Friday 13 September 2019

Auvers-sur-Oise !

Today was the day! I have been wanting to make the trip to this little town for the last three visits to Paris!
Auvers-sur-Oise is situated about 50 minutes outside Paris. It is where Van Gogh spent his last days.  We rose early to make the most of the day, took the metro to St Lazare train station.....metro very busy with people heading to work! We bought breakfast to have on the train and we were off.  Direct trains only operate on weekends so we had one change to make.  On arrival in the town we walked  to the information centre, had a quick coffee and started to follow the brass medallions in the path which simply said Vincent. ( I apologize I cannot post pictures here, but if you follow me on Instagram murielvacationgirl you will see pictures there). Our first visit was to the bedroom Vincent lived in a hotel near the station. It was a sad little room, empty now except for a chair very similar to one which is in many of his paintings. We had a private speaking tour from a young girl who was obviously passionate about the story she told of this amazing man who was liked by so many in the village.  Vincent only lived here for 70 days, and in this time he painted over 78 paintings and drew many sketches and drawings.  He died in the room we were privileged to be standing in. Next we went into a small simple theatre area where a film of his paintings and their locations was presented to very beautiful peaceful music.  I would say the four of us were very moved by the experience.
Leaving the hotel we continued to follow the brass Vincent medallions through the town. We walked up a path to the cornfield where he painted crows in the cornfield.....and there was the field full of corn.  At the end of his life Vincent had grown full of dispare took his life in that cornfield.  He did not die right away but managed to make his way part way out to help, he was taken to his room where he lived for two days, long enough that his beloved brother Theo was able to come from Paris to be with him. A very sad loss for the world. We continued on to the church and to the home of Dr Gachet who was a friend and doctor to Vincent and many other of the impressionist artists. Vincent’s brother Theo died one year later and his wife arranged to have him buried next to Vincent in the cemetery. Theo’s wife was responsible for arranging shows of Vincent’s works, making them known and loved in the art world. In his lifetime he sold only one painting I believe it was for 200francs.
It was such an amazing day, we had to hurry back to the train station as they were only every two hours. Back in Paris we decided to go have a look at the Eiffel Tower, and have a drink at a bar nearby, famous for its cakes.  To our surprise a friend of Jans from her university days came in and of course joined us for awhile!  It was a long day and we headed back to the metro and our hotel.

Today, Friday 13 we flew to Porto.  Our flight was really early so we were up at 4:30am. Unbelievably tired! The metro and trains were on strike so roads would likely be busier than usual.  As it happened the trip which we had allowed one hour took barely 30 minutes.
We were met in Porto by the company who we booked our Camino with and driven to our hotel. We left our luggage at the hotel and set off by bus to meet our tour guide, previously booked, for an art tour of the city, which would also include the many tiled buildings, churches, walls which Porto is famous for. The crowning jewel was the train station, depicted in mostly blue and white tile was a complete battlefield. Our guide Marcos said he could also get us into a famous bookstore if we paid a further 2e trance fees. Well this bookstore, which was an architectural beauty was also famous because J.K.Rowling of Harry Potter fame had written some of her work there. The line up to enter was very long but Marcos being a tour guide could bypass it with two clients, as we were 4 we had to purchase 2 more tickets. The bookstore was very crowded inside but definitely worth the visit. Hundreds of books from floor to ceiling, many first edition old books, many miniature sculptures of an artist was alongside their book. I believe the shop had the distinction of being the oldest in the world. One last interesting thing was that we had seen several young people, boys and girls, dressed in huge black cape style coats, one boy even had horn rimmed black glasses...a la Harry Potter Style. It turns out the students themselves were the inspiration for Rowling, not the other way around.  Rowlings first husband was from Porto and her daughter was born there, hence her residence here.
Soon we were saying goodbye to our art tour friend as we now had to meet our food tour Guide!
It was incredibly hot, at this point 37 degrees!  We had time for a beer before we met up with her.
First stop with Helene was a shop called Casanatal (meaning Christmas) (not sure why) reportedly the oldest store in Porto, it sold very fresh and hard to find foods. An interesting food was large pieces of dried cod.....which could be refrigerated and placed in water, which would be changed every 8 hrs for several days .....we were assured it would be as fresh as the day it was caught, and could be kept in its original dried state for over a year.   We moved on to many different food shops, markets and restaurants to try all different meats, cheeses, sardines (delicious), fruits, chocolate, and Port. Port which we had thought was an English invention, actually was first made in Porto. Also found out a bottle of port should be drank in entirety the day it is opened, and if kept should be refrigerated and drank within a month. So I’ll be throwing out the one in our cupboard which has been there as long as I remember!we finished up our foody afternoon with a lovely fresh white wine which we drank from porcelain bowls along with a lovely ham and prosciutto and a black very dense bread. Helene ordered an Uber for us and we were off. Our Uber driver was a nice fellow who told us his wife had done 2 Caminos. It’s the thing to do in this part of the world.
It’s been an exceptionally long day and tomorrow we will start off leisurely and we will transfer to the start of the walk tomorrow at 3pm.


At 13 September 2019 at 16:52 , Blogger Unknown said...

Sounds like you are having a wonderful adventure ! Enjoy !

At 14 September 2019 at 09:52 , Blogger Unknown said...

Wow it sounds like you are doing a weeks worth of excitement in a day!! Wonderful!


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