Conflans & Auvers sur Oise
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Since Giverny closes at the end of October, we were to spend our time while docked in Conflans on Van Gogh themed destinations on the banks of the Oise river. The Viking Spirit dropped us off in Conflans and we embarked in three buses on our land journey while they continued on the river to meet us at the end of our tour at Mantes-la-Jolie. First stop is the Château d'Auvers-sur-Oise (picture above right), built in 1635 to be thee home to an Italian banker. Acquired in 1987 by the General Countil of Val-d'Oise it is registed as an historic monument and renovated. In 1994 it opens as an Impressionist Museum whose mission is to transport you to the period when impressionism emerged... the age of rail when trips out of Paris to the countryside were the thing. The quick glimpses of the landscape that blur by the train windows inspire the painters to capture their impressions without sketching using paint applied directly to canvas. To help visitors "travel back to the time of Impressionists" the château is kept dark inside and we walk from one room to the next as life during the period is revealed. It is pretty a tacky experience overall, except for one room where we sit in what is supposed to replicate a train interior with a giant screen showing images flashing by our window replicating what Parisians/painters saw outside their window as they ventured into the countryside. This illusion works and gives us an experience similar to that of the impressionists. Not so mysterious after all. The painters world was expanding due to technology which enable them to leave their studios and to go outside and paint the world as they saw it... populated with everday people doing everyday things.
After some time in the gift shop of the château, we walk back to the buses and are taken to a parking lot not far from the church at Auvers sur Oise which Van Gogh painted. It is a photo op. Then we walk up a hill and along the country road that takes us to a small cemetary where the brothers Van Gogh are buried. Near the cemetary are the fields which Vincent painted and the spots where he stood are marked. It is cold, damp and the fields are wet so we keep to the road and the cemetary.
Our guide for the walk attempts to fill in the time with some obscure facts about Vincent or Theo and continues his ramblings on the bus talking a lot about Dr. Gachet and his relationship with Vincent with references to the doctor possibly being the owner of the gun that Vincent used to shoot himself in the field which eventually caused his death. The gun was apparently never found. Vincent died from his wounds, the doctor thinking it too risky to transport him to hospital. He continues along this vein on our bus ride to Mantes-la-Jolie where we reboard the boat and embark on our cruise to Vernon which begins as we go to lunch. We arrive in Vernon about 3:15PM.