Saturday, July 30, 2016

Europe By Train: Paris #6: On Foot

The Promenade Plantée is an abandoned railway line transformed into one of the secret parks of Paris, passing over viaducts and through tunnels. 

I decided to walk the almost three mile trail from Place de la Bastille to Bois de Vincennes, the enormous park in eastern Paris.

There are wonderful high angles on wonderful buildings.

Inside the tunnel, of course, more street art. 

I wanted to return by métro but found myself lost on a deserted street beyond the roaring périphérique freeway. 

Spotting a postal bicycle like the one in Arles, I asked directions from the cheery post person who set me on my way. And charged a local man to look after me en route.

My husband and I had lunch on a cobblestoned pedestrian street just off the Seine. The day was crisp and blue, and we toasted it with rosé. 

The next day I visited Van Gogh's rue Lepic apartment again

 I explored Vincent's hilly Montmartre neighborhood...

In his day this area was one of farmlands and vineyards. Here is the last vineyard of Paris.

Even today, this remains a quiet suburban neighborhood.

With staggering views.

As ever, there are plaques and memorials to Vincent.

I don't know; it may be a coincidence, but here is a local street sign.

I took the métro to Parc Monceau, which I had not visited since the seventies. Then, I had worked nearby and strolled it frequently. Years later during research for my latest novel, The Ruby Curse, I learned that the maharaja's grandparents, rulers of India's princely state of Baroda, had owned a townhouse on a gated street bordering the park.

Walking through the park that fine spring day, I retraced the steps of my characters--rising young actress Nancy Valentine and Bhaiya, the Maharaja of Cooch Behar. The scene takes place after Bhaiya introduces his wife-to-be to his very disapproving mother Indira. Sometimes my characters talk to me and today they truly did.

At the end of the street I had to "reflect" before this building.

As our departure approached, I tried to pack a lot into these last few days. I took the métro back to the fifth, the Sorbonne area, to retrace other steps, more research. I had heard of this unusual boulangerie and paused to inhale its earthy smell and have a taste.

I ended the day in the Marais, beating heart of the eternal Paris of philosophers and poets, idealists and artists, people who live to eat, drink, and discuter.

Next week: Adieu Paris

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Europe By Train: Paris #5: Auvers-Sur-Oise: Vincent's Final Resting Place

One Sunday we took the train to Auvers-sur-Oise, a light-filled riverside village that drew many artists, including Cézanne, Pissarro--and Van Gogh. 

Vincent had moved to Auvers from Saint-Rémy to be closer to his brother, Theo, in nearby Paris. Here he spent the last seventy days of his life and painted seventy works of art. 

Outside the tourist center is Zadkine's statue of Vincent, depicted carrying his easel and paints, en route to the fields to work.

It was Sunday, and the farmers' market was tempting.

Further down the main street, we came upon the inn where Vincent lived in an upper room.

From the upstairs right window, he painted his view of the town hall.

The past is so alive here. At the end of the next block is a memorial to the fallen in World War II.

Having found a promising place for lunch with a tarte tatin on the menu, we turned back to visit Notre Dame d'Auvers, the 12C church that Vincent painted.

A wedding was taking place. A sweet moment. Life goes on.

Moving around to the front we came upon the angle from which he had painted The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise.

We continued down a country road to the cemetery, where Vincent and Theo were buried.

We tromped around the surrounding fields where Vincent worked. 

Here is the site from which he painted Wheatfields with Crows.

These remain agricultural areas which we are requested to respect. 

Back down the hill we turn for another view of the church.

Crossing the main street, we pass the railroad tracks to the River Oise.

It is time for lunch and we return to town where I am thrilled by the sight of an old Citroen 2 CV, the classic Deux Chevaux.

Lunchtime! At The Vines of Auvers.

We had tarried too long. Sadly, they were out of tarte tatin, but the pizza was grand.

While the husband enjoyed his café, I continued up the road to the house of Dr. Gachet, the physician who treated Vincent here. Dr. Gachet was a sensitive and progressive man, an artist himself, and art collector. The two became friends.

Besides his well-known portrait of the doctor, Vincent also painted The Garden of Dr. Gachet. 

It was a fine day in a fine village, and I wished for another life. This part of town is particularly lovely, old stone houses with lush gardens and views overlooking the valley.

Time to leave. Too soon, we are back at the railway station.

The tunnel to the other side of the tracks is bright and cheery. Art is everywhere in Auvers.

We arrived on a direct train. This time, we connect at Pointoise. 

And before long, we are back at the Gare du Nord, two métro stops from our apartment.

Next stop: More Paris On Foot: