Start from Paris with your bicycle and explore the towns made famous in the paintings of Van Gogh and Monet and Monet's Muses: VéTheuil And Giverny
Mileage: 16.6 miles or 26.7 kilometers
Introduction To "Van Gogh Country: Auvers-Sur-Oise"
Vincent Van Gogh spent the last months of his short life in Auvers, which lies on the banks of the Oise River. The painter arrived on May 20, 1890 to an area the Impressionists, Pissarro, Daumier, Daubigny, Cézanne, had already made famous. The Dutch artist, whose chose to stay at the Auberge Ravoux, intended to paint and seek treatment from a Dr. Paul Gachet. Mr. Ravoux had a small attic room available; meals were provided. Van Gogh worked extremely hard during the next 10 months, producing 70 paintings and studies in oils. He shot himself on July 27 and died in the next few days. He was buried in Auvers' cemetery. Six months later, Vincent's brother Theo died; his body was reburied next to his brother's in 1914.
Be sure to visit the Van Gogh House and Museum complex, which reopened after a two-year restoration in 1994. (Open daily except Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Seeing Van Gogh's tiny room puts his last moments into sober perspective. Walk or ride to the Van Gogh brothers' graves. (The museum provides a map.) On the way you'll see the Notre Dame Church and the wheat fields made famous by Van Gogh's paintings. Time your trip so that you can eat in the museum's outstanding restaurant, where Van Gogh himself took his meals. Reservations for dinner or lunch are necessary at 01.34.48.05.47. The price is about 150 to 200 FF for a three-course meal. Otherwise, the inexpensive and cozy Crêperie L'Auversoise at 11 rue du Général de Gaulle serves stuffed savory and dessert crepes averaging 25 to 30 FF each.
This ride uses the RER C line to get you within earshot of Auvers-sur-Oise. Take the RER C line from any point in Paris in the direction of Montigny-Beauchamp or Argenteuil to Ermont-Eaubonne. Any train going in that direction will do, since they all stop at Ermont-Eaubonne. The ride takes from 17 to 44 minutes, depending on whether it's a direct train. (Check the SNCF Web site at http://www.sncf.com/voy/dif/index.htm to search for the best times.) Alternately, the "banlieue" (suburban) trains from Gare du Nord take 20 minutes. There are no direct trains to Auvers.
Directions To "Van Gogh Country: Auvers-Sur-Oise"
STARTING POINT: The rue de Callais exit of the Ermont-Eaubonne train station on RER C line, direction Montigny-Beauchamp or Argenteuil. LANDMARK: Sign with map of the town.
MILES / KILOMETERS
0.0 / 0.0 Left onto rue de Callais.
0.3 / 0.5 Right at stoplight onto rue du Général Leclerc.
0.8 / 1.3 Traffic circle, go halfway around.
1.0 / 1.6 Go halfway around at the next traffic circles, continuing straight. Name of street changes to avenue du Matlock, then 19 juin 1940, and then rue de Montmorency.
1.7 / 2.7 At circle, make quarter turn, following signs for D928. You'll be riding along the long avenue de Paris, direction Taverny. The name of the street changes at points to avenue de la Libération.
6.9 / 11.1 Cross railroad tracks; see sign for Auvers-sur-Oise.
7.1 / 11.4 Cross Oise river, turn left at light onto rue du Général de Gaulle, following signs for the "La Maison de Van Gogh" (Van Gogh's house).
7.4 / 11.9 At light, see "Auberge Ravoux" (Ravoux's Inn) on your right. This is part of the Maison de Van Gogh complex, but you cannot enter here. Turn right and ride about 100 meters for entrance and for the tourist office. First, lock your bike, preferably using the bicycle parking rack across the street in front of the "Mairie," or town hall. For the return, head back onto rue du Général de Gaulle.
7.8 / 12.6 Turn right, over bridge, over railroad tracks, picking up the D928 again.
11.2 / 18.0 Turn right onto allée Du Temps Des Cerises following the signs for the A115 "autoroute." Use the bicycle path on the right side of the road. At points the path crosses onto the other side of the road. Becomes boulevard Brémont.
14.4 / 23.1 Bike path ends.
14.6 / 23.5 See signs for Ermont. Name of route changes to route de St. Leu.
14.8 / 23.8 At circle at city center, go halfway around.
15.3 / 24.6 See "H™tel de Ville" (town hall) on left.
15.5 / 24.9 At circle in town center, go halfway around.
15.6 / 25.1 Turn left (first left) onto rue de Maurice Berteaux.
16.0 / 25.7 Bear left. At stop sign, turn right, cross railroad tracks, make immediate right onto rue du Professeur Dastre (which parallels train tracks).
16.5 / 26.6 Right at light, pass into left lane as you go under bridge. Train station is on left as you exit underpass.
16.6 / 26.7 END POINT: Ermont-Eaubonne train station.
IX. Monet's Muses: VéTheuil And Giverny
Mileage: 19.5 miles or 31.4 kilometers
Introduction To "Monet's Muses: VéTheuil And Giverny"
In 1897, the first Americans made the pilgrimage to Giverny. At that time, they were artists inspired by the Impressionism of Claude Monet, who lived and worked there from 1883 to 1926. Even though Monet was reclusive and shunned most visitors, they came anyway to paint in the new "plein air" (open air) style. Since 1980, tourists come from the world over to pay homage to the master at his restored garden and house. Fondation Claude Monet is open April 1 to November 1, daily except Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission: 25 FF.
