Saturday, July 15, 2017

Paris Journal: Auvers-sur-Oise

Auvers on the Oise

By Moristotle

After an overnight trip to Lyon June 9-10, my wife and I were so tired during dinner, she suggested we not follow our itinerary to go to the town Auvers-sur-Oise the next day. “That suits me,” I said without hesitation. (Auvers is a “commune” that sits along the Oise River about 27 km, or 17 miles, northwest from the center of Paris. It is associated with several famous artists, the most prominent being Vincent van Gogh.)
    However, France was already proving an excellent place for getting restful sleep, and after another good night of such sleep, my wife suggested during breakfast that we go on to Auvers-sur-Oise after all. I was up for it, “But isn’t it too late to catch the non-stop train?” She said it wasn’t, if we hurried. What’s special about the train we had planned to take is that it doesn’t stop anywhere before Auvers-sur-Oise. One runs at about 9:30 a.m. each weekend morning, and one returns at about 6:30 p.m. It could be another long day.
    At Gare du Nord, we boarded what we hoped was the right train and asked a young woman who was also boarding whether the train went directly to Auvers-sur-Oise. She said it did, and I playfully asked whether she worked in a Van Gogh museum there. She told me, no, “My family lives there.”
    “Did they live there in Van Gogh’s time?”
    She said they did, and Van Gogh had even tried to sell someone in the family a painting.
    Our eyebrows shot up.
    “But they didn’t buy it, because they thought it was ugly.” After a pause, she added, “I could have been rich.”

We alighted and commenced to walk about town, toward the auberge where Vincent van Gogh had a room.
    On the way, we passed a Van Gogh park, featuring a statue of Vincent by Russian-born artist Ossip Zadkine (who was born the month Vincent died, July 1890), and adjacent to a covered market.

In the walkway around the auberge to its entrance, now in the back, we discovered a poster featuring Van Gogh’s painting of the scene before us. (In the last 70 days of his life – May-July, 1890, here in Auvers-sur-Oise – Vincent completed about 80 works.) The poster said the original work is in the art museum of St. Louis, Missouri.

    We proceeded to the stairs depicted in the painting and turned left to walk perhaps a bit more than half a mile along a small back street, passing the Charles-François Daubigny museum and his house (which Van Gogh painted). Daubigny (1817-1878), by going outside to paint from nature, is considered a precursor of Impressionism. He got to know Monet in London, and Cezanne in Auvers.
    On our walk in this restful neighborhood (much quieter than Montmartre), we enjoyed many brilliant flowering plants, colorful doors and shutters, even a friendly beagle.

    We backtracked the back street, on which we had already gone off the map, and proceeded toward the intersection where we could pick up Rue Victor Hugo, toward Dr. Paul Gachet’s house, now a museum. Van Gogh had come to Auvers-sur-Oise to avail himself of Dr. Gachet’s psychiatric services. (The doctor had been recommended to Vincent’s brother Theo by the artist Camille Pissarro, the doctor’s friend and sometimes patient – Renoir, Manet, and Cézanne were also sometimes patients, to name just a few. –Wikipedia)
    At last we came to the main street (Rue Charles De Gaulle) on the other wide of which began Rue Victor Hugo, down which we would find Dr. Gachet’s house. The walk was longer than guesstimated, and the weather was uncomfortably warm, but we were determined to visit it.

The receptionist lent us an English-language brochure about Dr. Gachet, which I read immediately and found so informative I asked her whether I could purchase one somewhere in town. She said no, but she sometimes let a person with real interest keep the brochure, and said I could keep it.

When we departed, I asked the receptionist to recommend a restaurant, not grand, somewhere locals go. We couldn’t find the first she mentioned (close to the market), and the second, Le Chemin des Peinteurs (close to the church Notre Dame d’Auvers), was closed.

    The hotel we passed heading back toward the train station couldn’t accommodate us – reservations only, probably booked by the tour group we kept bumping into – so we went back to the restaurant across from the train station, Ménara, featuring a Moroccan menu.
    At Ménara we had a liter of Pellegrino (from Italy), the same sparkling water that we purchase by the case at Costco, in Durham, North Carolina. We had been planning to have dessert, but we ate so much couscous and vegetables, we couldn’t.

My wife waited at the station while I visited Vincent & Theo’s graves, which were maybe a third of a mile away, up the hill behind Notre Dame d’Auvers. I would likely never return to Auvers-sur-Oise, and I wasn’t going to forgo this opportunity to pay my respects. Theo, four years younger than Vincent, died five months after his brother.

    This June the surrounding fields were rich in wheat. It was beautiful.

Copyright © 2017 by Moristotle


  1. Oh my, Morris. How informative, delightful and picturesque account. I was right there with you in all of it. Thanks very much!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Vic! I‘ll proceed to the next entry with renewed confidence and expectation!

  2. thanks for the trip, now i dont need to go there xoxo

    1. Indeed, reading about places and viewing photos of them is ever so much easier (and cheaper) than traveling to them!

  3. I concur with what Vic said, Uncle Mo Thanks !!
    Vincent is my favorite artist too by the way.

  4. Sorry I missed your post yesterday, your pictures of the trip and information is a wonderful change to the news I normally take in in the mornings and my coffee stays in one place.[smile]

    1. So glad you're pleased, Ed! And it's about time I went to Amazon and purchased one or more of the paperback edition of your books! I apologize for the long delay. And now there's another author whose paperback I need to buy: Michael Hanson has finally taken the Amazon route and published his book, "Tripping to Dickeyland." Description: "This Dickeyland book is a beautiful elegy for James Dickey and his work, his wild vitality, his kindness. But it is more than an elegy. It describes, and celebrates, Michael Hanson's difficult apprenticeship to his craft, his loves, his friendships. This is very real and rare, the true story of an American artist at work." -Coleman Barks, author of The Essential Rumi

  5. I especially like the photographic versions of the painted scenes. Lovely reading and viewing. A real delight. Thank you Morris!

    1. Thank you, Eric, another reader I delight in pleasing, as you, in your guise of essayist and poet, delight so many readers in turn.

  6. Hi, Morris. I'm enjoying your journal, but haven't time to reply properly. Thanks for the fun!

    1. Chuck, thank YOU for finding the time to read the journal! And may your time free up soon!