Your Man in Europe
Finding Van Gogh - May 17 - 29, 2024 - $4290 Per Person
Finding Van Gogh
Following the footsteps of Van Gogh in France and Amsterdam
May 17 - 29, 2024 - 11 Nights
Come along with Your Man in Europe on an extraordinary journey tracing the most important events in the life of the artist, Vincent van Gogh. We’ll visit the places where he lived, worked, and died during his tumultuous life as a painter. We’ll explore the very locations that were the most consequential, from Provence to Paris, and from Auvers-sur-Oise to Amsterdam – many surprisingly unchanged over the years. Throughout the trip we’ll have Marilyn Ivy, former coordinator of the Kimbell Art Museum’s studio programs, as a guide. For artists, sketching and instructed (or independent) watercolor painting opportunities will be offered at key venues on the tour, with alternative excursions for those travelers who are not along for the art-making. This will be a wonderful experience for art lovers, and especially for Van Gogh fans; but an equally appealing travel adventure for everyone. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity!
May 17, Friday – Depart the USA on Flights to Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) – not included in the tour cost. Please plan flights to arrive by 10:00 AM on May 18.
May 18, Saturday – Flights should arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport by 10:00 AM. Once everyone has arrived (allowing some time for late arrivals), we’ll assemble the group for a brief orientation talk at the airport. In the afternoon we’ll board our high-speed TGV train to Avignon. The ride through the gorgeous French countryside is about 3 hours, and is a front row seat for some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. During the journey we’ll have a wonderful “train picnic”.
“The goal of any real traveler is to experience that ‘sense of place’. Beauty is found not just in a museum or monument. It’s also right outside your train window.”
From Avignon’s TGV station we’ll take taxis into the town center, where we’ll check into our atmospheric hotel very close to the historic Palais des Papes. Avignon was the seat of the Catholic Church for about 100 years beginning in the 14th Century; and the architecture of the city reflects that monumental period.
After settling into our hotel, we’ll go out for a “Welcome to France” dinner together before returning to our hotel for a well-deserved good night’s sleep.
May 19, Sunday – After a nice breakfast we’ll enjoy a full day in Avignon. Guests wishing to attend services today may do so at one of the many churches very nearby. Our first destination together will be the impressive Palais des Papes (the Palace of the Popes).
The Palace of the Popes stands as the mighty symbol of the church’s influence throughout the Christian world in the 14th century. Construction was started in 1335 and completed in less than twenty years under the leadership of two builder popes, Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI. The Popes’ Palace is the largest Gothic palace in all of Europe - equivalent to 4 Gothic cathedrals!
Besides the Palace of the Popes, Avignon is a traveler’s dream. The unique architecture of the old city is unlike anyplace else in the world – and certainly different from any other town in Provence.
Take time to stroll and just savor the ambience of this very special place. Lunch and dinner will be on your own today.
May 20, Monday – After a lovely breakfast we’ll begin our quest to trace the life of Vincent van Gogh in earnest. We’ll board a local train for the short journey to the fascinating city of Arles, a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s filled to the brim with Roman treasures, fantastic art, and colorful pastel houses. There are many Roman ruins throughout the city which offers an amazing opportunity to see world-class archeological sites without the huge crowds that you might encounter in other places. A highlight is the fantastic Roman arena which dates back to 90 A.D. and has 20,000 seats – and it’s still in use today!
If the colorful sun-bathed houses of Arles evoke a sense of déjà vu, it’s because you’ve seen them already on Van Gogh canvases – the artist painted over 200 works around town. It's easy to understand why he was so charmed by Arles. In February 1888, Vincent arrived in Arles. Before that, he had lived in Paris for two years, where his unique modern style of painting was emerging. Tired of the busy city life and the cold northern climate, Van Gogh headed South to seek the brilliant light and colors of Provence to further help him develop his new way of painting. In May, Van Gogh rented the yellow house where he lived and set up his studio. He had hopes of establishing a collective studio there, where other painters would join him. In October, Paul Gauguin did join Van Gogh in Arles, where the two artists lived and painted together for two months. Sadly his famous little ‘yellow house’ at 2 place Lamartine, was destroyed during WWII.
