Tip-toeing Around Tulips in Saint-Rémy

Blooming tulips brighten any February day.

Les roses are always a fabulous idea, the month of Saint Valentine or not. But oh là là, vibrant tulips like these can’t but melt hearts too. In Provence, les tulipes are an especially welcome spirit booster in February when gloom and gray can reign for days, with the temperature sometimes dipping below freezing at night, creating an ice sheet on the piscine. But then, there are days when the sky opens up blue and the sun shines.

A forty-minute walk from the car park brings you to this deserted beach in the eastern Camargue.

On one of these joyful, sunny occasions, Ralph and I popped down to the Camargue. On the eastern side, there was hardly a soul—just a couple of sanderlings skittering around the hard-packed sand. We ate our picnic leaning against a solitary log on the beach, mesmerized by the azure sky and succession of low waves rushing to shore.

Calm waters, azure skies in the eastern Camargue.

Until the vaccine is widely available, allowing us to safely venture farther afield, we’re especially grateful for the variety of outdoor spaces within reach of Saint-Rémy. And sometimes, snooping around our “neighborhood” reveals something new. Well, the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Frigolet isn’t exactly new—it was founded in 960.

An overview of the Abbaye de Saint-Michel.

Reachable in twenty minutes from Saint-Rémy, the abbey is nestled into a pine forest on top of a small mountain range called the Montagnette. We’ve passed by many times but never stopped to wander around until the other day. We walked the trails winding through the fôret de pins, took in the vast views from the highest peak, and visited the elaborate church. It was lunchtime and no one was around—even the boutique was closed. So there was no chance of a dégustation of the monks’ legendary Frigolet liqueur.

When we got home, I checked the abbey’s website. The monastery is known for a special beer and offering accommodation (in non-pandemic times) to pilgrims seeking a peaceful place of contemplation. I also discovered that over the years the abbey housed various religious orders and in the nineteenth century, it became a boarding school. The famous Provençal poet, Frédéric Mistral stayed there for a time.

The ornate interior of the main church at the Abbaye de Saint-Michel.

And this part I already knew–Mistral went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1904. His most important work was his lengthy poem, Mireille, the basis for the opera (of the same name) by his friend Charles Gounod. And, mes amis, guess where this opera was written in 1863? Yep, Saint-Rémy, in a modest inn that now is a posh hotel named after its famous guest.

A mimosa tree contrasts brilliantly with the bright blue sky.

So, despite these troubled times, a little historical discovery close to home makes our world a little richer. And the tulips–not to mention the brilliant mimosa–make our world a little more beautiful.

Stay safe, well, and hopeful!

Grosses bises, Gayle

A playful Camargue visitor writes a meaningful message in stone, punctuated with a heart.

PS

The Birdwatcher’s Wife is now with the second editor for another go-round—progress!

2 thoughts on “Tip-toeing Around Tulips in Saint-Rémy

  1. Beautiful photos. I too love winter tulips, and mimosa. Spring is not far off. Let’s hope we get vaccinated before long so we can take mini trips. We want to head your way.

    Like

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