It was not to be. With the ferry not scheduled to depart until late afternoon, it would have been impossible to make the National Gallery before closing. I would be unable to meet my three-day travel goal. So when the little yellow train finally made its way back to Hook of Holland, I was waiting on the platform in the freezing rain, eager to make all haste for the airport. I was in London before noon, walking up the steps of the massive National Gallery and into that second-floor wing reserved for artists living between 1700 and 1900. Van Gogh's work, particularly one of his four famous ­"Sunflower" paintings, hung in a high-­ceilinged room filled with Impressionists. It was an appropriate spot, with the transitional feel of a cultural crossfade. Van Gogh was not actually an Impressionist but an artist who helped bridge the gap between them and later artists such as Picasso.

With that, my van Gogh grand tour was done. Three days, three cities, three museums - and a resonance that will last a lifetime. Next time, I will start in London. Then again, maybe next time I'll be chasing Turner, or Rembrandt, or some other artist. And, like the path of the creative process, who knows where that journey will take me.

The Way To Van Gogh
The Van Gogh Museum (www.vangoghmuseum.com) is conveniently located on the Museum Quarter, a vast lawn that also fronts the Rijksmuseum and the Stedlijk Museum. For a combination of education and libation, check out the Heineken Brewery(www.heinekenexperience.com).The alleys and narrow streets crisscrossing Amsterdam's canals area great shopping experience and a popular place to people-watch. Lodging is plentiful in Amsterdam. I stayed at the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel (marriott­.com/property/propertypage/AMSNT), on the Stadhouderskade, which is a main thoroughfare.

If you're feeling ambitious while in Paris to see van Gogh's works at Musée d'Orsay (www.musee-orsay.fr), make a side visit to the nearby Louvre (www.louvre.fr). In Montmartre, I stayed at the Hotel Andre Gill (Angle 76, rue des Martyrs; 011-33-14-26-24-848), an austere but quiet lodging, just a shortwalk away from the Sacré Coeur Basilica and the nightlife of Montmartre. Other great hotels: Best Western Opéra Richepanse (www.holidaycity.com/bw-opera­-richepanse-paris)is just a few blocks off the Place de la Concorde but feels lightyears away from the hustle and bustle. My all-time favorite Paris hotel is the Hyatt Regency Paris-Madeleine (paris.madeleine.hyatt.com), which has the small intimate feel of a boutique hotel but all the amenities of five-star service. Finding good food is never a problem in Paris, but one of my favorite bistros is Le Florentin, just a block away from the American Embassy Consulate on Rue de Richepanse.

London's National Gallery (www.nationalgallery.co.uk) is centrally located at Trafalgar Square. For a taste of the local fare, try Albannach (66 Trafalgar Square; 011-44-20-7930-0066) which specializes in British Isles food, particularly that of Scotland. There is no shortage of lodging in London, no matter your budget. But if your wallet allows, there is nothing better than a night at the Connaught (www.the-connaught.co.uk),which offers unparalleled luxury, comfort, and service.

If your travel plans don't call for a trip to Europe, visit New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org), the Art Institute of Chicago (www.artic.edu), and Los Angeles's J. Paul Getty Museum (www.getty.edu). Each features important works by van Gogh.