CRUISING THE RHONE RIVER IN FRANCE
Arles and Van Gogh
Finding the rest of the group in the airport at Nice was an adventure as no-one stood near the information counter and the staff there new nothing of our arrangements, but Australians have that certain look (never mind the accents) so we found several other equally puzzled prospective AmaDagio travellers and eventually our very French guide arrived to collect us and bundle us onto the coach. The itinerary said it would take about an hour and a half, but in fact it was a three hour trip from Nice to Arles. We arrived as most of the passengers were about to go to the captain’s cocktails and safety talk. So, while the early arrivals displayed their finery while drinking champagne and nibbling dainty cocktails, I dashed into the lounge, disheveled and weary, tossed back a glass of bubbly and retreated as soon as possible to dress appropriately.
Next day we visited the hospital, St Paul de Mausole in St Remy, Provence, (still used for the mentally ill) where Van Gogh spent the end of his life. The chapel is quite austere, pretty much as it was when he went there in 1889. Copies of many of his paintings line the walls and particularly the staircase which climbs up to his tiny room.
I was particularly taken with the internal courtyard. When I was at boarding school, at St Brigid’s in Lesmurdie, I liked to walk around that courtyard, but at the time didn’t realize its significance. I now suspect that it was supposed to be a place of quiet contemplation, which of course the nuns never got to enjoy with a bunch of noisy girls requiring constant discipline. Perhaps during our holidays they could walk around it, fingering rosary beads and concentrating on holy meditation.