St. Remy de Provence, the perfect French town.

St. Remy de Provence, the perfect French town.

st remy

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 After having what seemed like perfect luck throughout Spain, we hit our first snag in the trip when I discovered that the woman working at the train station had given us the train times for the wrong day. Instead of being able to take the train direct from Barcelona to Avignon, we had to take a local train to a little town on the border of France and Spain, Cerbère. We didn’t find this out the easy way however, dealing with quite possibly the most rude train station worker in all of Spain. This woman made the workers at the BMV look like angels. In order to talk to a ticket rep you had to grab a number, the numbers would flash and you would go to the window that corresponded with your number. When our number flashed across the screen we walked over to the window, and set down the number, while another couple also came up to the window. The woman completely ignored us and changed the number so that the couple behind us could be helped. Needless to say we were not pleased at having to grab another number and wait for this process again.Things got stranger still, when we boarded the train from Cerbère, when what looked like a homeless man and his friends got on the train at the first stop. This man was shirtless and smelled like Vodka, and had his guitar with him. Nothing says European train travel like listening to a drunken shirtless man sing “Wonderwall,” by Oasis at the top of his lungs. I would have been fine with the free entertainment, if he didn’t replace certain lyrics with various curse words. The man then became irate when he felt that no one in the cabin was listening to him so he started walking around yelling at random passengers about how they were wasting their lives.  He topped this all off by going on a tirade against every country in the European Union as well as the US, while growling and saying he wanted to drop a bomb on the prime minister. At this point I started to wonder if any of these trains in Europe had any security, or people checking tickets, because clearly this person did not belong on the train. Finally he set his sights on Leer and I and began harassing both of us, saying he would stare at us both till the next stop. Things got pretty uncomfortable quickly, and we were fortunate that this up and coming musician decided to get off the train at the next stop. Aside from that our first train ride in Europe was a success.

 

A typical building in St. Remy

After a long day and a half of traveling, St Remy in Provence was just the place we needed. If Barcelona was dedicated to sightseeing, then St. Remy was all about the food. Picking a restaurant to eat lunch at was the hardest decision we had to make while staying in the little French town of 9,000 people. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there was only one road in this town that circled back to the main square. Our hotel was located 5 minutes from the main square and we were lucky enough to have the only room in the place that didn’t have air conditioning. This helped me learn hundreds of new ways to stay cool in 100 degree weather.

The view from our room

Aside from the ac however, the rest of the hotel was amazing. We had views of the rooftops and mountains from our window, and there was a little garden area where you could sit and eat and drink. We set out the moment we got in, hungry from our adventures in travel, and found one of the first restaurants on the square. Our lunch was fantastic and included provincial sausage and potatoes for me and a big salad for Leer. I also got a huge slice of apple pie that could not have hit the spot more. We topped it all off with white wine, which was cheaper than the cokes on the menu. (We found this to be true throughout St. Remy.) From there we explored the little side streets of the town stopping to admire the little shops and restaurants. We finished the first day in St. Remy with a walk down the main square with a big ice cream cone. It was the perfect way to unwind after escaping with our lives on the train.

The next morning we set off to explore the areas just outside of town. When I was planning this trip I remembered reading about an area of Roman ruins that was a short walk from town. We decided to head in the direction of the mountains and were not disappointed when twenty minutes into our walk we stumbled upon the first of the ruins. From there we walked up the road and into the area which had been turned into a park. The walk up was very interesting as well as this was the area where Van Gogh had painted many of his later works, and the road was littered with signs that showed his paintings, which were painted on the very spot we stood.  It was incredible to see the level of detail and skill that the early Romans had in constructing their city. Though most of the statues and buildings did not survive, the structures that stay standing are a reminder that the Roman civilization was one of the greatest.

Glanum archeological site

Having some time to kill, Leer and I decided to continue walking up the road, and found a hiking trail that led into the Alpille mountains. Now I’m not one to usually hike (my REI membership has been revoked for some time now) but armed with a pair of clif bars, and my new Nalgene water bottle I was set to go. This was no bunny hill either; we climbed and slid our way through the mountains, and were rewarded with a beautiful view of a lake within the mountains. We stopped to enjoy our clif bars and were on our way back to St. Remy.

Having worked up an appetite we decided to try out a new restaurant in town, and were not disappointed when we discovered Le Mirabeau, a restaurant run by a father son team. The son was about our age and spoke English pretty well, and wasn’t shy to tell the both of us that his three favorite things in life were: “burgers, motorbikes, and sex.” Speaking of burgers, the place was known for them so Leer got one of the biggest on the menu that came with all the trimmings plus caramelized onions and their house sauce on top. I opted for the steak and fries which had to be one of my better choices on the trip so far.  The steak was cooked to perfection, and was covered in homemade butter that had been mixed with provincial herbs. I finished the meal with my favorite dessert, tiramisu, and I was in heaven.

The best meal

With thoughts of murderous guitar players a distant memory, we enjoyed our last morning in St. Remy by walking through the famous Wednesday market. This puts the Carmel Farmer’s Market to shame, seeing that about a hundred vendors take over the town with their carts and fresh goods. There was everything from fresh berries, to paella, and homemade towels all beings sold in the center of the town as well as down the small side streets. I can still smell the rotisserie chickens cooking in their own fat, and the fresh cheeses and breads. There could be no better way to end out time in Provence, than to enjoy what they do best. These last two days have been very relaxing, and for now it’s off to Paris till Saturday. For now keep me in your thoughts, because we have many train rides left to go!

St. Remy Market

 

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