Our final days in Italy were spent winding our way up the picturesque Italian Riviera bound for France. Little hints of French influence were dotted in amongst the architecture and scenery of the Ligurian coast – especially noticeable in towns like Portofino and Ventimiglia – but as we crossed into France we were struck by just how much things change. Contiguous mountains and coast looked completely different, completely French. We were reminded why we’ve loved living in Europe so much. Nowhere else can you so easily cross from country to country, enjoying dramatic differences in everything–in architecture, infrastructure, streets, signage – and of course the language, the food and the people.
Though we wanted to linger in every town, we drove straight through to Saint Remy de Provence to visit the Boz family – Vanessa, Ceki and their three children, Marcelo, Amalya and Lior. Vanessa had invited us to their beautiful home in St. Remy when we first shared our plans to travel around the world. We scheduled it in immediately, so eager were we to spend a week with wonderful friends in a region of France we’d heard so much about.
Our week with the Boz family passed too quickly but was one of the most relaxing of the year. Vanessa, who shares our wanderlust, has decorated her home with treasures from their family travels. We felt immediately at home in this warm and relaxed space. We sat around the outdoor table, swapping stories of travel while the children roamed free in the adjacent woods, lavender fields and orchards. We cooked together, lounged by the pool together, stayed up late drinking wine and woke slowly every morning, gathering in the kitchen around 10am. Oh lazy summer days! Our children played so well together – building forts, catching frogs, playing Ping-Pong, baking tarts, colouring and swimming. As if they couldn’t get enough of each other, they insisted on slumbering together too.
We were so happy in the Boz family home, that it was hard to pull any of us away from it. We ventured out for a few day trips, and Vanessa and I snuck out once or twice to visit the local markets and to stock up on the amazing French produce, but mostly we just enjoyed our time together at home.
Vanessa has her own inspiring travel blog, Boz Around. She and her family took a round-the-world trip of their own five years ago and some of our favourite destinations this year were recommendations from them. I trust Vanessa’s impeccable taste and wonderful tips like no other. Below are her suggestions for Saint Remy and the surrounding area. Some are things we managed to do and the rest will remain on our wish list for the next time we’re lucky enough to visit! Here is her ‘little black book’ for Saint Remy de Provence, which she also posted on her blog here:
If you’re staying for more than a few days and coming with friends & family, you’re better off renting a house. We’ve done our research and our home, Mas des Verans, is the best!! No we’re not biased!! (Ps: we’ve also listed it here in case anyone’s up for a swap swap, we’re still travellers at heart).
But if you prefer a hotel:
- Sous les Figuiers is walking distance to town. Sweet, well priced and delicious breakfasts.
- Mas de l’Amarine is a little bike ride away, a very special property with art all around, a beautiful pool and the best chef in town. If you’re not staying there, try to have dinner in the garden.
- Le Chateau des Alpilles is the grande dame of St Remy. A small castle with an incredible park and centuries-old platane trees where you can also have dinner. Fancy but very special.
- Le Hameau des Baux is a 15′ drive away in the village of Le Paradou, new and wonderful for families, tastefully decorated, beautiful pool and lots of different accommodations possible.
EAT & GO OUT:
- L’Aile ou la Cuisse: For an easy and tasty meal inside town, save room for desserts. 5, Rue de la Commune +33 (0) 4 32 62 00 25
- Mas de l’Amarine: see above. French cuisine with a modern and very local twist. Pricey but not fancy. Very special.
- Maison Drouot on the outskirts of St Remy. Great value for very good food, décor a bit uninspiring. Set menu. 150 Route de Maillane, Saint Rémy (+33 4 90 15 47 42)
- Cafe de la Place: Good Salads & terrace near the merry-go-round. 17 place de la Republique, (+33 4 90 92 02 13)
- Gus for seafood and a pretty little terrace on the sidewalk. 31 Boulevard Victor Hugo, +33 (0) 4 90 90 27 61
- I Fratelli for simple Italian food (pizza!) and a rooftop terrace. (+33 4 90 20 82 76), near the merry go round
- La Roma: I Scream for Ice Cream! right across the merry-go-round.. Easy.
