About an hour away from Paris is the lovely village of Auvers sur Oise. I went specifically to see the room and the village where Vincent Van Gogh spent his last 70 days.
On the weekends from April to September there is a direct train (RER H) from Gare du Nord leaving at 9:38 a.m. Or more frequent trains that require an easy transfer at Pontoise – just make sure you chose a train stopping at Pontoise. I was able to travel for free using my monthly Navigo Decouverte pass. Otherwise the tickets are 5.95 each way.
I had planned to arrive early in an effort to beat the crowds. In the end I arrived later than I had hoped – but there were no crowds at all. Nice bonus.
I would recommend stopping first at the tourist office to pick up a map. But the town is well signed and easy to navigate.
The first Van Gogh site I saw was the Mairie (City Hall). How nice of them to display a copy of his painting from 125 years ago.
Directly across the street is the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh lived in an attic room for 70 days in 1890.
The entrance is around the corner in the back. After I paid my 6.00€ entrance fee I followed the informational signs and made my way up the stairs to the gift shop (very tasteful) to wait for my tour. At one point I thought I was going to have a private tour, but then a few more people showed up.
The slide show was interesting and informative. And seeing his tiny room was moving. It’s been restored to its original state.
After my tour I decided to walk to the Chateau. This is not really a Van Gogh site, but I thought it was at least worth seeing from the outside – and it was.
Next, I thought I would try the Absinthe museum – but it wasn’t open. They don’t open until 1:30. Maybe I’ll go next time.
After this I continued on my way to see the church and the cemetery. I really didn’t need my map. I just had to follow the signs.
It was a nice walk along a pretty and sometimes walled street. I wondered what was behind those walls. Then, all of the sudden the church appeared. It was a “Wow!” moment.
I climbed up the stairs to the back of the church. It was much bigger than I expected. There was a wedding that day so I was unable to go inside. But that’s okay. I got to see what I was looking for when I saw the church from the front – from nearly the exact same spot where Van Gogh painted it. I knew this because there was sign showing the painting in front of the church. What a magical moment.
Next to the church is the road that leads to the cemetery where Vincent and his brother Theo are buried. It was on this walk that it hit me - a moment that’s hard to explain with words. The narrow road surrounded by farm fields was so peaceful.
As I approached the cemetery there was another sign on the wall of a Van Gogh painting. I looked into the distance and saw the same scene and the same buildings that Van Gogh had painted. This nearly brought me to tears. I can even feel the emotion of that moment as I write this. I have to go back.
I had planned to stop for lunch but nothing looked appealing to me so I just stopped at Carrefour and picked up a sandwich and a soda for a whopping 2.65€. I ate my sandwich while waiting for the train, and getting one last glimpse of the church.
Trains to Pontoise leave Auvers every 30 minutes. Then I had 10 minutes to my connecting train to Gare du Nord. In about an hour I was back in Paris.
I spent less than 10€ on my day trip. But the experience was priceless.