The House By The Railroad, Or, Feelings Of Loneliness & Isolation

Edward Hopper is a painter I discovered when I moved to the United States. His paintings are full of lonely scenes, even when there are people together, and somehow your imagination always fills in the story.

You probably have seen this one above. A late-night restaurant filled with lonely people. (Image is available to publish non-commercially)

Ursula, a friend of Edward Hopper’s sister, told us roughly how to find the “house by the railroad” in Haverstraw, NY, but it wasn’t easy (below I’ll tell you how we met Ursula).

Edward Hopper’s “House by the railroad” (Wikipedia image with permission to post non-commercially)

Is Artistic License The Same As Lying?

Edward Hopper didn’t paint the house as he saw it, we found out.

  1. Above, it looks like the house is on the level of the tracks.
  2. He cut off two bedrooms and removed part of the porch and a few windows.
  3. The NYC Museum of Modern Art says Hopper added deep afternoon shadows, but on the late afternoon we were there, the sun was on the other side of the house so he added a lot of his own to the painting.
  4. The NYC MoMA says he isolated this 1860 house and made it look difficult to access because of the train tracks, his way of showing how modernization was isolating us.

I took some liberties with my Instagram post, too. Below you can see how it really looks from the spot that Hopper painted it.

  1. The house in my Instagram post was taken from the corner of the property with a wide angle lens for my phone. I wanted the same exact angle as this photo just above. This eliminated the houses next door so I could isolate the house like Edward Hopper did.
  2. I added the house to this photo just above using the Enlight phone app. The photo already had a slight red shade so I made that a little deeper.
  3. I deepened the shadows just like Hopper did and also isolated the house even more by darkening the house behind it.
  4. The sun in my Instagram post is real.

I love how Hopper interpreted the house instead of just painting what he saw. He had a vision of what he wanted to convey. That’s what makes the painting special so I wanted my photo to look as much as possible like the house Hopper imagined.

Film director Alfred Hitchcock was also impressed by Hooper’s “House by the railroad” and modeled the Bates Motel in Psycho after this house. Hitchcock made his own interpretations on the house, adding the long stairs and changing the train tracks for a highway, which isolated Norman Bates in the movie.

Stepping Into History

We parked the car behind the house and I immediately walked up to the porch. As we were taking a few photos, out of nowhere a man’s voice asked, “So you’re Hopper fans?”

This house is large and has several apartments. One of the renters was just coming home. He invited us in and told us about his experiences living in this house.

Then he said he would introduce us to the owners and knocked on their door! Edwin and Lori Castillo have lived here for 40 years. Lori invited us into her beautifully renovated apartment on the second floor with a spiral staircase to the third floor.

Lori told us that the daughter of the original owner actually saw Edward Hopper from the window, sitting by the railroad station, painting away! Lori is very proud of her house’s fame and has a collection of articles written about it. She loves when people come to visit because she gets to share their passion about the house.

How Did We Meet Ursula?

The day began with no plans, just a drive to escape the city on a hot day. As we were approaching Nyack, NY, we saw a sign for the Edward Hopper museum just five minutes away. The museum has very little. All of the artist’s paintings are in museums or in private collections, but here you get a glimpse into his life.

Edward Hopper’s bedroom until he moved to NYC when he was 28.

His bedroom had a view of the Hudson River and the morning sun came right through the windows. When Hopper painted “House by the railroad” the population was only 4,400. Today it’s still a small town of just 7,000.

Ursula was friends with Edward Hopper’s sister.

On the porch we met Ursula, who grew up around the corner and knew Hopper’s sister well, but she never felt comfortable talking to the artist. He was very, very tall and stood with a slight hunch and was always grumpy.

Ursula remembered how the wisteria tree behind us in the photo used to reach all the way across the street. The current gardener, she said, doesn’t know how to cut this tree properly. She enjoys volunteering at the house and meeting people and sharing her stories with them.


Loneliness & Isolation In “Modern” Times

It’s interesting that Edward Hopper saw modern life in 1925 as so isolating when we see those as such simpler times, but loneliness is a human condition. I guess that’s why it’s more interesting to see the house by itself with the neighbors removed.

Did you catch this post?

How easily can I influence you?

How easily can I influence you?

After one of my Instagram posts (below), I got an offer to promote a clothing line. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell you anything and they didn’t see me as the next Top Model. They wanted me to buy their expensive clothing at a 20% discount and then better discounts as I sold more clothing to my Insta-friends. I’ve seen Insta-friends promote what they were wearing and now I know the deal.

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Google’s news algorithm sent me this story: Instagram Influencers Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy. Hotels are getting a lot of requests for free rooms from real and wannabe influencers. This Medium.com story only has Twitter and Facebook share buttons because it’s viral or nothing!

