Vincent Van Gogh and St. Remy de Provence

July 2nd, 2012

I have always been fascinated by Vincent Van Gogh.  A few years ago I braved wind, rain and long lines to view the Vincent Van Gogh collection on loan to a museum in Washington DC.  While visiting sunny Provence last week, I did not have to suffer bad weather and long lines to spend time in a place where Van Gogh spent a year of his life.

After a tumultuous time in Arles, which included the ear cutting incident, Van Gogh committed himself to the Monastere St. Paul-de Mausole in St. Remy to convalesce.  He was allowed studio space and painted some of his best work there.

The grounds of the asylum were, and are today, lovely.  Van Gogh found inspiration everywhere.  He painted Irises that were growing in a nearby field.

He wrote to his brother Theo, “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”  Thus, he painted from that memory the swirls of Starry Night.

This is the view from Van Gogh’s window.  The window is barred, as would be expected in a hospital.  But what is so fascinating to me, is that visitors today are allowed into this very room.

David suggested that if I was tired I could actually lie down on Van Gogh’s bed.

The grounds of Monastere St. Paul-de Mausole are beautiful.  The lavender was just beginning to flower and the aroma was heady.

I could picture Van Gogh strolling the pathways.

While in St. Remy we had lunch at the Bistrot Decouverte.

We went there because Sam, of My Carolina Kitchen, spent time in St. Remy a few years ago.  Bistrot Decouverte was one of her favorite restaurants.  You can read about her experience here.

Our lunch of braised chicken with a salad verte was so good that you will just have to take my word for it because we only got pictures of the bones on the plate.

After lunch we strolled around the lovely village of St. Remy.  It is very picturesque and I can see why Sam and Meakin made this town their home-base while in Provence.

David even made friends with a local dog.  So cute! 

We ended the day back in L’isle Sur la Sorgue at our favorite wine and cheese shop with a toast to another beautiful day in Provence.

Winery Visit and The Mediterranean Coast

June 26th, 2012

Before we even left for France, I knew there was one winery that I wanted to visit in Provence and you can also try here to get once in a lifetime experience.  The owners of the apartment that we rented in L’isle Sur la Sorgue told  me about the winery Tempier Bandol.   Alice Waters imports their wines for Chez Panisse.  They are known for their roses and robust reds.  The winery is located outside the coastal fishing village of Bandol.  This is an important wine growing region in France.

The winery was down a one lane path and our GPS said we had arrived long before we saw it.   David was ready to turn back, but we kept going at my insistance and I”m glad we did.

We sampled both the rose and the red wine and came away with a nice bottle of 2009 red wine.  Hopefully it will make it home in our luggage.  We will save it for our blind wine tasting event over the Labor Day weekend.

After leaving the winery we drove to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  Our rental car was upgraded to a Peugeot convertible.  David loved it and wished we could get one in the US.

Cassis is a resort town on the coast that has a beautiful harbor.  It is not as crowded as Nice or Canne


We had lunch at a harborside brasserie.

The Salad Niscoise was refreshing with a glass of rose wine and a view of the sea.  Life could not have been better!

We only wish that we had brought our bathing suits.

I will continue with our adventures when we return home on Saturday.  We are staying with our friends in Tours right now and do not have internet access. I am writing this from the Irish company Bar in old Tours, the only place we could find with wifi. It is approaching lunch time and David already knows what he is having….Moules au Curry…mussels with cream, curry and white wine.

Hilltop Villages of Provence

June 22nd, 2012

Close to where we are staying are two hilltop villages; Gordes and Roussillon.   I had heard of both of them while reading Peter Mayles book, A Year in Provence.  Gordes is perched on a hillside with the white stone buildings appearing to be rooted into the cliffs.  Historically villages were built on top of hills for defensive purposes. 

Gordes has a large village square with the original ancient castle and the fountain at its center.  Until recent times the fountain was the only source of water for the village.

The village is full of narrow cobbled streets that were fun to explore, but on a hot day, were a real challange.

We found a secluded cafe for lunch away from the crowds in the square.  There was a breeze and a beautiful view of the valley.   I forgot to take a picture of the food.  David had a tasty lasagna dish and I had a salad with roasted chicken and vegetables.