Together we’ll go on the wonderful Van Gogh walking tour. Throughout the town we’ll see the places where the artist set up his easel. Many are marked with panels representing his paintings. During our tour we’ll stop by Le Cafe La Nuit (the “Night Café”) immortalized in a Van Gogh painting. The place is remarkably unchanged from the artist’s time there! Though it has become a bit too “touristy” we can enjoy having a light snack and drink there before continuing our expedition.
After the walking tour, everyone will have a free afternoon to sketch, shop, and enjoy a nice lunch on your own in just the right spot. After a very full day in Arles, we’ll return to Avignon for a change of pace: a delicious pizza dinner together.
May 21, Tuesday – After another nice breakfast our adventure in Provence continues. Today we’ll get an early start to head for Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, often called “The Heart of Provence”. This utterly charming little town has a relaxing ambience about it that encourages visitors to “slow down and smell the flowers”. There will be many photo opportunities, and even some sketching time for the artists among the group. One of St. Rémy’s claims to fame is that Nostradamus was born and spent much of his childhood in and around the town.
In December of 1888 Van Gogh suffered a mental breakdown in Arles – an early sign of his illness – and had cut off a part of his left ear. In February,1889 he had a second breakdown, but after a period of hospitalization, he continued to work in Arles for a few more months. In May,1889 he had himself committed voluntarily to the asylum in Saint-Rémy. It’s stunning to see how little the place has changed since then. The grounds are dotted with reproductions located where the artist painted some of his most treasured works.
On arrival there we’ll head straight to the edge of town to visit the remarkable sanitarium where Van Gogh resided during his time in St. Rémy. With such wonderful inspiration all around, our artists will be able to set up easels in the vicinity to create their own masterpieces. Tour members who won’t be painting will be able to go to the nearby Roman town called Glanum, which was not known in Van Gogh’s time. The first excavations there didn’t begin until 1921. Today much of the Roman town – once a wealthy and impressive city – has been uncovered, and excavation continues.
After the touring and painting, we’ll all get back together to return to the town center for a nice lunch on the square. Then we’ll continue a short way to another amazing destination: the hilltop town of Les Baux. On the way, just outside Saint- Rémy, we’ll visit some incredibly well-preserved Roman structures known as “the Antiques” just standing by the side of the road. It’s said that Nostradamus played among the ruins as a child. The gateway arch was actually the entrance to Glanum, and offered a major clue to the location of the buried town.
We’ll carry on to the ancient town of Les Baux, perched on top of a rocky hill overlooking the expansive valley. The village is officially classified and labelled as "one of the most beautiful villages in France" This enchanting place is said to be where one of the three Wise Men, Balthazar, settled after fleeing King Herod’s wrath in the Holy Land. His image, carved in stone, can be seen around the town. There will be time to investigate the hidden alcoves and alleys before we head out for out next stop.
Les Baux is known to be where aluminum ore “bauxite” – named from Les Baux – was first discovered in 1821. To mine the ore, huge angular caverns were carved out of the soft limestone hills. In one of those abandoned mines is a stunning venue, the “Cathédral d'Images”. This is a feast of gigantic images projected onto the walls, columns, roof and floor, in and around the inter-connecting vast galleries. The stunning slide-show images are a constantly changing 3D effect accompanied by beautiful, moving music. The overwhelming impact is of wonder and enchantment, the experience mesmerizing. Each show features a theme – usually a well-known artist’s works. At this time we don’t know what the presentation will be, but whatever it is will be completely amazing.
After another great day in the countryside of Provence, we’ll return to our home-away-from-home in Avignon in time for everyone to enjoy a late dinner on your own.
May 22, Wednesday – After breakfast we’ll board our early high-speed TGV train to Paris, so we’ll really enjoy another spectacular experience in just riding the train. We’ll arrive in The City of Lights to check into our wonderfully-located boutique hotel on magical Ile St. Louis. After we’ve settled our luggage, we’ll go on a short expedition to gather delectable goodies for a picnic lunch on the banks of the Seine. Then we’ll have a casual walking tour to familiarize everyone with our new locale. There will be some free time to explore our island home and just enjoy the ambiance of Paris.