It isn't easy to get to Giverny; most tourists come by tour bus or private car. Some walk the three miles from the Vernon train station, or catch a bus or taxi, or rent a bike there. (For more information about bike rental in Vernon itself, see http://giverny.org/transpor/index.htm.) What tourists usually miss, however, is the town of Vétheuil, where Monet first lived and the subject for many of his paintings. To fully experience Monet's world, we think it's best to bike from Vétheuil thought La Roche-Guyon to Giverny, starting at the Mantes-La-Jolie train station. While in Giverny, don't miss the Musée d'Art Américain, which opened in 1992 by American collectors of American Impressionism inspired by France and Giverny in particular. The garden café, for which no admission is needed, is the best value for lunch in this touristy town. The museum is open April 1 to November 1, daily except Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission 35 FF.
If you have time before your train, visit the château at La Roche-Guyon. Château de La Roche-Guyon is open from the second weekend in March to the second weekend in November, daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays. In Vernon, there's the gothic Notre-Dame church and the adjacent medieval quarter with houses dating to the 15th century. Just one mile out of Vernon is the Château de Bizy, a residence of Louis XV built in 1740.
TRAIN TIPS: Trains leave every 15 to 30 minutes for Mantes-La-Jolie from Gare St. Lazare. From personal experience, it's best not to rely on the train schedule. Just show up and take the next train, posted on the center "departs banlieue" (suburban departures) sign. Or ask at the nearby "acceuil" (information) desk. The trip takes 30 minutes to one hour. The adult ticket is 45 FF one-way, which can be purchased at the "banlieue" machines or at the "guichet" (ticket office) inside the station. From Vernon, you must catch a train that allows bikes. Ask for times at the Mantes-La-Jolie station or check the SNCF Web site at www.sncf.com/voy/dif/index.htm. The adult fare is 67 FF one-way.
Directions For "Monet's Muses: VéTheuil And Giverny"
STARTING POINT: Mantes-La-Jolie train station (the stop AFTER Mantes Station).
MILES / KILOMETERS
0.0 / 0.0 Upon exiting station, right onto boulevard Carnot, which runs parallel to train tracks.
0.3 / 0.5 Light; left onto avenue de la Division du General Leclerc.
0.4 / 0.6 Light; right following sign for H™tel de Ville onto avenue de la République.
0.6 / 1.0 Left onto rue Léon-Marie Cesné (right side of Palais de Justice). Follow road (name changes several times) as it goes downhill toward Seine and swoops to the right.
1.1 / 1.8 Left onto bridge, Pont Neuf, which crosses the island Ile aux Dames. On second part of bridge, don't miss seeing the ruins of the old bridge to the right. At end of bridge, move into left lane.
1.4 / 2.3 Left onto D147 direction Vétheuil. The ride starts to get beautiful!
2.0 / 3.2 Go halfway around circle.
3.0 / 4.8 At fork, bear right uphill direction St. Martin-la-Garenne.
3.6 / 5.8 Straight direction St. Martin-la-Garenne.
4.9 / 7.9 Entering St. Martin.
5.3 / 8.5 Left at church following sign for Vétheuil.
6.9 / 11.1 Entering Vétheuil.
7.0 / 11.3 Town square; good rest stop with plenty of cafés. Exit on far left side of square onto avenue Claude Monet following sign for La Roche Guyon, D913, facing church with well-worn steps. Do you recognize it from the Monet painting?
10.6 / 17.0 La Roche Guyon. You'll no doubt want to linger here. Turn left following the sign "promenade" for a scenic rest spot along the water. On the right is the castle and hilltop ruin. Walk or ride to the top, if you dare!
11.6 / 18.7 At top of hill, continue on D913 following sign for Gasny.
11.7 / 18.8 Left direction Gommecourt; a quiet paved farm road.
12.6 / 20.3 Stop sign; continue straight in the direction of Limetz.
14.9 / 24.0 Stop sign; turn right in the direction of Giverny.
15.8 / 25.4 Left in the direction of Vernon and Musée Claude Monet. You'll pass several worthy restaurants along this road.
16.0 / 25.7 At fork, bear right.
16.1 / 25.9 Monet's house and gardens are on the left; on the right is a parking lot with a bike rack hidden behind bushes. The Musée d'Art Américain is down the road on the right. After your visit, continue in same direction, which leads to main road.
17.2 / 27.7 Right then left onto bike path.
18.8 / 30.3 Left following sign for Vernonnet.
18.9 / 30.4 Circle; go halfway around onto bridge, biking up onto right sidewalk (bike path). (First left after bridge is optional stop to see Eglise de Notre Dame.)
19.4 / 31.2 Circle, go 1/4 around following sign for "gare" (train station). Next left following sign for "gare."
19.5 / 31.4 END POINT: Vernon train station.
All Paris phone numbers have 10 digits, beginning with 01. When dialing from within France, dial all ten digits. When dialing from outside France, dial the country code (33) then the Paris prefix (1) then the eight digits which follow the 01.
Copyright 2001 The Insider Guide to Biking in Paris -- http://www.insiderparisguides.com/parisbiking/index.html
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