Following in the Footsteps of Van Gogh – Auvers-sur-Oise, France

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On a chilly winter day my husband and I took a day trip to Auvers-sur-Oise a small village northwest of Paris. The one hour train ride from Gare du Nord was convenient and an opportunity to see Paris suburbs and countryside. This quaint little village is best known as the last home of Vincent van Gogh and the final resting place for him and his brother Theodore.
Le Jour ni l’Heure 9597 : tombe de Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890, au cimetière d’Auvers-sur-Oise, Val-d’Oise, Île-de-France, jeudi 23 août 2012, 17:59:24

Not sure what amenities we would find open in the winter and on a Sunday we picked up some provisions before boarding the train. The Auvers-sur-Oise stop was a very cool little depot on the edge of town. Upon arriving we walked through a short tunnel under the platform to the other side of the tracks and into the town. This entire tunnel was brightly painted in murals, and it made a memorable entrance to what would become one of my favorite destinations. Thanks to preservation efforts by the French government very little changes have been made to the town and surrounding countryside since van Gogh’s time over a hundred years ago.

Although some of the museums and restaurants were closed we were not disappointed in the least. Our first stop was the Office of Tourism. They offered a lot of information about the town and have a small art exhibit and gift shop. They also have a nice restroom on the ground floor that is open even when the shop is closed.

They were very helpful and gave us a self-guided walking tour map. The tour provided points of interest in the town and the countryside and identified locations van Gogh painted. At each site there is a kiosk with a copy of his original painting and right behind it is the actual scene he painted. It was truly remarkable to see how little it had changed and see how the great painter had interpreted it.

We began our tour with a stop at AubergeRavoux Inn. This is where van Gogh lived while in Auvers-sur-Oise and where he died. It is now a restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed on the day we were there, so we were unable to tour the upstairs room #5 where van Gogh lived and died.

Another stop on the tour was the location where he painted “The Town Hall at Auvers”, “The Town Hall was remarkably similar to the painting. The only thing the real building lacked were the flags celebrating Bastille Day. The stanchions and chains in the painting remain but are not visible in the photograph due to the Christmas village display on the right.

L'église

The Church of Auvers-sur-Oise painting site was another breathtaking view. Only the vegetation has changed. The Church painting was so similar to the real thing that it could have been painted yesterday. The 13th century church was open and we were able to tour the inside. It was lovely and even on a cloudy day the stained glass was beautiful.

My favorite location on the walk was the wheat fields. The “Wheat Fields with Crows” painting evokes the same feeling as actually standing in the wheat field. It is a majestic view of open space and on that day there were several crows flying overhead. It was easy to envision van Gogh walking across the fields with a canvas and his oil paints in hand. It was a treat to have so much beautiful land to walk on.

A trip to Auvers-sur-Oise would not be complete without a visit to the cemetery and the graves of Vincent and Theodore. A winding unpaved road next to a crop field leads to cemetery on top of a hill. The French flag flies above and a stone wall encompasses the cemetery. There is a sign that points to the van Gogh graves. Simple headstones and graves covered in ivy make for a peaceful final resting place. Someone had placed a sunflower on the graves the day we were there.

Van Gogh

Van Gogh spent approximately 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise from May to July 1890. During this short time he prolifically painted 70 paintings. Other artist such as Cezanne, Daubigny, Pissarro, Rousseau found inspiration in the hypnotic beauty of this quaint village. It continues to be a popular destination for painters and photographers. During the tourist season from April to October many events and festivals are offered. It is home to The Painters Festival, a Music Festival and an Iris Festival.

Our visit was perfect. Even on a cold blustery day the place was enchanting. There were no crowds to contend with and the self-guided tour provided an excellent experience. The restaurant and bakeries were outstanding as expected in France. Our next trip will be to attend one of the festivals in the summer. Auvers-sur-Oise is a great day trip.

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by Madoline

This article is contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com. You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.

One Response to “Following in the Footsteps of Van Gogh – Auvers-sur-Oise, France”

jenny

Says:

This is one of my favourite parts of the world and I was pleased to see you write about it in such detail. You should go back in summer and you would probably enjoy it even more

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