More notes from February 2012 when we lived on our boat in France…
I’m glad all that Christmas and New Year stuff is over, I feel better already! And the days are getting longer – it’s still light at 5.30pm here now. All the decorations and lights have been taken off the boats and put away for another year. Apparently there was a competition for the best decorated boat, (we didn’t enter) but the winner is not announced until mid-Feb, when all the entrants are invited by the Mayor to the Town Hall and are given a bottle of wine each. I hope we can manage to infiltrate this holy shrine without an invitation, as I think our last minute pseudo-decs of two strands of gold tinsel and some red beads should definitely be rewarded for effort.
Yesterday we went to St Remy on the bus from Tarascon, only one euro each, a 20 minute journey through some beautiful countryside. Beaucaire, where Fandancer is moored, is actually in Languedoc-Rousillon, but Tarascon, over the bridge, is in Provence, as is St Remy. Beautiful huge trees lining the roads, gorgeous brown and red and orange terracotta roof tiles, poplar trees in the distance. Just like an impressionist painting! And that was what we were hoping to see in St Remy, for this is the town associated with Van Gogh for the last years of his life, when he was a patient in a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of the town.
We firstly walked round the old town to get our bearings, and I took some photos. We had a snack lunch in a local bar, just coffee and a croque monsieur. All the local bars seem to have these electronic Lotto terminals, and although I don’t know much about the French lottery, it appears they have many more different draws than in the UK, it seems there is an hourly draw, and several daily draws of the lucky tickets! I think this game was secretly designed by men as a way of giving them an excuse to rush to the local bar and have a drink at frequent intervals in the day, while checking their tickets and waiting for their winning numbers to be displayed on the screens.
There is always some Frenchman in every bar who rushes in and orders a drink while holding a wad of tickets, then is glued to the screen for five minutes, then shrugs his shoulders, tears his ticket in half and throws it away, buys another drink, and then another book of tickets, and so the cycle is repeated ….
After leaving the entertainment in the bar, we followed the Van Gogh route out of the town and down the road to the hospital. At various places en route there are 22 boards each displaying one of VanGogh’s famous paintings; he painted 150 while he was in St Remy, they used to let him out of the hospital so he could create these masterpieces, and you can see some of the actual sites where he must have sat to paint the olive trees, mountains, cornfields. I was very much hoping that if we got to the end of the route there would be some sort of reward to collect (as you know, I am very competitive), or maybe the final board would be in a bar where a free drink would await us. But no such luck. We managed to find all the 22 boards except for three, which I believe were missing, as we looked everywhere in the location where they were supposed to be, without success. One of which was of course, the final display board, which was obviously missing on purpose, so they didn’t have to give out a prize …
We were able to go into the visitors’ area of the hospital, and it was absolutely beautiful, breath-taking. There were some cloisters, built in the 11-12th century, and a lovely chapel. All very calm and peaceful. Unfortunately the main display was closed, which was the room where Van Gogh actually lived, and did some of his paintings, and also we didn’t get to see the art works in the gallery painted by present day patients, but the gardens and other areas we saw were really lovely. There was no one about, it was so quiet. Tim said when I go completely doolally and mental, (not long to go, then!) he is going to book me a place there. I will resist the urge to tell further stories or make any jokes about psychiatric hospitals as it would probably offend some people, but you could write to me personally if interested …..
Are you enjoying my French interlude?