By Rosemary Kluth

Photo by Rosemary Kluth


After what seemed an unnecessarily circuitous journey from the Gare du Nord (perish the thought!), our taxi eventually arrived at the delightfully quirky Hotel du Vieux Paris, built in 1480, and located a stone’s throw from the Seine and Notre Dame cathedral ( Having negotiated a claustrophobically tiny lift and unpacked our essentials, we set off to explore the surroundings – shops and restaurants that looked quintessentially Parisian, and streets that were pure Van Gogh, with old-fashioned street lamps reflecting in the wet pavements. Notre Dame towered majestically over the scene, looking entirely undamaged, although closer inspection did reveal cranes and scaffolding in the background, recalling the terrible fire of 2019. After a tasty meal in a cosy brasserie, we retired to bed, looking forward to the first day of our seven-day river cruise on the beautiful Seine.

Next morning, after breakfasting on the biggest croissants ever, with home-made jam and honey, we headed off to the Manet/Degas exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay before joining our riverboat in the late afternoon. The exhibition was stunning, but the museum is equally impressive. Converted from a disused neo-classical railway station to avoid demolition in the late 1970s, it still sports a massive station clock, and is a tribute to the inventiveness of its architects. The full story and illustrations can be found here.

After a quick glance at the Louvre, a short rest and a rather less dodgy taxi trip – this time arranged by our charming hotel director – we arrived at the quayside to be greeted and helped with our luggage by a friendly troop of enthusiastic crew members. Unexpectedly, we had been upgraded to a spacious cabin with large windows and comfortable furniture, so we felt particularly well-disposed towards our hosts as the boat left Paris and headed for Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.


We awoke to find ourselves moored at the junction of the Oise and Seine, and were driven from the quayside to the little village of Auvers-sur-Oise – the so-called birthplace of Impressionism, where Vincent Van Gogh died and is buried. In the 19th century, Auvers was deep in the countryside, and attracted many artists who were looking for a peaceful rural setting, while at the same time staying close to their patrons and the cultural highlights of Paris. Van Gogh came to Auvers in 1890 at the recommendation of his brother, Theo. Alas, the hoped-for improvement in Vincent’s mental health failed to materialise, despite the efforts of his equally melancholy friend, Dr Gachet, and he shot himself just a few weeks later. We were shown the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh stayed, and where – on 29 July – he eventually died. During his time in Auvers, Van Gogh produced more than 70 paintings, including the well-known portraits of Dr Gachet, Wheatfield with Crows and the wonky-looking Church at Auvers.

Photo by Rosemary Kluth

It was a warm day as we walked along a cobbled street lined with purple iris, past the famous church (not at all wonky), and on up the hill to a typical French country graveyard, complete with stone figures and flowers. We found the spot where Vincent lies buried, alongside his brother, Theo, who survived him by just six months. Someone had leaned a small painting of a sunflower against the headstone, and there were several sunflowers on the grave. I was pleased to see that Theo, too, had been given some sunflowers. Vincent must have been a terrible liability to have as a brother. As we walked back down the hill, we spotted several other Van Gogh motifs – clumps of irises, a tree in blossom, and fields full of yellow against the blue sky. It was easy to imagine the crows, although we saw none on that day.

Our next port of call was the Chateau d’Auvers, where we enjoyed an immersive experience of the works of Van Gogh, Daubigny, Pissarro, Cézanne and Monet, whose paintings were projected onto huge screens all around us, vividly demonstrating the use of dabs and daubs of colour to portray light.

Full of everything we had seen, we then returned to the river for another excellent meal and an evening’s entertainment in the lounge/bar, and retired to bed, looking forward to Friday’s excursion, which would take us to Rouen (to be continued).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *