Oh God, it’s happened. We have become “those Parisians.” I’ve read about “those Parisians” and I had promised that we would never become one of them, but it has happened. We are now officially those Parisians who leave the city on the weekends and invade the countryside in search of sunshine, nature and “an experience.” You can tell who we are… We are the ones wearing blazers and loafers. My husband’s idea of a relaxed outfit is jeans… With a blazer. I am waiting for him to pull out his Lacoste short sleeve shirts to complete his summer wardrobe.
I forced my entire family and caregivers to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning to get ready for our weekend adventure. I even meticulously researched our adventure. It was my husband’s birthday and Father’s Day so I wanted to do something special for him but let’s be honest, it’s always about me. But that’s because I’m the fun one in the family. If I don’t plan these activities, who will??!! They will thank me later. Remember when my husband didn’t want to go to the Napoleon auction and now whenever we have friends over he proudly shows our guests our auction winnings (Louis XVI’s wallpaper) as I discreetly roll my eyes.
My idea of a fun weekend usually involves nature and something cultural. I don’t do Six Flags, water parks, or music festivals. In fact, my idea of hell is a jazz festival. I did a little Google research to investigate what kind of fun excursions there were to do one hour outside of Paris. My husband was only up for driving one hour this weekend because next weekend we are looking at an 8 hour drive to Provence and the following weekend a two-hour drive to Normandy. My husband doesn’t know about the Normandy excursion yet but we have to go because there is a fleamarket and a house I want to rent. I think it’s best to keep him on a need-to-know basis.
So, what’s there to do one hour outside of Paris? Lots! Château de Chenonceau, Monet’s garden in Giverney, Versailles, Bois de Bologne, or the farmers market of Saint Germain-en-Laye. We have a special day planned in July to visit Château de Vaux le Vicomte for a dinner at dusk in the royal gardens lit by 2000 candles but what could we do this weekend? Well, just you wait until you see what I found!
Completely unbeknownst to me, Vincent van Gogh lived in a quaint little town one hour outside of Paris called Auvers-sur-Oise. This is where he painted some of his best works and it is also sadly, the little town where he shot himself in the chest and died. I immediately called my husband and said, “Guess where we’re going this weekend?”
I spent the entire day Thursday researching our adventure and I am now the foremost authority on Vincent van Gogh. Just kidding, a gentleman named David Brooks is the authority and I spent the entire day on his website: http://www.vggallery.com/. Here are some interesting facts about Vincent van Gogh’s life in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890.
Vincent van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise and in this time he painted 77 pieces.
One of these pieces is the famous Portrait of Dr. Gachet which sold at Christie’s in three minutes for $82.5 million.
Dr. Gachet was Vincent’s doctor who was treating him for psychological illnesses but whom Vincent said that he appeared, “sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much.”
Vincent van Gogh was a fiery ginger who often had heated arguments with his brother, Theo. However, Theo was his greatest supporter and died six months after Vincent. They are buried side-by-side in the little village cemetery.
The famous church that van Gogh immortalized in his painting, The Church of Auvers, is located in this little town. So is the local mairie that Vincent painted, Auvers Town Hall on 14 July 1890, that was directly across from his apartment.
Vincent rented a tiny attic room ( N° 5) of the Ravoux Inn for 3.50 French francs per day full board. Vincent shot himself in the chest in the wheat fields and managed to drag his body back to his little apartment where he died the following day in his brother Theo’s arms.
Delve into Vincent van Gogh’s life and history to get a little glimpse of his motivation and passions HERE.
We arrived to Auvers-sur-Oise at exactly 10 AM and were the first guests to visit Vincent’s apartment. It isn’t exactly like this circa 1800s building was wheelchair friendly so I had to sit my sorry ass outside with my caregiver while David and Gracie were lucky enough and able-bodied enough to be able to go upstairs to see his apartment. Because my husband is the greatest husband on the face of the earth, he took pictures for me even though it was not allowed. Let’s take a look…
Our next stop was a very special lunch in the restaurant of the Ravoux Inn where Vincent van Gogh ate every day at table number five. The restaurant has been preserved aesthetically in its original state… State of fucking fabulousness. I kept having to remind myself that this was not Disneyland and that this was real. This was the exact space that Vincent van Gogh inhabited every day. He breathed here, ate here and drank here! On a creepy side note, I always tell my husband that I am sort of excited to die because I envision myself having lunch with the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Eugene Delacroix, Edith Piaf, JD Salinger and my grandparents… my favorite writers, poets, decorators, artists and singers. Okay, back to reality… Let’s take a look at the restaurant and our dejeuner…
After lunch, we took a little walk to the country cemetery where Vincent van Gogh is buried next to his beloved brother, Theo. I thought that there would be some big hoopla commemorating Vincent van Gogh’s burial site but no… Just a modest gravestone surrounded by verdant green ivy thought to have originated from Dr. Gachet’s garden. There he was in this simple country cemetery and I couldn’t think of anything better. He was surrounded by wheat fields, red poppy flowers and all of the landscapes that he loved to paint. I kept saying to everyone, “Can you believe that Vincent van Gogh is just lying there under the dirt. Right there!” The cemetery is just up the road from where Vincent painted the famous church. Let’s take a look…
Here are a few more examples of the pieces that Vincent van Gogh painted during his 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise…
If you would like to see (and you should) all 77 paintings that Vincent van Gogh painted during his 70 day stay in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, click HERE.
I could have stayed in the little town exploring for hours but my counterparts were ready to get back to the city. They had had enough culture for one day. But for me, it was different. All those years growing up in Missouri and California so far removed and now here I was smack dab in the middle of where one of the greatest painters of all time sought inspiration. How many times have I looked at his paintings at school, in books and in museums happy to be even in close proximity to his work and here I was in Auvers-sur-Oise where Vincent van Gogh would get off the train, go to his apartment, eat his dinner and paint some of the greatest artworks that ever were to be! Be still my heart!
I don’t even care if I am one of “those Parisians” because this is a day that I will never forget. David should be so happy that I did this for him for his birthday. :-)
*All photos by my handsome husband.