Auvers-sur-Oise

Thirty years ago Belgian businessman Dominique Janssens and his family were passing through the village of Auvers-sur-Oise when they were rear ended-right in front of the Auberge Ravoux where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last days of his life. In this village of 7,000 souls Van Gogh produced an astonishing 80 works in the last 70 days of that all too brief life that he took on the 29th day of July 1890.

Thirty years ago Belgian businessman Dominique Janssens and his family were passing through the village of Auvers-sur-Oise when they were rear ended-right in front of the Auberge Ravoux where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last days of his life. In this village of 7,000 souls Van Gogh produced an astonishing 80 works in the last 70 days of that all too brief life that he took on the 29th day of July 1890.

Jansenns had little interest in the Dutch painter but during his 2-month convalescence from the car accident he became obsessed and we are the beneficiaries of this grand obsession as he has lavished 20 million euros to restore the Auberge to its turn of the century (20th) simplicity. A mere 30 kilometers from Paris and accessible by train from Paris Gare du Nord in a mere 40 minutes (weekends) you will feel as if time had stopped at the end of the 19th century when you detrain.

We were met by Jean-Claude Pantellini, president of Le Pressoir Auversois, the local non-profit winery and before learning about the local wine were treated to an espresso at the Café de la Paix where both Van Gogh and Kirk Douglas in Vicente Minnelli’s LUST for LIFE were known to take coffee. The workers at the bar were having a late morning pick me up that may have include marc or calvados.

The former sommelier at Le Pré-Catalan in the Bois du Bologne is assisted by maitre chai Gérard Dumain in the production of 140 bottles of Chardonnay each year–very distinctive wine that doesn’t resemble any other Chardonnay. Each year the children of the village participate in the récolte that has become an annual party.

After a brief tour of the mini-vineyard adjacent to the gare and a brief visit to the cave we headed for Jean-Claude’s garden, bottle in hand, where we relaxed and enjoyed the surroundings. In his many years at Le Pre-Catalan he has served the crowned heads of Europe, Gulf sheiks and Chuck Jones, creator of Bugs Bunny.

Dominique Janssens

We were now ready for a visit to the Auberge Ravoux where Dominique awaited with an apéritif and an introduction to the history of the auberge.In the attic a single skylight lets a few rays of sunshine into the simple room (#5) where Van Gogh lived and died in 1890. Before you go down to the gift shop and dining room you will sit down in a cozy screening room for a brilliant, 12-minute documentary about Auvers and Vincent.

But it is the restaurant that will make you feel as if Van Gogh were sitting right to next to you–the zinc bar, the polished wood chairs and tables and the red-bordered napkins suggesting the leisurely pace of a rustic village.

Chef Clémence Mayrand, previously of Paris’ George V, is attracting a dedicated following of international food lovers and reservations are a must. Her daily 38-euro menu is a miracle of rapport qualité-prix.

Dominique, M and I were seated at a window and started with a 2005 Margaux Brio Rouge  from Chateaux Cantenac Brown

M had the oeuf meurette, Dominique the terrine de canardand I the presse de Lapereau on a bed of the little, green lentilles du Puy with an onion compote-it was the size of a main course.

I soldiered on with the 7-hour leg of lamb that had been simmered in white wine and served with 6-hour potatoes that were slow-cooked with garlic and finished in the frying pan with butter until they were golden and crunchy.

M was happy with her filet of bar with a medley of cabbage and a bouillon de crevettes grises. Dominique had the biggest Dover sole I had ever seen-600+ grams.

I could finish but half of the wonderful tarte tatin served with a pot of crème fraiche but M was able to enjoy every spoonful of her Mousse au Chocolat au Sabayon.

Van Gogh’s Table 

Get a preview of what’s in store for you when you visit the Auberge–

This unique cookbook/art book explores the role of the café in Van Gogh’s life. Includes more than 50 traditional recipes, ranging from hearty to refined, and 100 photographs, paintings, sketches, engravings, and letters, some never before seen in book form.

After a short visit to the neighboring Romanesque/Gothic égliseimmortalized by Van Gogh it was time to sample the Green Fairy, absinthe.

Marie-Claude Delahaye, the retired cellular biologist and professor with the twinkling blue eyes has amassed a collection of paintings, paraphernalia and advertising posters that celebrate the potent elixir. After the tour you will be invited to sample a few styles à la belle époque.

A lovely day and we finished in time for the 6PM return train but stay overnight or come back for:

• The cemetery where the two brothers lie side by side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 L’Atelier de Daubigny with its wonderfully restored décor painted by the Daubigny family and friends, Corot and Daumier

Doctor Gachet’s house and its beautifully planted garden

• The Château d’ Auvers

Maison de Van Gogh/Auberge Ravoux

Wednesday-Sunday 10AM-6PM, 6euros

Lunch Noon-2:30PM, Dinner 7:30PM-9PM

For private tours of Auvers please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 06-7098-1368If you can imagine it we can make it happen.

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