Archive for the ‘Getting Around’ Category
If you are lucky enough to be in Paris … or planning to visit soon … just 17 miles northwest of Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise is a charming little commune on the banks of the Oise River. This quaint ville attracted Vincent van Gogh and other famous Impressionist artists destined to translate their surroundings into cherished art.
A pleasant day trip from Paris, you will find your journey centered more on mood and imagination than on history. Catch the 10 a.m. direct train from Paris’ Gare du Nord, and in just 30 minutes you’ll discover a window into the world of Van Gogh, to see the sights he painted in a whirl of artistic expression in the last two months of his life.
I’m not a videographer, but this charming video offers a ‘walking tour’ and specific ‘how-to-go’ information in a quaint and helpful presentation. As always, double-check specific travel details should schedules and prices change.
The tortured and talented artist moved to Auvers to be treated by Dr. Paul Gachet, though he felt the good doctor in a worse condition than his own. Nonetheless, they were friends and, in an ironic twist of fate, Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” brought nearly the highest auction price of all of his paintings.
The artist was prolific in Auvers, where he produced many of his best-known works – The Church at Auvers, Thatched Cottages by a Hill, Wheat Field with Crows and more. A couple of standard stops include the handsome Chateau d’Auvers that pays homage to Impressionist painters and the Absinthe Museum that evokes the mystique of the potent green liquid that was Van Gogh’s favorite. To this day, rumors swirl about the so-called mind-altering spirit nicknamed “The Green Fairy.”
Even your visit to Van Gogh’s tiny attic is an understated experience, more in keeping with the bare solitude of an artist than an orchestrated emphasis on historic significance.
The genuine Auvers experience is less about museum visits and more about immersing yourself in a time and place that inspired the genius of many painters. Stroll along the river and through the village to see and feel the scenes that inspired the Impressionist paintings. Wander past the church to the famed wheat field and hillside cemetery where Theo and Vincent Van Gogh are buried.
Before your return to Paris, enjoy a lazy, memorable lunch at Van Gogh’s Auberge Ravoux, where the chef partners with local farmers and muses of yesteryear to create the traditional French cuisine of Van Gogh’s era. In the middle of the wayside tavern atmosphere, you will cement your experience with one more facet of the life and spirit of the Impressionist colony.
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No need for a tour booking or guide – just purchase your train ticket for an easy trip of just over an hour from Paris Montparnasse station. You will relish the scenic journey through glowing yellow rapeseed fields, little villes and rolling farmlands on your way to “The Capital of Light and Perfume”. Of course, the magnificent Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Chartres is the major gem and attraction of the city – a UNESCO World Heritage site – but many appealing sights and experiences await you.
Beyond the storied cathedral and stunning stained glass throughout Chartres; the charming architecture, riverside setting and ancient cobbled lanes will fill your memory bank for years to come. Choose from a delightful array of crêperies, sidewalk cafés (perhaps in the shadow of the soaring cathedral) and gourmet restaurants for lunch and dinner.
My favorite is no longer – a gorgeous restaurant tucked along the scenic narrow banks of the Eure River. Still, you must wander along the river, over a little humped bridge and among half-timbered houses with flowers guiding the way. Beautiful!
Mainly, I want to underscore how easy and non-threatening such a day trip is … with multiple train schedules to and from (at about $40 round trip), with the centrally-located Chartres train station within easy reach of the Cathedral and the rest of the old village center. So treat yourself and venture out! You might even choose one of the last trains back to Paris after the enthralling lightshow in the center of the village.
Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!
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Rouen lures visitors with a mix of joy and sorrow, architectural heritage, art, museums and compelling cuisine. Just 70 miles northwest of Paris, Rouen gives off a contemporary hum in the midst of spectacular Gothic designs and enchanting timbered houses.