- Le Divin The place to be for a mojito and to hang out with the locals. 12 Boulevard Gambetta
- Hotel de Tourrel is a beautiful and stylish new hotel restaurant & wine bar near the church. The German owner is very knowledgeable about local wines. Tel: +33 4 84 35 07 20
And a tiny bit further away (15’ drive):
- I must mention Le Bistro du Paradou which is an institution, in the village of Le Paradou. You might find as many locals as you will find American tourists. Have a designated driver, the road is tricky! And make sure to specify dietary restrictions as it’s a set (and different menu) every day. Tel +33 04 90 54 32 70.
- And Pizza Brun in the pretty village of Maussane-Les-Alpilles where locals and celebrities queue for one of the best pizzas in the Alpilles mountains.
EAT AT HOME: The produce is so good in Provence that you’ll often eat as well if not better at home with a few simple ingredients. So if you decide to rent a home, here is where we go food shopping. Keep in mind that the weekly market in St Remy is on Wednesday morning and it gets very crowded (830am til 1pm).
- Cheesemonger Chez Monique Perhaps the best cheeses you will ever eat and you’ll soon forgive Monique for not being the most welcoming shop owner.. 1 Place Joseph Hilaire (04 90 92 32 45)
- Patisserie Michel Marshall: Exquisite, no words. 2 Chemin St Joseph, (across from Chez Monique, 04 90 95 03 54)
- Wine Merchant: Caves & Domaines Mr Esperza is very knowledgeable and has a great selection. Domaine Hauvette is a favorite and you can’t visit the winery so buy it there! 1 Avenue 19 Mars 1962 (+33 9 65 39 77 87,)
- Joel Durand: The M.C. of chocolate. You’ll recognize the fudge machine in his window 3 Boulevard Victor Hugo (a bit after the ice cream parlour on the circling boulevard)
- Le Petit Duc: All their treats & biscuits are delicious. Must try Les calissons, the specialty of the region 7 Boulevard Victor Hugo, next door to Joel Durand.
- Confiserie Lilamand: This is an institution for sweets, especially their ‘pates de fruits’. 5 Avenue Albert Schweizer, St Remy (you’ll find the shop when you exit the Boulevard Victor Hugo towards Avignon)
- Les Patisseries d’Olivier: An unexpected gem in the ZAC de la Gare (not far from supermarket Intermarche). Olivier is famous for his tartes sablees. The one with red fruits is legendary, so are his meringues. (+33 6 24 87 72 86, firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Le Moulin du Calanquet: a wonderful olive oil mill to visit with the children (on the little road Vieux Chemin d’Arles to St Etienne du Gres). They also have a shop in St Remy. 8 rue de la commune
- Bakery Maison Bergese: get the baguette des Alpilles and let the children try the traditional Sacristains for snack time, sweeeet but excellent. Right by the church, next to the pharmacy. Ps: There’s another good bakery by the cheesemonger, with gluten-free breads.
- Fishmonger La Poissonerie Saint Remoise: Excellent fresh fish, only open until lunchtime. 22 rue Carnot, St Remy (04 90 92 04 67). Alternatively, the fish section of Intermarche is very good too.
- Butcher: We get our meat at the butcher section of Alpilles Bio (the excellent organic supermarket) but Spar inside the village sells a very good T-Bone steak (cote de boeuf).
- Green Grocers: There are two excellent grocers in St Remy (closed on market days): Le Potager de Manon: right across the church & Le Jardin Paysan on the 2nd roundabout from Intermarche, it has its own parking. They also have a good dairy and cheese selection, and some bread. Open Sundays until 1pm.
- The Dumont Farm: this is our local organic farm, on Vieux Chemin d’Arles. A lovely couple selling seasonal produce. Ask for the courgettes flowers in season, stuff and bake them easy peasy with goat cheese mixed with garlic and parsley. delicious.
SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP in ST REMY
- La Boutique de Jeanne: We never go to St Remy without paying a visit to Jeanne’s bohemian-chic emporium. A bit unexpected and away from the village, it’s across the street from the excellent supermarket Alpilles-Bio (you’ll see the caravan in front) ZAC de la Gare, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
- La Boutique des Jardins: Another unexpected space with treasures from all over India where the owner spends the winter months. Route d’Avignon, St Remy (take the first roundabout after Intermarche, then direction Avignon and it’s shortly after on your left)
- Le Bazar Saint-Remois and the kid shop down the road from the same owner. Perfect for gifts and fun knick-knacks. 1 Rue de la Commune, Saint-Rémy.
- Libellule: Gorgeous home wares and lots of pretty gift ideas. 10 Rue Jaume Roux
- Le Comptoir des Alpilles: Well priced contemporary linens, on the town hall square
YOU WON’T GET BORED in St REMY
- Learning about flowers and medical plants in the wonderful Sentiers de l’Abondance near Eygalieres: the owner Marie speaks fluent English and gives tours of her special and very typical property every Wednesday or by appointment. It’s a visit to do as a family, and finish it in her home tasting the delicious syrups and natural candies that she makes.
- Rock climbing: there are a few climbing walls in the Alpilles in addition to the natural landscape. Organize a half day outing with registered instructor Swan del Corso (+33 6 28 06 13 22 email@example.com ) from Roc’Alpilles. Suitable for children 8+, with some spectacular descents!
- Biking: rent Mountain Bikes from Velo Passion (+33490924943) or use ours Hiking with an experienced instructor, reserve at the Tourism Office Gliding: from the very small airport of St Remy at the foot of Les Alpilles
- Yoga: Sabrina is a lovely yoga teacher originally from Aspen, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org) She can come to you and also teaches children.
- Horseback riding: Poney Club Le Rouget over in Maussane is a sweet place for younger ones (Sabine: +33 6 14 80 46 09) or Ecuries des Dalennes where they take horseback riding very seriously. Ask for Marianne (+33 6 11 36 69 02)
- Sculpture class: Bob runs children’s workshops on Wed. & Sat. He speaks English and is a funny character (+33 6 75 08 13 58)
- Tennis: they run weekly courses during school holidays, starting 4 years old (Gregory: +33 6 10 56 48 56)
- Winery visits & Tastings: There are so many in the area… Domaine Dalmeran and Domaine Trevallon (by appointment) on the small road towards St Etienne du Gres. Domaine Milan makes organic wine, near Mas de l’Amarine, Chateau Romanin is the most famous and has tours. Then, you have lots more AOC wineries over in Les Baux, including the famous Mas de La Dame. And if you drive further to Aix en Provence or Chateauneuf du Papes, you’ll open a whole other chapter of wines…
- The Tourism Office of St Remy organizes tours in English on various topics including one about Van Gogh on Saturday mornings. Find it here or pay them a visit in town, they offer tons of advice.
- Musee Estrine: Excellent small art museum in the heart of the village. 8 rue Lucien Estrine
- Musee des Alpilles: Interesting museum about the cultural and natural landscape of the area
- Archeological site of Glanum (with a festival early July), Route des Baux de Provence, St Rémy
- The Cloister of Saint Paul Mausole: Avenue Dr Edgar Leroy, St Rémy 04 90 92 77 00
- Carrieres de Lumieres: Great with children, an art show of light and sound around different themes of art (this year t’s Chagall) in an unusual space near the castle of Les Baux.
- Pretty villages nearby: Les Baux de Provence (stunning medieval castle, go at sunset to avoid the crowds), Eygalieres (weekly market is Friday am), Maussane-les-Alpilles, Mouries and so many more!
GOOD TO KNOW .. LINKS TO KEEP:
- Taxi & drivers who speak English: Christophe Lano has a van for up to 8, and can drive you anywhere, including putting together a tour of wineries.
- This is another post that I published a while back on St Remy
- Vicky Archer’s Provence through the eyes of an Australian in St Remy is always very inspiring.
- These reviews about restaurants in Provence are an entertaining read.
- Laure Balducci, will take you around on the markets and show you how to cook Provencal dishes.
- Julie Mautner’s blog has an incredible wealth of information.