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Why did I choose France?

I grew up in Kansas.

Kansas is affectionately known as “flyover country”. Translation: “There’s nothing there”. While this may not be entirely accurate, I can tell you that Kansas lacks in anything more than a couple of hundred years old.

Food. Can you name a food that Kansas is known for? Me neither. Except for barbeque - which is the best anywhere in the world, in my non-biased opinion. But that’s about it. Nothing else there compares to what you can find in France.

Medieval towns. Check. Roman ruins. Check. Baguettes. Check. Cheese. Check. Wine. Check.

Plus with high-speed trains and cheap flights it’s all so easy to see.

After 4 years of living in France, I don't care that I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Day Trip from Paris: Walking in Van Gogh's Footsteps

Day Trip from Paris: Walking in Van Gogh's Footsteps

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.

Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers sur Oise

Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers sur Oise

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 about 6.00€ 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.

Directional signs in Auvers su Oise

Directional signs in Auvers su Oise

I would recommend stopping first at the tourist office to pick up a map. However, I found out that 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 also display a copy of his painting from 125 years ago.

City Hall and l”Auberge Ravoux in Auvers sur Oise

City Hall and l”Auberge Ravoux in Auvers sur Oise

Directly across the street is L’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.

L’Auberge Ravoux, museum entrance.

L’Auberge Ravoux, museum entrance.

 The slide show was interesting and informative. Afterwards, 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 a Van Gogh site, but I thought it was worth seeing from the outside – and it was.

The Chateau at Auvers sur Oise

The Chateau at Auvers sur Oise


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?

Then I continued on my way to see the famous church and the cemetery. I really didn’t need my map.  I just had to follow the signs.

Colorful Auvers sur Oise

Colorful Auvers sur Oise

It was a nice walk along a pretty and sometimes stone walled street. I wondered what was behind those walls? Then, all of the sudden - the church appeared. It was a “Wow!” moment.

Wow! Look at those stairs!

Wow! Look at those stairs!

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.

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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.

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The narrow road surrounded by farm fields was peaceful. As I approached the cemetery there was another sign of a Van Gogh painting. I looked into the distance and saw the same scene and the same buildings that Van Gogh had painted over 100 years ago. The scene nearly brought me to tears. I can still feel the emotion of that moment as I write this. I must go back. This is why I moved to France.

Walking in Vincent’s steps.

Walking in Vincent’s steps.

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Poppies and rapeseed

Poppies and rapeseed

Rapeseed fields

Rapeseed fields

I had planned to stop for lunch but nothing looked appealing to me so I just stopped at the Carrefour grocery store 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.

At the train station

At the train station

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.

Thank you Vincent

Thank you Vincent

In Search of Lavender

In Search of Lavender