An early morning arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport went without a hitch, though we four went through a routine questioning before exiting Customs. Not a problem.
Called TT Cars & were promptly picked up & taken to the Depot. First challenge – a keyless start car! Took a bit of getting used to! And the Peugeot 308 turned out to be smaller than we had thought, fine for 4 people, not sure about 5. We’re used to the ample storage space for the driver & front seat passenger, so the lack of this is also a challenge. But comfortable & quiet – especially when the motor cuts out at traffic lights! Another thing to get used to.
We had expected really high temperatures so were a little shocked to find ourselves in 17 degrees – on with the woollens! Arrived at Auvers sur Oise, 30 kilometres from Paris, a country village which lured 19th century artists from Paris. Artist Charles Daubigny arrived in 1860 & never left. Manet, Cezanne, Renoir & Camille Pissaro all lived there for a time. But we had come to pay hommage to Vincent van Gogh, who spent the last 70 days of his life here. We have followed Van Gogh from Arles to St-Remy-de-Provence, where he was at the asylum of St Paul de Mausole, and at the urging of his brother Theo he moved into the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890, where he rented a tiny 7 square metre room on the top floor. In those 70 days he painted 70 paintings that include some of his best known works. On July 25th, 1890 he shot himself in the chest, & although the bullet missed every vital organ he succumbed to his injuries 2 days later, dying in Theo’s arms.
The room where he died has been unoccupied since his death. The Auberge has been restored & we can visit the top storey & also the restaurant where Monsieur Ravoux & his family served meals to Vincent and other boarders in the late nineteenth century. We could have eaten there, where the chef features primarily locally sourced ingredients and dishes available in the nineteenth century, but it was out of our price range!
We settled on the Bistro across the road, where we enjoyed a salmon steak with risotto, served by a young man who had spent 3 months working in New Zealand & wants to come back! We tried to visit the Chateau, which has a multimedia informational presentation about the Van Gogh era … but it was closed for renovation, not to be opened until after the tourist season finishes!
So, replete (and not a little tired) we headed off to our accommodation for the next 2 nights, 2 hours away at Maunoury Citybreak in Chartres. Next installment …