WEDNESDAY, 31st May.
This beautiful old monastery complex is located just beside the Roman site of Glanum. Our visit here was the first stop on a small group English-speaking Tour (just 6 and all Australians). Nicholas, a Frenchman who lives 5 miles out of Avignon, was our Driver and Guide. He, together with his wife Veronica, run ProVan Tours. As we entered we saw the field of olive trees painted by Vincent Van Gogh along with a panel showing his painting of the scene. Saint Paul-de-Mausoleum became a monastery at some time in its medieval history with the hospital building Saint-Paul-de-Mausole later built on to the building complex.
The inner heart of the monastery is a lovely cloister with a central flower garden. Saint Paul still functions as a psychiatric hospital today. This was the home of VINCENT VAN GOGH during his very troubled time of May 1889 to May 1890. Vincent’s small room had a window looking out over the gardens behind the buildings. In May 1889, after mutilating his left ear, he came here. Despite his illness he didn’t stop painting.His year at the mental hospital provided the catalyst for some of his most iconic works. While here Van Gogh painted 150 canvasses of the hospital, its gardens and the wheat fields, cypresses and olive groves of the surrounding countryside. It was here he painted his ultra-famous irises.
This little village of the Baux de Provence is situated in the heart of the Alpilles on a rocky plateau 245m high. It is situated 15 km from Arles and 25 km from Avignon. This is an immense and superb stone fortress. This is another village that comes under the classification as “one of the most beautiful villages in France”. Its cultural heritage is exceptionally rich with 22 architectural treasures classified as “Historic Monuments” including the church, chateau, town-hall, hospital, chapels, houses, doorways …. Les Baux welcomes more than one and a half million tourists each year! There are 500 permanent residents. The village can only be visited on foot and what a joy that was! The ancient houses have been carefully restored. Les Baux covers 7 hectares and preserves the main ruins of its dramatic past. – the history of Provence unfolded before our eyes amongst the rocks and stones.