Some busy bays have passed. And some merely lazing around in the glorious weather, albeit with a bit of Mistral-like wind.
Bes tof many good things was the visit to Glanum, the Roman and more ruins south of St Remy de Provence. Thgis is an amazing archaeological site that clings to a valley in the limestone crags of the Aprilles, tumbling down from the pass that gained it strategic importance. It started at least 60p0 years before the modern era with the Ligurians building some houses at the head of the pass, possibly also utilising or venerating a spring nearby. When the Greeks, in the form of what are here called Phocacians arrived they liked what they saw, so did the Celts.
But it was the romans who really got the building bug, spending from150 BME to 400 ME developing an entire town. Which was then ransacked and robbed and covered in eartgh until a bit of work in the 16th century started a steady uncovering which finally got going properly in 1921. And voiloa we have a splending Roman ruin in the most amazing setting. Opicturs tell it best so I have heaped a bunch onto Picasa.
We then made our way down hill to what became of the Christianising influence – an Abbey with a remarkable claim to fame; this is where Vincent van Gogh had himself incarcerated for treatment to what I think today might be called bi-polar disorder. Whatever he was impressed by all he saw and the way he saw it and painted a vast array of brilliant images here. It is also where he was so distressed at a fight with a friend that he cut off his ear. The abbey still offers psychological and psychiatric help and uses art therapt as a key ingredient. The work of patients is on sale in the inevitable shop. That they are inspired by van Gogh is obvious and some of them are not half bad.
We walked the ways of Vincent in the kind of light that inspired him,.We saw the things he saw for little has changed and to be frank felt the inspiration for his work. We saw his room, which he painted and made both worse and better than it really is. He made it much smaller but left out the bars at the window and showed a very confortable bateau-lit while the room now sports an iron bedstead of institutional severity. We looked from his window onto the lavender fields and saw the Irises growing in the field edge. There were cypresses all around, proud sentinels for the Italian (Roman?) taste that brought them here and punctuating the landscape as they do van Gogh's paintings.
Up the road is St Remy de Provence. We loved its market and will be back. But we shall especially seek out anorther strange significance – this is the birthplace of Nostradamus. And that will lead us soon to Salon de Provence, the allegedly even more delightful town that he made his home for the last 19 years of his life, writing his myriad (well a few thousand anyway) prognosticacians on the future he imagined. I have read them, read the commentaries and reckon if you write in riddles and make enough guesses anyone could hit a few targets.
But even so, I never thought to walk where he walked, anymore than I expected to see what inspired the inestimably more talented but no less troubled Vincent. I do admit to hearing Don McCullin's song inside my head which I was at the Abbey; not sure what I shall hear in Nostradamus land at Salon de Provence. “In the year 2525, if man is still alive...” If you know the one I mean!