In the early evening we’ll assemble at the hotel to embark on a very special evening event, including a lovely dinner together. And after a big travel day get a good night’s sleep in our very French hotel.
May 23, Thursday – After a very nice breakfast together in a charming bistro, we will continue our pursuit of Van Gogh. We begin with a visit to the fabulous Musée d’Orsay, one of the world’s premier art museums, and featuring some of Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings. This magnificent museum – across the Seine from the Louvre – is wonderful in that it can be covered nicely in about a half-day.
Feel free to linger at the Orsay longer because there is no set itinerary for the afternoon. Have a pleasant lunch on your own and enjoy a “choose your own adventure” time. Select the museums and landmarks you most want to see, and off you go! You may want to explore the Louvre, or go on a “treasure hunt” to see your favorite small museum. You might want to head for some essential sight-seeing: the Arc de Triumph and Champs Elysees, or Place de la Concorde. Assistance and advice in choosing and getting to various attractions will be offered. The artists in our party may want to set up easels to capture views of the Seine. There’ll be something great for every taste.
In the early evening we’ll again rendezvous back at our hotel to get ready for a delightful dinner together and a fantastic experience that only a very few visitors to Paris even know about, and one you will surely never forget!
May 24, Friday - We’ll have another fun breakfast at our favorite bistro, and then we’re off on another unforgettable experience. We’ll travel by private van to an often-overlooked area just north of Paris for a full day of activities. First, we’ll tour Napoleon & Josephine’s fabled home, Malmaison. See the wonderfully tasteful home that houses famous artifacts from the lives of one of history’s most legendary couples. Learn first-hand about the woman who was “the inspiration behind the throne.” Afterward we’ll travel back in time to enjoy a gourmet luncheon at a very recognizable Seine riverbank restaurant, a favorite of Impressionist artists.
Then we’ll move on to the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, a must-see destination for art lovers – the last home of Vincent Van Gogh. Remarkably unchanged for more than 100 years, it is filled with images immortalized by Van Gogh’s final works. Walk paths traveled by Van Gogh and stop by the very spots he stood while painting some of his most familiar masterpieces.
‘Seriously beautiful’ is how Vincent Van Gogh described Auvers-sur-Oise in a letter to his brother Théo. This small town is a peaceful and charming hamlet of greenery surprisingly close to Paris. This picturesque destination has seduced other painters, mainly impressionists: Van Gogh of course, but also Charles-François Daubigny, Paul Cézanne, and Camille Pissarro who came to draw inspiration from it.
It would be unthinkable to go to Auvers-sur-Oise without admiring the famous church Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, immortalized by Van Gogh in the year of his death. This painting, on display at the Musée d’Orsay, is considered one of the most emblematic of Van Gogh’s works. And we’ll walk in the completely unchanged field of wheat where crows still fly overhead. It was here that Van Gogh shot himself in the chest on July 27, 1890. Today, the painter lies in the cemetery by the field, next to his much-loved brother Theo. The two tombs are covered with ivy and symbolically dotted with sunflowers. In this haunting place, take some “alone time” to contemplate.
In the evening, once we’ve returned to central Paris, we’ll have time for everyone to have dinner on your own, and then heading to our charming hotel for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
May 25, Saturday – After another great breakfast everyone will have a “choose your own adventure” day until evening. The artists in our group will have the opportunity to return to Auvers-sur-Oise for a painting day. Our visit on the day before will provide a preview of this important place in the life of Vincent van Gogh, and a chance to scope out favorite locations to capture in paint. Marilyn Ivy will accompany the painter group today. During the time in Auvers, guests will have choices for lunch on their own schedule. The group will return to Paris in the afternoon so everyone will have time to enjoy a last evening back in the city.
For those guests not making the trip back to Auvers, Your Man in Europe will assist with plans to make the most out of your time in probably the most beautiful and most captivating city in the world.
