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23 May 2005 @ 12:00 pm
The Alpilles and St. Rémy: Rising Above it All  
On the second day of my holiday in Provence, I went to St. Rémy. My first destination were the Roman antiquities south of the town. From there I took a walk up to the curious rock formation known as Rocher de Deux Trous, the Rock with Two Holes. In the evening I had dinner in St. Rémy.

Places: The Alpilles and St. Rémy, Provence, France
Weather: Pleasantly hot and sunny all day.
Date: May 23, 2005

Once I left the motorway, most of the roads near St. Rémy were lined with plane trees, like this. The dappled shade makes them wonderfully romantic to the holiday maker but I can imagine that if I lived in the area and got stuck behind a tractor I'd find them a lot less picturesque.

I parked the car by the Roman antiquities. This mausoleum is thought to celebrate the memory of two grandsons of the Roman emperor Augustus.

Next to the mausoleum is this much less well-preserved triumphal arch. It celebrates the Roman conquest of Marseille. I think it's amazing to think that people walked through this arch 2000 years ago. Closer in time, Vincent van Gogh spent about a year toward the end of his life in an asylum just a few hundred metres from this place. He painted quite a lot of scenes from the area nearby, including the limestone cliffs I hiked up to.

Pea Flower
The walk up to the rocks was filled with wildflowers. One of the fun things about going to Provence were the many flowers I hadn't seen before. This is obviously a Leguminosae, possibly an Astragalus monspessulanus. It can't be A. incanus because they have hairy calyxes.

Now here's a plant I do recognise. It's a pink rock rose, probably Cistus albidus. It's a typical plant of the garrigue, the dry, rocky hillsides that were deforested in historical times.

Not quite as common is the perennial flax, probably Linum narbonense but it's hard to say. The flowers are a wonderful cobalt blue. I used to grow a similar flax, L perenne, in my garden in Sweden. Sadly, despite the promising name, it wasn't perennial there.

Pine Frame
As I gained altitude, I started getting glimpses of the rock formation that was my goal for the walk. Here it is framed by one of the low pines growing along the trail. There are a lot of coniferous plants on the slopes of these hills. What struck me was how much shorter they are than the conifers that are such a feature in the Swedish landscape.

Deux Trous
Here is the view through one of the holes in the cliff. I think it looks like the cover of a fantasy book. I was sitting down while taking this photo. Not only was there a sheer drop right in front of me, the wind was howling through the hole. Originally I used this photo in the LJ entry from the day I returned to the UK.

Looking Back
The view really summed up the magic of this holiday. The photo here is seen from the side and higher up. The path that winds its way down in the foreground of the image leads to the two holes.

Rocher Panorama
This panorama does an even better job of showing the magnificence of the landscape.

From Higher Up
Moving on and up, this photo shows another dramatic limestone outcropping to the west of Rocher de Deux Trous.

Distant Peak
I had my lunch in the lee of a hillside looking in the other direction. The view was no less stunning. As I wrote in another LJ entry at the time, I couldn't help myself but had to gloat in an SMS.

On my way down, I found this evergreen honeysuckle, Lonicera implexa, winding its way through the shrubbery.

Above the Trees
The unnamed cliffs above the tree tops.

Through the Olives
One last view of Rocher de Deux Trous. This view is rather similar to the one Van Gogh painted in Les Oliviers. But he must have stood further to the south because in his painting you can see the two holes.

Street Lamp
I was quite tired and hungry by the time I arrived in the Vieille Ville of St. Rémy-de-Provence to give the town its proper name. Here is a shot of a street lamp on Blvd. Victor Hugo, one of the avenues encircling the old town.

There were a lot of statues and fountains in the old town. This one honours the famous son of St. Rémy, Nostradamus. The fountain is near the house where he is supposed to have been born in 1503. The fountain was erected in the late nineteenth century.

I end with one of the ubiquitous statues of Mary. They're all pretty much the same but I think the ochre house with robin's egg blue shutters makes the picture.

Click through for large versions (1024 x 768 pixels) to use as desktop wallpaper.

Update March 1, 2010: Thanks to ericrovve for flower IDs!