snapshots of my travels
April showers bring May flowers. And after two days of nothing but rain, we were ready to see the sun again. Luckily, the weather cooperated.
Marseille is located in the Provence region of Southern France, right on the Mediterranean coast. It is most famous because of its location - a strategic trade port in ancient times. Today, it is also famous for handmade soap and excellent cuisine.
Breakfast: stop at a nearby bakery and have some bread and coffee. For us, this meant ducking into an unassuming place with the words "boulangerie" and "patisserie" printed on the wall.
Trust me, this place was amazing. Le Pain Marseillais had everything from croque monseiurs to chocolate chip bread and pig shaped cakes. The bread was just so fluffy, so soft, and so humbly flavorful. The view wasn't half bad either!
With a full belly, continue down the same road and you'll end up right at the Old Port. Hop on the Ferris wheel to see the lay of the land from the top. It's only three euros, plus there was no line.
Continue walking along the coast until you arrive at MuCEM. This museum has a unique exterior and many temporary exhibitions inside. It's worth a short visit to learn a bit about Mediterranean history and their plans for sustaining the environment.
Next, cross the bridge to arrive at Fort Saint Jean, which was built in 1660 by Louis XIV. Interestingly enough, the fort was not built to defend the city, but in response to a local uprising against the governor.
The flowers inside the fort weren't half bad either!
From here, keep walking the same direction as before until you arrive in Le Panier, the historical district of Marseille. After window shopping, grab a quick lunch at La Panier a Burgers. We just happened to stumble across this place, and it was only later that we Googled it and realized that it was one of the best lunch places in the city. Order the tempura sweet potato fries with your burger. They were to die for!
Next, you can grab the nearest metro and take it back to the Castellane stop. From here, you have an uphill walk to Notre Dame de la Garde, the highest point in the city. The walk was tough, but the view was well worth it. Plus, there were cats!!
While we had planned on arriving to watch the sunset, we ended up getting there early! Fear not. The golden hour is the perfect time to relax. You can also tour the church if it is open, though it is heavily guarded my the French military.
Honestly, this was one of the most beautiful and magical sunsets I've seen in quite some time. It made me feel so free and it reminded me of how wonderful this world truly is.
Before it gets too dark, you must snap back to reality and walk back down the hill toLe Detour for dinner. This restaurant was absolutely amazing, and while the water did not speak any English, he was more than accommodating and attentive to us.
The duck was served with potatoes and mushrooms, all topped off with bechamel cream. I could eat this meal every day for the rest of my life and I'd be okay with that. Plus, the house wine was of the highest quality (and strong). The perfect ending to the perfect day? Going straight back to the hotel and falling asleep.
Vincent Van Gogh came to Provence, a region of Southern France, in search of sunlight, warm days, and artistic inspiration. The Dutch painter was fascinated by the vivid colors, the people, and the Cyprus trees.
While there are no original works left in Provence (they have been bought by museums in Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, and New York City), it is still possible to see the actual spots he painted. At times, it felt as if his spirits still lingered between the hospital's cloisters or in the fields of flowers. Many locations around Provence even had "easels" set up nearby to show the comparison between real life and Van Gogh's interpretation.
Hospital in Arles
Van Gogh painted the Hospital in Arles more than once from late 1888 to early 1889. He had just cut off his ear, then began experiencing hallucinations.
Starry Night Over the Rhone
Van Gogh painted the lesser famous "Starry Night" in Arles in September of 1888. Legend has it, he would balance candles on his hat to allow him to see his easel during the middle of the night.
Terrasse des Cafés an der Place du Forum
Located smack dab in the middle of town, this cafe is an easy one to find. Unfortunately, it is quite the tourist trap. It has since been renamed Cafe Van Gogh, and now serves expensive food.
Bedroom in Arles
Like many of Van Gogh's most famous painting, the Bedroom in Arles was painted in 1888. While the actual bedroom in Arles was bombed during World War II, there is a recreation of his bedroom at the Van Gogh Asylum in Saint Remy. He loved this painting so much that he painted again two more times. The disproportional look was intentional, as to imitate a style of Japanese painting.
Peach Tree in Blossom
The Dutch artist was enamored by all the natural beauty in Southern France. He painted trees hundreds of times. While the photo of the blooming peach tree was painted in Arles, the largest amount of pink trees were found in Avignon. I am fairly confident these are actually cherry blossoms.
Jardin de l'hôpital Saint Paul
He came to this asylum in Saint Remy in 1889 after leaving the hospital in Arles to begin receiving treatment for his mental health. In a letter to his brother, he complained about the lack of care given to the garden. In another letter to Emile Bernard, he said, "You’ll understand that this combination of red ochre, of green saddened with grey, of black lines that define the outlines, this gives rise a little to the feeling of anxiety from which some of my companions in misfortune often suffer, and which is called 'seeing red'."
The Yellow House
Van Gogh lived in the Yellow House on 2 Place Lamartine, in Arles in 1888. In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote, "...It’s tremendous, these yellow houses in the sunlight and then the incomparable freshness of the blue."
The building was damaged by the Allies during World War II and later demolished. That being said, there are tons of buildings around Provence that looks very similar - the yellow walls, the green shutters, and the nearby restaurants are all commonplace in this area.
Green Wheat Fields
Green Wheat Fields was painted in Auvers in 1890, while my photo was taken just outside of Saint Remy. Still, the landscape looked pretty similar to the one Van Gogh painted above.
What is one painting by Vincent Van Gogh you would like to see?