It also happened to be our anniversary that day, so we got a kind lady to take our picture together.

After getting lost in the hills, we finally found the village of Roussillon.  The earth pigment here has a reddish tint that was used to create the ochre colored paint favored by artists.  The village attracted many famous artists including Marc Chagall.


The buildings all have that warm red hue.  I love the contrasting blue shutters. 

David just had to take this picture of Restaurant David.

He also started taking pictures of what he is referring to as “The Dogs of Provence”.  They are everywhere, running freely and happily. 

We returned to L’Isle Sur la Sorgue for dinner at a restaurant called Bellevue that is right next to the river.  The trout, potatoes and ratatouille were excellent.  The flavors of Provence!

L’Isle Sur la Sorgue

June 20th, 2012

The village of L’Isle Sur la Sorgue in Provence has been called The Little Venice.  It is surrounded by the waters of the Sorgue river and its many canals flow through the town carrying the crystal clear water downstream.  Because of the strength of the current it became a center for many industries as early as the 11th century.

At one time the village had 77 water wheels which enabled weavers of silk and wool to produce woven goods that were known all over Europe for their fine quality.  Fisherman also thrived and supplied fish to the legates of Avignon and elsewhere.  The fishing history is reflected in some of the street names; L’Anguille (Eel street) and Ecrevisses (Crayfish street).

We rented a car in Avignon after a 3 hour trip on the TVG fast train from Paris and arrived in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue in front of this charming shop.  The windows on the second floor contain our apartment.

Our living room is behind the windows with the herb boxes.  This apartment had all of the charm of the village itself.

I loved the well equipped kitchen.

The leather chairs face the window and are a good place to sit and watch the busy street action below.

Next to the living area is a TV and computer room.

Behind the kitchen is a sunny patio with many herb pots, a grill and a place to lounge and eat.  We have already spent a lot of quality time out here.

The bedroom is comfortable with a wide window that can be shuttered to keep the light out.

Sunday is market day in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue.  The whole town is full of vendors for fruits, vegetables, clothing and antiques.

I should have bought this dress.  What fun.

We did buy the ingredients for dinner.  We bought two fish kabobs with salmon, swordfish, and cod.  David separated the fish from the vegetables and cooked them on the grill.

I got some zucchini and shallots, shredded the zucchini and sauteed them together with herbs from the patio garden.  

Along with some rice from a food vendor, a fresh baguette and our grilled fish and vegetables, we had a very nice dinner.

Our travels have taken us to several nearby villages so far.  We have visited, Gordes, Roussillon and St. Remy.  Further afield was Bandol for a winery tour and Cassis to bask in the view of the Mediterranean Sea.   Provence is everything I hoped it would be.

Snapshots From Paris

June 17th, 2012
Lunch at Cafe Flores like Ina and Jeffery

The week in Paris flew by.  I got to do most of the things that were on my list.  But not completing everything just makes it necessary to come back again.  We are in Provence as of last night and I am over the moon with our apartment and our village of L’Isle Sur la Sorgue.  But more of that later.  Here is a brief overview of our time in Paris.

Creative view of the Eiffel Tower


The Louvre was overwhelming.
The view of Paris from Sacre Coure was breathtaking 

Every serious cook should visit Dehillerin.  I bought a financier pan.
Versailles Hall of Mirrors
Steak Frites at Cafe Rousillion

David eating snails at our favorite corner bistro near our apartment
Isabelle, the owner, and her son making fun of me because I would not try them

David pondering the menu at Au bon Accueil near the Eiffel Tower.  Great dinner!
Our apartment kitchen was small but well equipped.  We ate most breakfasts here and one dinner of rotesserie chicken after a long day.

Another view of kitchen

Living area.  A good place to work on the computer
On the Seine near the Pont Neuf.  Notice the jackets.

Our week in Paris was one of the coldest for June in 10 years.  It got up to the low 60’s most days but the mornings were very cool and it rained or drizzled almost every day for a period of time.

Needless to say, the warm Provencal sun was a welcome change.  I am loving it.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.