Vernon, France, is a charming and provincial city, set on the west bank of the Seine downstream of Paris. Founded in the 9th century by Viking Rollo, it was an important transit point between Paris and Rouen, and thus saw many sieges. It’s cobblestoned streets and half-timbered houses, paint an image of what it must have looked like in the Middle Ages. Despite severe damage in both world wars of the previous century, many of the aforementioned half-timbered houses, some dating to the 14th century, remain, as well as a “small” parish church built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 16th century. Ruins of Vernon’s medieval bridge can still be seen on the right bank of the Seine.
We immensely enjoyed this walking tour, made even better by our knowledgeable, fervent, and effervescent guide, a young French lady named Marie (she spoke at least 4 languages).
Accompanied by our morning guide (well educated in art history), an hour bus ride began at the Viking Rinda and ensued through the French countryside past Monet’s house and water lily filled pond. The bus continued past fields of sunflowers, and recently harvested corn, beets, and soybeans, finally arriving at Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last 10 weeks of his life. It was here that he painted 70 masterpieces and near masterpieces before dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Vincent Van Gogh was a very troubled man suffering from smoker’s cough, alcoholism, probable syphilis, and mental illness. He is buried in a simple grave beside his brother, Theo, who died six months later than Vincent. Many of you have heard Don McClean’s Starry, Starry Night—it is the story of Van Gogh.