A Valentine for Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

As La fête de Saint-Valentin approaches, l’amour fills the air. Maybe that’s why Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s opening lines to her famous sonnet flashed across my mind as Ralph and I strolled through Saint-Rémy’s centre ville earlier this week. The soft golden light that illuminated the Hôtel de Ville and the graceful Fontaine de Quatre Dauphins gave me pause. This beautiful, serene scene reminded me that after more than a decade living in this delightful commune nestled into the base of les Alpilles, its many charms continue to tug at my heartstrings.

As the seasons shift, and the tourists (and the wicked mistral!) blow in and out, this petite ville of ten thousand residents ever evolves. For example, this winter the Tourist Office is undergoing a make-over, along with the main south-bound road, the fiercely bumpy D5, which formerly put shock absorbers to the test. But, it is the many enduring constants that keep my love affair with this enchanting town fired up. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Year-round town: With its vibrant café culture, fab Wednesday market—filled with dazzling local produce—art galleries, boutiques, cinema, boulangeries, and special events like the popular transhumance, which involves a parade of thousands of sheep and goats around the ring road, there’s always something to grab your attention.

A warm welcome awaits at Grand Cafe Riche.
Overview of Saint-Rémy from the base of les Alpilles.

Nature at the doorstep: From bustling centre-ville, it’s just a twenty-minute stroll to the edge of the Parc Regional des Alpilles, with all its walking trails, sensational views, and, of course, bird life. It’s a haven for cyclists, hikers, and runners.

Cyclists cruise by L’Èglise Saint-Martin on market day.
An entrance to charming centre ville, filled with boutiques and art galleries.

Beautiful centre-ville: Charming squares, replete with pretty fountains, like Place Plessier and Place Favier—home to the superb Musée des Alpilles—offer inviting spaces to slow down, admire the intriguing architecture, and people-watch.

Now a posh hotel, it was a modest inn when composer Charles Gounod wrote the opera Mireille here in 1863.

More than a pretty face: Aside from the enviable setting and enchanting architecture, Saint-Rémy enjoys a rich history that includes the Greeks and Romans, native son Nostradamus, the opera composer Charles Gounod, and Van Gogh. The Dutch artist painted his famous The Starry Night during his stay at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole (1889).

A bronze statue of Van Gogh greets visitors at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole monastery.
The Roman monuments, Les Antiques, stand at the entrance to Glanum, on the outskirts of St. Rémy.
A vast beach in the Camargue, an hour from St. Rémy.

Proximity to world class destinations: One hour brings you to Aix-en-Provence and just twenty minutes to Avignon to the north and Arles to the west. And let’s not forget the magnificent wetlands of the Camargue, home to the famous white horses, bulls, and, of course, flocks of marvelous bird life like the Greater Flamingo, my favorite bird.

A poster of Greater Flamingos showing off their great wingspans.

I’ve only scratched the surface here but perhaps now you’ll want to come take a peek for yourself? Beware—if you do, you might be inclined to prolong your stay.

Joyeuse Fête de Saint-Valentin!

Bises, Gayle

Outside the Camargue Museum, I’m with Jean-Yves Barnagaud, author of Where to Watch Birds in France. (Nidal Issa and Sébastien Dallouyau are co-authors of the fabulous bird guide.)


A week ago Ralph and I had the privilege to go birding in the Camargue with an exceptional avian expert, the author of Where to Watch Birds in France, which was a huge help to Ralph during his big birding year (2019). Congenial Jean-Yves Barnagaud took time out from his incredibly busy schedule as a researcher/professor in Montpellier to meet us for an outing, which included sightings of the Bewick’s Swan, Curlew and Pintail. Plus we enjoyed a “three-course” pique-nique—in a bird blind! Though the mistral was howling, it was an experience to treasure.

2 thoughts on “A Valentine for Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s