good shepherd, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence during its annual
Fête de la Transhumance is downright genius.
The town pulls out all the stops to cheer the annual migration of some 3,000
sheep from home field advantage to their annual alpine vacation destination.
This feat is called a Transhumance, a word that sounds a lot more
complicated than it is -- so all I'll say is DON'T MISS IT.
Here's le scoop.
Every spring, on Pentecost Monday (sometimes referred to as Whit Monday),
the French - being the French - have come up with another reason for a street party.
The rationale for this event is both logical and noble.
This is lamb country, a place where the locals move heaven and earth
to care for the adorable - and tasty - little darlings.
Celebrating life and heritage is what the French do best.
The so-called Transhumance is simply the migration of sheep,
seasonally moving the herd from local pastures into the lush
high ground of the southern Alps for better summer grazing.
Happy livestock make for a better dinner and
warmer coat (my apologies to you vegetarians out there).
The picturesque streets of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence will fill
your heart with gladness on any day of the year.
But on the day of the Fête de la Transhumance, the rewards are boundless.
Joie de vivre times 3,000!
too good to be true even without the sheep.
But on the day of the Transhumance, it evolves into a melting pot
of proud old-timers, delighted children, astonished tourists,
hard-working shepherds, accomplished sheepdogs, long-horned
goats, adorable donkeys and smiling sheep.
Thousands of them.
There are so many of them, it's pretty much nose-to-butt-to-nose
(the animals, not the people) for the approximately 2-mile jog
around the perimeter (two times) of this picture-perfect provencale town.
It's quite a commotion.
Goats sport raucous bells and the crowd cheers
as the zany sheep do what sheep do best.
Enthusiastic fans stand on tiptoe to get the best photo op and then do
their best balancing act to stoop and pat one (or dozens) of the wooly beasts.
It's like the running of the bulls in Pamplona but instead of dodging
fierce bovines as they try to trample everyone in their path,
in Saint-Rémy you just get your funny bone nearly tickled to death.
There are horse-drawn carriages filled with costumed locals,
looking like they arrived fresh off a movie set.
Lining the streets is a warm welcome from community artisans
who produce and sell home-grown products such as
goat cheese, jams, honey, tapenade and olive oil.
And best of all, at the conclusion of the "3k run" you're able to join in
the old time charm of a festival that includes lots of wine, food,
music and all the traditional trappings of France at its finest.
head back toward your favorite bistro for -- what else -- the lamb "plat du jour"
as town workers manage to scoop up and hose down every speck
of sheep (!) that isn't already on someone else's chaussure.
The sea of sheep are probably thankful for their moment of glory,
ready to move on to higher and more delicious pastures.
And you are left wondering how an annual agricultural event can be so much fun.
A plane tree lined ring road, charming squares, and
a Wednesday morning market for starters.
Recognized for the incredible Roman ruins at The Antiquities and Glanum, Saint-Rémy is a must-see for all those seriously interested in historic preservation.
The remarkable hospital -- St. Paul de Mausole -- where
Vincent van Gogh frantically lived and painted (including Starry Night)
during his final year on earth, is tastefully and thoughtfully presented.
Restaurants, museums, galleries and très vieux mansions
all paint a pretty picture of Provence.
The inspirational Alpilles mountains surround you with a somewhat
stark beauty as gourmets plot to climb any mountain
for a taste of the local aïoli, tapenade and goat cheese.
This is the place where famed 16th century seer Nostradamus was born
and famous celebrities take a break from the limelight.
At times, the infamous mistral blows though the trees
and oh, did I mention chocolate?
Joel Durand's shop is an A to Z mecca for all lovers of the cocoa bean.
But I'll save all that for another day and another blog.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence has too many charms for one day.
For a town of fewer than 10,000 people, it's a lot to chew on -- even
on a day where lamb shank, lamb stew and shepherd pie is de rigueur.
Making the Rounds in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
No need to count sheep ever again.