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A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 19: Art in Amsterdam

A side trip from Paris to Amsterdam is an easy train ride. For me, the primary purpose of a visit to Amsterdam was to see the Van Gogh museum. I have long been intrigued by his life and his art and on a previous trip to France, I went to Arles and St. Remy where he painted so many of his finest works. Of course, he also was hospitalized there after a break down. His short, tragic life ended nearby.

I knew he spent time in Paris and that his brother, who supported him throughout his life, lived in Paris. A few days before visiting the museum in Amsterdam, I found where Theo lived and photographed his door in Montmartre a few blocks from my apartment. Nearby, you can visit the Moulin Galette. There were several paintings in the Van Gogh Museum that reflected scenes from my neighborhood. There is, in fact, a painting called "View from Theo's Apartment" and several paintings of the windmill at Moulin Galette.
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One of my favorite paintings in the Van Gogh museum is of "The Yellow House" which still stands in Arles as a cafe.
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The most moving part of the visit for me was to see excerpts from the letters Vincent and Theo wrote back and forth throughout their lives. I was struck by the beauty of their penmanship and by the fact that they wrote hundreds of letters to one another throughout their lives. Now, we email. Or text. We will never again have such documentation of a relationship, of two people pouring out their lives, thoughts, feelings, to one another.

The letters were published and I have placed them on my "must read" list. What is on yours? Let me know in the "comments."

Posted by teethetrav 11:22 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam arles letters van_gogh_museum moulin_galette theo_van_gogh vincent_van_gogh the_yellow_house Comments (0)

Searching for Van Gogh in Arles

Wandering through the town of Arles, it’s easy to understand why Van Gogh got so depressed here and killed himself. Oh sure, he was fueled by absinthe and he was probably bipolar, but even with that, I can totally see how this town would depress someone after spending two years here.
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VG spent two years living and working here. He supposedly had no friends. Now maybe that was his fault, but the French are not the friendliest people in the world. I don’t find them rude, as some have said, but they seem to merely tolerate anyone non-French or from anywhere other than their home town. In Arles, they have to be polite. Their source of income is completely tourist-driven at this point. Back in Van Gogh’s day, they didn’t even have to be pleasant in order to make tourist dollars. There were no tourists. Gauguin came to visit VG in Arles and hated it. cafe__de_nuit_.jpg

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Arles locals are visible and they are clique-ish. If you are there off season as I was, the locals hang out from early in the evening when they meet to have a pastis or an espresso. Everyone appears to know everyone in this tiny town, and no one makes an effort to speak to you. If you spend a few days there, you feel like an outsider. I empathize with poor Van Gogh who spent two years in this isolation.
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Posted by teethetrav 07:52 Archived in France Tagged art france arles van-gogh Comments (0)

Arles Market Day

Markets in Provence

Arles Market Day
The first Wednesday in any month, the open air market in Arles stretches as far as the eye can see with all types of goods. Two main streets are a tangle of shoppers and vendors vying for your euros. You can separate the tourists from the serious marketers easily. The regulars all come prepared with their wheeled baskets to get their fill of produce, spices, meats, cheeses, fresh breads, olives, and fish.
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Stands are organized by their products. Fish vendors line up next to one another, as do the cheese vendors and the olive vendors and so forth. I was especially intrigued by the stands that specialized in garlics. Who knew there were so many kinds of garlic?
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The aromas fill the air; herbs de Provence, lavender, the pungent olives, and fish all tempt you. I purchased aged gouda, a boule, olives, and a small jar of tapenade and made a picnic lunch. The olives were the best I’ve ever tasted. The bread was crisp on the outside and airy on the inside, as only French bread can be. The warm cheese and the bread melted in my mouth.
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Further down the rows, there were dozens of tables filled with clothing and shoes. There were nice things, but no real bargains as far as I could see. I did buy a pretty scarf for two euros though. There were several bargain tables. Anything on the table was one euro. There were the predictable vendors selling table cloths and napkins made of Provençal fabrics. They were all pretty and inexpensive. The only problem was choosing which one to buy.

There was a family showing a goat and asking for donations to “save the animals.” Whether or not the money goes to this cause, I gave them a couple of euros. I figured the goat had earned it after standing around being gawked at. DSC03139.jpg

The locals warn you to beware of pickpockets here, since it can get fairly crowded. The general food market is every Wednesday and Saturday.
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Posted by teethetrav 07:07 Archived in France Tagged markets france spices goat provence arles gouda french_bread Comments (0)

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