Regular readers will know that I adore Paris for so many reasons: its drama, style and romance; its sights and sounds; its culture and ambience; the sheer exhilaration of simply being there. So why would I suggest taking a day trip out of the city?
Paris has so much to keep me fully engaged that I struggle to find the time to go to other places of interest nearby. On the one hand, it makes sense ‘while I’m there’ and on the other I always return from Paris with a wish list already compiled for my next visit.
There’s one place though that’s a ‘must do’ for this avid fan of Vincent Van Gogh: a day trip to Auvers.
This pretty riverside village was home to Van Gogh for a short but prolific period of his life. It’s where he hoped to find a measure of peace after his stay at the asylum of St Remy in Provence — and it was where he died. Auvers has become a place of pilgrimage for many who are interested in the short life of the Dutch artist who only achieved acclaim after his death.
Although Auvers was visited by other Impressionist painters (including Monet and Corot), it’s forever associated with Van Gogh. The Auberge Ravoux is where he stayed, the church has been immortalised in one of his paintings and the wheat field where he shot himself is close by, within stumbling distance of the the Auberge where he died two days after the shooting.
Most poignant of all are the two graves in the churchyard with their simple headstones: one for Vincent Van Gogh, the other tragically soon afterwards for his brother and supporter, Theo.
In the village’s narrow streets, panels are displayed depicting the scenes portrayed by the visiting artists and it’s easy to imagine the area as it was when Vincent stayed there. It’s reassuring to find a quiet homage to this troubled man in this peaceful place rather than an all-out tourism extravaganza.
The Auberge Ravoux has been carefully restored with period decorations and the small garret room occupied by Vincent (room number 5) gives an insight into the stark conditions of his daily life. The sparsely furnished room where he spread his canvases to dry after the frenetic activity of his last weeks has never been let since Vincent died there on July 29 1890.
Soaking up the atmosphere of Auvers’ hidden corners I’m led to reflect that this is one place that makes my temporary desertion of Paris worthwhile.
Auvers-sur-Oise may be reached by SNCF trains from Paris Gare St Lazare or Gare du Nord, or by car on the A115. It’s 20 miles NW of Paris.
The photo of Auvers Church is by Summer Park and is used here under Flickr Creative Commons