaric - hose baths, straight jackets, isolation. Paul and I purchased a print "Les Champs de Ble avec Cypress" and my favourite "La Nuit Etoilee", upon which the Don McLean song, Starry Night is based.

Upon arrival back in Lourmarin, we decided to stay in and organize and pack for our departure in the morning. Instead of eating out for a Provencal meal, we ordered pizza and watched "The Mask of Zoro". All in all, a relaxing day and our last in Provence chez La Maison d'Amelie...boo hoo!
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