our favorite family holidays: retreat to the lavender fields in Provence

Growing up in a little village, it has always been a dream of mine to have a family holiday in a picturesque village in Provence, and last week my dream came true……..

Our little family of three stayed in St Remy de Provence, one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. We were not disappointed!

It truly ticked all the boxes as the perfect village. Being small this village felt extremely intimate, surrounded in beautiful olive trees and dotted in lavender fields…..our little village was  full of lovely small independent shops, well known for its local Wednesday market and enriched in Celtic and Roman history. It was in St Remy De Provence that Van Gogh drew over 100 paintings, he was truly inspired here by the vast fields of olive trees and lavender over here.

My 11-year old daughter dressed up in holiday gear!

As we drove towards St Remy, we were welcomed by a long magical tree tunnel, it just seemed as if this beautiful tree tunnel was never going to end, it just went on and on, like we were travelling through a door way in time…….

The beautiful tree tunnel

Everything in the old village of St Remy just looks effortlessly chic! The buildings had a lovely whited washed feel, contrasted by the striking vibrant colored shutter windows. It was full of  beautiful high end shops and art galleries. Here we discovered  our favourite shop in St Remy, brimming with shabby chic ornaments for the home, this little family run business inspired my next ‘look’ for my own shop……….

Our favourite shop, run by a husband and wife team!

During our stay, every day we woke up to glorious sunshine ( a true luxury for us living in Britain)! We loved to wander around the streets in the early morning, there was hardly anyone walking on these streets at that time; the sunlight was gentle, air was crisp, it felt as if we were the only residents in this beautiful village. I felt like I was on cloud nine floating through the cobbled streets…………….It was just us and St Remy……We belonged to St Remy and St Remy belonged to us.

Wandering around the cobbled streets

After my morning stroll, I walked down to the little family run baker , ”Philippe and Marysa”, and bought a freshly made loaf of bread daily. Don’t you just love the smell of freshly baked bread? I do, each morning I was welcomed by Marysa the owner’s lovely smile! It’s true to say I indulged here, their apricot tart tasted just divine!

Family run local bakery

A stay in St Remy is just not complete without the visit to Wednesday morning market, Glanum the Roman ruins and St Paul de Mausole!……. The morning market opened my eyes to the contrast between British and French food. Everyone buys fresh and local produce! The market was full of fresh ripe local produce, and my word,  the cheese was the best cheese we had ever tasted! Just amazing! The plump beef tomatoes grown by the local farmers are gigantic,  and taste so sweet compared to the ones we buy from the supermarket back in the UK!

On Sunday, we visited Glanum. Glanum is a fortified town founded by a Celto-Ligurian people called the Salyes in the 6th century BCE. The ruins were buried underground for over 1200 years and uncovered in 1921! We were so lucky to be able to grab three tickets to the Mozart concert taking place among-st the ruins of this place…………..Every cell of my body was tingling, like a wave I let the opera’s magic crash over me consuming me whole.  On a beautiful starry night, surrounded by the 2500-year old ruins we sat in awe watching Mozart’s ”Magic flute”………..Even my husband said the opera singing brought joy to his soul!

Opera singing at sunset amongst the 2600 years old ruins

Being avid fans of Van Gogh, we made sure to visit St Paul de Mausole , the hospital Van Gogh stayed in. The hospital was a  tranquil place with a picturesque lavender field behind it. During his stay, his mental health fluctuated, he suffered periods of severe confusion and actually ate some of his oil paint. Despite that, he created around 150 different pieces of artwork during the 53 weeks of stay at this place. Did you know that his famous ” Starry nights” was actually created over here, showing the view from his window before sunrise? It was truly one of his most productive time of his life.

He often couldn’t afford to hire models, so he painted himself instead!

He was born in a upper-middle class family and his father was a pastor. During his early  years, he took up a post as a missionary in the coal mining district of Belgium. His heart went out to the poor miners who had to work 700 meters under ground all day long. So he gave all his possessions away and chose to live humbly like a poor miner! He gave up his comfortable accommodation at a bakery to a homeless person, moved to a small hut and slept on the straw, and gave away his nice clothes to the miners and wore the same rugged clothes like the miners. Sadly and to my dismay, the church authorities at his time not only didn’t appreciate his charitable acts, but also dismissed him because his humble living ”undermined the dignity of the priesthood”. He was heartbroken by the rejection of the church,  but in his letter to his brother, he wrote ” Religions pass away, but God remains”!

I read his biography before; me and my family visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I remember admiring and appreciating  his original sunflower painting………..To me, Van Gogh is not just a talented artist with world famous paintings, he is also a character that I deeply sympathize with and respect.

I felt the warmth of his soul when I stood in front of his sunflower painting!

In a cold material world where people are often judged by what job you have, what car you drive, how much your home is worth,  there is a Van Gogh who accepts people as they are, who warms up your heart like the sunshine in Provence.

I could almost feel his presence, standing in his tiny room where he stayed for 53 weeks. Vincent Van Gogh was no longer a ghost or character behind the old books and beautiful paintings. When I looked out of his window, I could see the picturesque view that inspired him to draw so many amazing paintings including ”Starry night”. I felt as if he were speaking to me when I read about his letters to his brother, describing the pictures, sounds and voices going through his head……..

In Van Gogh’s tiny hospital room

I suddenly remembered this song,

”Starry starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey

Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the
Darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils

Catch the breeze and the winter chills

In colors on the snowy linen land.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
They did not know how

Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Starry starry night
Flaming flo’rs that brightly blaze

Swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in
Vincent’s eyes of China blue.
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain

Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s
Loving hand.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me”

After that, I retreated back to the purple lavenders fields in the hospital grounds………. the sunlight was so bright, lavender buds were in full bloom bouncing in the wind, bees dancing in the summer air, and the smell of the entire field of  lavenders lingered on me for ages……….

Truly beautiful

The most beautiful things in life are not things, they are families, places, memories and pictures! They are feelings, moments, smiles……they are memories of St Remy, freshly baked bread, cheese, the ruins, opera, Van Gogh, sunshine, lavender fields, time spent with my family……..

Travelling is a transformation, at first leaving you completely speechless, and then transforming you into a story teller!

Love Scape xxx

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