Discovering Auvers-sur-Oise: A Van Gogh-Inspired Journey
This summer I went to the beautiful Auvers-sur-Oise (Auvers), about an hour north from Paris. Auvers is famous as the town where Van Gogh went to recuperate in 1890 with Dr Gachet & was inspired to create >100 impressionist paintings & drawings, in just two months, before suddenly shooting himself. Or was he shot? (More on that later!)
One of the many surprises during my 2 month summer stay was the realization that so much of France was at my doorstep. To have amazing villages like Auvers & Versailles nearby, (Versailles is literally 15 minutes from my apartment in Saint Germain-en-Laye), is utterly amazing to me. My new friends here say that I swoon whenever I say “Versailles” and they’re right – I just didn’t think it was that obvious!
French Immersions with XPF: Experiencing France to Speak French
It was a bright sunny Wednesday as we set off for Auvers & joining me on this excursion was Carl (XPF Founder), Hebret (XPF Co-Founder) and John, an XPF client enjoying a three month intensive French immersion known as “Fast Track French”. Clients are immersed in curated French activities that are themed around their French lessons by their dedicated coach.
The Auberge Ravoux (restaurant/inn), where Van Gogh stayed is on the same main road as when he stayed here & is facing the same Marie (town hall) that he painted.
Ravoux Auberge: Van Gogh’s Last Abode
The auberge has a lovely quaint restaurant so be sure to book but the main pilgrimage can be found upstairs in the room where Van Gogh sadly spent his last days.
The room and guided visit must also be booked but the, very tasteful, recreation is worth every penny.
When you are inside the auberge, you feel like you have stepped back in time. The air retains the slight scent of a closet long closed, the flooring is the same tile pattern and the wallpaper looks appropriate for 1890. There is an intimacy about the auberge which successfully transports you back to the 1890’s.
The Enchantment of Van Gogh’s Favorite Spot
During lunch, I wondered why there was a table to my right set for just one person & when I was told that this was where Van Gogh liked to sit, I swooned again!
The Beautiful Countryside That Inspired Van Gogh
If you are wondering what attracted Van Gogh to this area, take a look at the beautiful countryside (and the lighting) he saw each day. I can only imagine what his eyes saw but thankfully he expressed it wonderfully through his amazing impressionist art.
Up the hill from the auberge is the cemetery where Van Gogh is buried alongside his brother, Theo, who’s wife lovingly had him reburied so that Vincent would not be alone. It is a very peaceful site and also next to the beautiful fields he made famous in his dramatic “Wheatfield with Crows”.
Uncovering the Mystery: Van Gogh’s Alleged Shooting
During my visit, I was surprised to learn of a theory that Van Gogh did not commit suicide. Rather he was shot in the stomach by kids with a gun. While Van Gogh did have depression and melancholy issues, when you visit Auvers & see the many beautiful works of art he produced during this time, you really feel that this was a happy period in his life. It is so sad that he died here but walk through the fields of Auvers during June & July, after dining next to his table or enjoying the homeopathic gardens of Dr Gachet & you too will understand why he loved this area so much.
Chasing Dreams in Auvers-sur-Oise
As we drove back to SGL, we listened to Hindi Zahra (fantastic Moroccan singer who mixes Berber, English & French in her songs) and I thought about this 2 month experiment: if you would have told me a year ago that I would have spent the day in Auvers, following in the footsteps of Van Gogh I would have laughed.
And yet, it had happened, I was truly making France my second home! Even Vincent Van Gogh chased his dreams when he said “One day or another I believe I’ll find a way to have an exhibition of my own in a café.”
Whether you’re looking to simply speak more French or immerse yourself in Impressionist Art, French culture & history then Experience France (XPF) offer language holidays or courses, designed specifically for adults.
I do hope that you have enjoyed your visit to Auvers-sur-Oise with me.