Saturday, November 27, 2010

Part 3 - The Auberge Ravoux

Coming back down the hill from the Auvers-sur-Oise cemetery took a little longer than I had anticipated and I felt that I was walking not in the footsteps of Van Gogh, but of Mr. Bean.

I put too much faith in my Google map and walked right by the Auberge Ravoux by about a block. I retraced my steps and found the place. The front door was not in use and the entrance to the restaurant was on a side street. I advised two nice ladies at the ticket entrance that I had a reservation and they told me to go ahead.

I found the tearoom ( reserved for groups) no problem, but I couldn't see how a visitor was to enter the Auberge Ravoux dining room. By now it was well after noon. After squeeeeeezing my way backwards through some turnstiles I walked around the block again still unable to figure out how to get in. Back at the beginning, I passed the two nice ladies again and then I entered the tearoom looking for help. A very shy waiter that looked EXACTLY like Neville Longbottom showed me where I was supposed to go. Silly me for not knowing that the unmarked backdoor was where paying customers should have entered this landmark (read unmarked) site.

I sat down by the front window of the restaurant and relished the details of the Ravoux; mindful of the tiled floor with its "tumbling blocks" pattern, the table and window coverings and the zinc bar that I had seen in books and the film A Very Long Engagement and mindful of it's most famous patron. But here I go complaining again. The place was like a tomb. There was one other couple there. But that was it. No music. No hustle. No bustle. The waitstaff was talking in hushed tones as if Van Gogh had died the night before. I felt very much like I had to behave with more decorum than I was used to.  I was getting depressed and Auvers-Sur-Oise was seriously starting to get to me. Where were the throngs of sight-seers? The quietness plus my increasing muddledness was making me wonder if  was if the town was doing something to my brain and I wondered if Vincent felt it too.

Little by little my experience warmed up. I was offered the communal sausage to sample and it was delicious. The waitress opened up a little. Some other gents came in. One looked and behaved as if he was really famous and the head waiter was fawning over him. I think one of them may have been a director. Later they actually asked the waiter to tell one of the patrons not to take photos of their table. Yes, the place had started to fill up. And the once-crypt-like place had turned into a veritable bird cage of twittering tourists. With cameras.

My food was sublime - the best of my trip. I ordered Rabbit Terrine with lentils, 7-hour Lamb Stew, Potatoes Dauphinoise  and almond ice cream. I really enjoyed my meal. I appreciated every bite. Maybe I subconsciously knew it was to be my last meal until the following morning.

After paying, I went up stairs to visit Van Gogh's quarters only to find I'd made yet another mistake (not my last of the day, either). The cost of entry was not included in my meal. Back to the two nice ladies at the wicket to pay admission and then I mounted the stairs to Vincent Van Gogh's bedroom.

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