My goal on this trip is to stand where he stood, see what he saw and feel what he felt (short of feeling the syphilitic symptoms).
One of my favorite van Gogh paintings is of the Langlois Bridge on the outskirts of Arles, France. It portrays a very complicated draw bridge apparatus, stripped down to basics and placed in a beautiful complimentary color-schemed design. For several days, in 1888, Vincent hiked out to the site of the draw bridge, which is about a mile from The Yellow House where he was staying. He did numerous drawings of it and several paintings. This is the classic version and my favorite:
One of the first things I did when we landed at Arles was to go to the Tourist Office and ask where the site of the Langlois Bridge is. In English, heavily laced with a strong French accent, the woman told me where to go, showing me on the map, but, she added as an aside, the "actual site" is over here. This sounded like, "Le auct-chew-wol mizzen-seen es oh-vehr heer," Whoa! You mean the bridge I'm going to hike out to is not the ACTUAL Langlois Bridge that van Gogh painted? No, apparently it's not. It was either rebuilt on the other site farther south of town, or recreated from scratch at the new spot.
Either way, the one we saw is not the actual Langlois Bridge and for a Western history nut, it's tantamount to saying, "You can drive to Sierra Vista and see the O.K. Corral."
"You must set it down all down at once. Paint in one rush, as much as possible in one rush."
—Vincent van Gogh