Notre Dame Cathedral is still under reconstruction after the disastrous fire, but be sure to visit nearby
Sainte Chapelle, the finest example of Gothic architecture. It’s not to be missed! Or take off to the Eiffel Tower. Standing under the massive structure or taking a ride to the upper levels is a stunning experience. Also, if there wasn’t time to see the biggest attractions earlier, consider seeing: the Arc de Triumph and Champs Elysees, and Place de la Concorde.
Paris is full of spectacularly gorgeous parks – and especially when the weather is fine, Parisians are sure to be loving life there. One of the most famous is Luxemburg Gardens where it’s always fun to people-watch, especially the kids sailing little wooden boats on the huge pond in the center of the park. Or venture down into the astonishing Catacombs to see the arranged bones of Parisians of old.
And don’t forget the fantastic museums. Paris is home to some 150 of them dotted across The City of Lights, you would need weeks to truly explore them all. Choose from: The Louvre, Musée de l'Orangerie, Centre Pompidou (the world’s premier modern art museum), the Cluny (Paris’ only museum dedicated exclusively to the Middle Ages), and many more. There will be something for everyone.
For shoppers, don’t miss the amazing Galleries Lafayette. Even if you don’t buy anything, just window shopping is a treat. In short, there is a world of wonderful things to do in Paris.
Enjoy a free evening to enjoy just being in Paris, and having a memorable dinner on your own.
May 26, Sunday – After an early breakfast we will be boarding another high-speed TGV train to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Our 3-hour journey will carry us through the gorgeous scenery of northern France and Belgium in first class comfort. After our arrival we’ll check into our remarkable hotel. It is truly one of the “Grand Dame” hotels of Amsterdam; and its location could not be better!
As soon as we are settled in, we’ll go out to enjoy a relaxing lunch of Dutch specialties. Afterward, to help orient ourselves to the city, we’ll have a wonderful tour by a professional guide. Throughout our stay we will have an Amsterdam Pass for admission into the most popular venues of the city and beyond. After our guided tour we’ll rendezvous back at the hotel to go out for a dinner that is one of Amsterdam’s most popular experiences: a Rijsttafel. Strong trade ties with Indonesia helped introduce exotic Indonesian food to The Netherlands. This delightful dining adventure offers the opportunity to sample a very wide variety of delicious dishes from savory to sweet. They tend to go on for quite a while. Anyone who gains a second wind can certainly go out to enjoy Amsterdam’s lively nightlife.
May 27, Monday – The Dutch are famous for their delectable pancakes – so this morning we’ll head for a popular pancake house for breakfast. Without delay, after breakfast we’ll continue following the footsteps of Van Gogh. We’ll begin by visiting the fabulous Van Gogh Museum, the world’s largest collection of the works of Vincent van Gogh - more than 200 painting, 500 drawings, plus works by other artists - his contemporaries – Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Van Gogh's work is organized chronologically into five museum areas, each representing a different period of his life: The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise. Our visitors may immerse themselves in the history of the world’s most popular artist by exploring this magnificent collection. Each year, 1.6 million visitors come to the Van Gogh Museum, making it one of the most popular museums in the world. We can reflect on the creative genius over a light lunch on your own at the museum’s Café Tambourin to fortify ourselves.
After our unforgettable museum experience, we’ll get another treat: a wonderful canal boat ride.
We hop aboard a classic wooden saloon boat near the Central Station, and cruise down the famous canals of Amsterdam. Experience seeing great landmarks from the water while sampling Dutch cheese and enjoying a tasty drink. As the cityscape glides by, photos during the experience can be references for future paintings.
After our cruise there will be free time to relax back at the hotel, or choose another attraction from among the many available. This will be the perfect time to visit local attractions, such as the Anne Frank House (advance booking required), the diamond district, or Rembrandt’s House. The hotel concierge will be happy to make suggestions and help make arrangements. Or it might feel right just to stroll around the town to see what you can see or take photos. Whatever the choice, it will be a delight! Also, The Heineken Experience is very popular - learn all about the beer that was born in Amsterdam and get a generous taste of the freshly-brewed tipple.
Dinner will be on your own this evening. It would also be a great night to explore the city’s famous (or infamous) nightlife. We may be inspired to “walk on the wild side…” this evening.
