We'll begin on the main street of Auvers sur Oise, beside a park. A statue of an emaciated man with paintbox and easel slung on his back and shoulders dominates the little park. Yes, it's Vincent Van Gogh.
Let's walk together through this town where he spent the last 70 days of his life.
On this sunny July day, flowers look their best. We slowly wind our way upwards through narrow streets, taking time to admire the colours and textures along the way.
Looking down, we notice metal circles set into the pavement, providing direction to many of the artist's more famous haunts.
There's an unconfirmed, but persistent, piece of history in my family that we are related to Vincent Van Gogh through his mother's family. We often refer to the artist as "Uncle Vince."
We continue upwards and round the corner. There it is - the church made famous by Van Gogh in his painting l'Eglise d'Auvers sur Oise. It looks less impressive to me than the painting. Here it seems to be just a rather ordinary Gothic church. Van Gogh imbued the scene with tortured emotion with his brush strokes and colour choices.
Let's continue on up the road, past the church. Soon we come to the edge of the village. Wheat fields stretch golden into the horizon, almost ready for harvest. Many of the last paintings of Van Gogh feature these fields.
Look to our right. There is a cemetery, surrounded by stone walls, with a metal entrance gate. We enter and make our way to the back of the cemetery. There, against the outer wall, are the graves of Vincent Van Gogh and of his brother, Theo. They loved each other very much, and many, many letters passed between the two of them. Theo was a successful art dealer, Vincent an impoverished painter. Theo supported Vincent throughout his life, and encouraged him in his work. Although Theo had a wife and child in the Netherlands, his wife knew how much the two brothers loved each other and brought Theo here to rest beside Vincent.
Out into the fields we go again, here to stand where Vincent set up his easel and painted the wheat fields with those ominous skies and black crows. Skies are blue today, and the fields empty of crows.
A copy of the painting marks the scene. We make our way back towards the village along a narrow footpath.
Back through charming streets where houses wear brightly painted shutters,
where alliums bloom against stone,
and roses creep into windows.
We enter the Auberge Ravoux where Vincent boarded in a tiny room reached by a winding dark staircase. No photos are allowed of the room. It is empty save for a single chair.
Instead, we'll sit for about 10 minutes in another room and watch a movie, wordless, that entwines Van Gogh's paintings with quotes from his letters. It's lovely.
Poor Vincent Van Gogh suffered terribly throughout his short life. Mental illness, loneliness, and poverty dogged him at every turn. Yet, like all of us, he determined to express his thoughts and emotions. Unlike most of us, he did it through his paintings.
And so, we finish our walk, thinking about love and beauty as people have done throughout time.
Beside the Auberge Ravoux a tangled garden drowses in the sunlight.