Wander through the popular port city on the Seine, and you’ll discover decades-old evidence of the pounding Rouen suffered during World War II. Though we preferred to stay a few days, Rouen makes an easy day trip from Paris – just an hour by the A13 highway or from the Paris-Saint Lazare train station.
Forgive my always diving into food, but it IS France! This capitol of Normandy boasts many Michelin-starred restaurants, distinct regional fare (with a bow to Canard a la Rouennaise on most menus), creamy fish stews, lovely local cheeses and the popular Calvados apple cider. We particularly relished our meal at Les Maraîchers – one of the oldest on the Place du Vieux Marche, where the market gardeners sold their vegetables. It is a delightfully warm, old-style bistro, a mix of old posters and family photos, decorated pitchers and aged mirrors.
The Rouen Cathedral was a natural starting point for us. Claude Monet’s renowned paintings featured the cathedral façade that is particularly famous for the highest spire in France. Over time, the Allied bombings and fierce storms caused significant damage, but the Gothic cathedral is still among the most beautiful in France. Some 13th-century windows are still decorated with the special cobalt blue known as “the blue from Chartres”. Our next stop was Saint-Ouen, the Gothic Benedictine abbey where Joan of Arc was sentenced to death in 1431, and even larger than the Rouen cathedral.
Time for art with a wonderful visit to Musée des Beaux-Arts, featuring exceptional 15th to 20th century works of art from Rubens, Caravaggio, Poussin, Corot and an entire area devoted to the works of Géricault. Several of Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces of the Rouen Cathedral were on display.
Local color and personality always appeal to us, so we wandered along “Little Venice” – Rue Eau de Robec – so named by Flaubert for the small stream that runs through the archways and street. A tiny side street, it was the perfect spot for a quiet glass of wine and a little exploration of the antique shops. In fact, I was able to satisfy my love of pottery, as so many wonderful old plates were available.
It was simply wonderful to absorb the many flavors of Rouen – the riverside and orange-tinted dusk, the ancient churches and transparent skies. In fact, as much as any feature of Rouen, it is the mystical, changing light of the city that has attracted painters, writers and visitors… like us!
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Not that our Bucket List isn’t crammed full, but really – a river cruise anywhere in France seems a “must”. During a recent visit with our French friends, they described several river journeys that sounded pretty heavenly. We do know ourselves well enough to realize the smaller boats would be more appealing.
If you don’t know, the “Bucket List” term was inspired by the movie of the same name. The main stars fashioned a list of things they wanted to do, before they ‘kicked the bucket’…like skydiving, driving a Shelby Mustang and dining at the Chevre d’Or overlooking the Mediterranean.
All things considered, we think a Viking River Cruise through France might be a nice addition. In the so-called “long and short of it”, there is a short cruise from Paris through Normandy and a rather indulgent 15-day excursion that extends that particular cruise to take you to Avignon, Arles and beyond. Naturally that’s not the extent of cruise offerings. You can go from Paris to Lyon or Zurich or go west to cruise around the Bordeaux wine region on the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde Rivers.
So back to our Bucket List addition, we might as well go all out with the combo cruise that runs, in essence, the length of France. Viking combines a Normandy adventure with cruises through the southern regions of Burgundy and Provence and visits to Avignon, Arles and Lyon. Can you imagine a more delightful itinerary? Touches of Monet and Van Gogh. Cuisines of Lyon and Avignon. Cobblestone streets and soaring Gothic architecture. And the magnificent sights of Paris need no description.
I can allow my imagination to take hold, picturing a spacious stateroom, outside – of course – with our own balcony. They have thought of everything – spacious observation lounges and bars with panoramic windows. Wireless internet service, boutique and library.
Talented chefs present a cuisine of fresh, seasonal local vegetables, regional specialties and menus adapted to your tastes. From pleasant and complete breakfast choices to a five-course dinner, we shall be well prepared for active days and pleasant evenings.
Though we tend to strike out on our own and avoid set tours, we believe the Viking experience might be quite worthy of the “Bucket List”.
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