May 28, Tuesday – Artists will have an extended painting session after a sumptuous breakfast at our hotel with the whole group. For the artists, our subjects this morning will be choices of different urban scenes with bicycles, canal houses, or bridges: picturesque Amsterdam! Non-artmakers will have a wonderful opportunity to see more popular sites in the city or travel to the lovely Dutch countryside, enjoy a tulip tour, or the miniature village. Advance bookings for any of the available attractions may be arranged after we arrive at our hotel on Sunday. Or for those with specific “must-do” activities in mind, bookings may be secured online before the trip.
It is essentially a free day, but many will choose to visit the magnificent Rijksmuseum when we rejoin the artist group after lunch on your own. You’ll be in awe of the Rembrandt Nigh Watch and the four Vermeer paintings in their collection. You may even want to choose a themed route such as flowers or animals, and explore on your own. Whatever you fancy, we’ll be able to experience the exhibits at an easy pace and stay as long as we like. Dinner will be on your own.
May 29, Wednesday – Breakfast is not included today, as flights departing Amsterdam to USA will be on different schedules. Our hotel is about 45 minutes from the airport. Guests may share transportation options according to flight times. There is an airport express tram that offers frequent, inexpensive transfers to Amsterdam’s Airport from several city center locations. The airport offers a selection of coffee bars and cafes where everyone may have a quick breakfast before departure.
What’s in store for us?
This tour is custom-planned for a small group of no more than 14 guests. Even if you are a seasoned traveler, you have never experienced France and Amsterdam like this. We’re sure the journey will captivate you. You’ll be part of a magical adventure - complete with music, gourmet picnics, and surprises that will delight you at every turn. There are no exhausting bus rides or inconveniently-located hotels.
We do our best to set the mood, to weave a spell, and to make yours a total experience. Hotels and most restaurants on the entire tour have been selected for their very specific location or high level of “atmosphere”. The small group size allows us to personalize the experience in a way large groups simply cannot do. We make it easy, comfortable and stress-free. No guest has to worry about the details of where we are going next. You will feel as if you are not a tourist, but a guest of your French and Dutch friends.
Your Tour Guide: Larry Ivy is the Tour Coordinator and guide for Your Man in Europe, and a long-time veteran of European travel and unique private tour-leading. Larry wants just one thing: for you to have “the best time of your life”!
Complete Prices for the May 17 – 29, 2024 Tour
$ 4290.00 Per Person
*All prices are based on Double Occupancy. Single supplement is an additional $865.
A $500 deposit holds your place on the tour, and is due by February 1, 2024. The balance may be paid in increments on your own schedule, but the final payment is due by April 1, 2024. Make checks payable to “Your Man in Europe” - 2608 S University Drive - Fort Worth TX 76109 USA - Please inquire about other means of payment or visit our website "Tour Details" page for information about PayPal and credit card payments.
Tour Includes: Eleven (11) nights of overnight accommodation (based on double occupancy) in exceptional, very specially selected hotels, ten (10) breakfasts, five (5) lunches, and five (5) dinners; all ground transportation (except May 29th airport shuttle); 1st class rail travel, admissions to all attractions described in the tour itinerary, knowledgeable guide services, and standard gratuities. Guests are encouraged to offer gratuities for outstanding service. There will be no additional charges for the tours and events specifically included by Your Man in Europe. There may be extra charges for optional tours not included in the detailed itinerary.
For the artists: A recommended materials list will be provided to all who plan to enjoy drawing and watercolor along the way. Local novice painters may want to take advantage of Marilyn’s two before-trip training sessions.
Not Included: Airfare to and returning from Paris, strongly recommended travel insurance, extra beverages (meals will include one beverage and will be budgeted accordingly); a la cart or premium menu selections beyond the established meal allowances; between meal snacks; gratuities for extra services such as baggage porters, or for superior service (normal gratuities are included in the trip cost); souvenirs; and privately arranged activities. The airport terminal shuttle on May 29 is not included, as flight arrangements may all differ. Also: All overnight accommodations, as well as railroad and minibus travel will be NO-SMOKING.
This tour is strictly limited to a maximum of 14 guests travelling together