I’m not an Instagram influencer, although it doesn’t sound like a bad job. My favorite Instagrammers are people I have mutual relationships with.

@Emlee7 is one account I follow, though, and she doesn’t follow me back. She has just 29k followers and only gets about 1k likes per photo, but Emlee’s clothing is designer and she takes photos in luxurious locations. Her photographer applies a filter to make the colors very subtle.

Here I am, climbing similar stairs in Montmartre 😂 I’m pretty sure Emlee took a taxi to the top and then walked down a couple of steps.

@baluevama could easily have influenced me to stay at Shangri-la Paris hotel during my recent stay in Paris.

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Just for fun, I checked the hotel’s website and the Terrace Room, with just a garden view, costs $1,655/night (breakfast included). When I saw that price, picture me with the same face as when I was climbing up the stairs in Montmartre 😂. So instead I stayed at a budget Ibis hotel by Gare de L’est and still paid over $300 per night, with breakfast. What a change from two years ago when we paid $160/night for the wonderful boutique Idol Hotel, but that hotel now costs $750/night!

Who Is Being Influenced By The Influencers?

A lot of Instagram is double-tapping a ♥️ as you scroll through the feed. Many people don’t even read the captions. So I’m not sure how much sway even @baluevama.

As I said, this was my second trip to Paris. The first time was two years before I had my Instagram account. I still count it as a visit to Paris, even though my photos were landscape instead of portrait 😉

For my recent trip to Paris, I created a folder and started saving some of my favorites photos of Paris so I could take pictures similar ones. These accounts influenced me but nobody made a penny.

My husband once bought me a beautiful @montavenue watch and not so expensive through an account on Instagram. I love it and the company asked me to tag them in a photo with the watch. I did it for free, just because I was so happy with the watch. I’ve bought a few apps from the sponsored ads in my feed.

So how easily can someone convince you to buy something or stay somewhere special? Let me know in the comments… And follow me Instagram: @muchospanish 👍

Did you read my previous blog post?

Aromatic Lavender Fields, Tall Sunflowers & Lily Pads: The Impressionists Come Alive!

Aixa-en-Provence: Instagram Myth Breakers In The Lavender Fields! Goodbye FOMO

Warning: this is an Instagram myth breaker post. If you love your feelings of FOMO, then do not read any further.

Two years ago driving to Nice in the south of France, I saw signs for Aix-en-Provence and thought, I have to visit this town named after me! Two years later, here I am. It’s also near the home of my favorite store, L’Occitane (the full store name is L’Occitane en Provence).

The factory is here, the official company store and even a museum dedicated to the history of this company that so many women love!

Provence is such a beautiful region, full of flowers and herbs and some of the most picturesque towns you will find anywhere on earth. If you know where to drive, you will pass rolling lavender fields!

The best time to visit the lavender fields is from the last week in June to the first or second week of July. Harvest is a little earlier because of the heat.

Hundreds of people go to the fields every day to take their Instagram photos. Some go with organized day tours and others go on their own… but remember, this is private property. Even the organized day tour companies don’t get permission from the owners, although the guides make sure you don’t damage any of the lavender.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 1

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Instagram is full of photos like mine, rolling purple hills of lavender fields and women with a bunch of fresh-picked lavender in one hand. They buy these lavender bunches and bring them to the fields for the photo. I didn’t think that far ahead, though, and when I saw someone else get off the bus with hers, I knew I should have put more thought into this.

I walked into a row of lavender ready to be harvested, the bees buzzing all around me, and I started to pose, I saw a bunch of lavender that someone else left behind. Look at the color in the photo: it doesn’t even match! And there’s a rubber band around the stems.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 2

If I did try to pick this lavender, I would have gotten dozens of bee stings. The lavender at the point that it’s ready to be harvested, is full of bees. None of these women there in the fields is so infatuated with the beautiful flower in the moment the photo is being taken.

Other fields have blotches of yellowish wheat mixed in and this is to make the fields less attractive to Instagrammers, like this field below.

My photo below in this mixed field is interesting because of the snails climbing on the lavender. They come after it rains.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 3

There are two types: Lavender and lavandine. Lavender is lighter in color and has less of an aroma. Lavandine is a hybrid, has a much deeper purple color and a much stronger aroma. They serve different purposes but the point here is that those deep purple colors in your favorite Instagrammer’s photo are saturated with an app. Even lavendine isn’t hat deep a shade of purple.

So why do such a fake stunt?

Instagram has millions of photos like mine. I met a Brazilian woman named Mariani in the fields. She’s a doctor and was in Provence for a conference. She didn’t think of bringing a bunch of lavender either, so I lent her mine when I was done with my photos. We both love lavender and we’re part of the L’Occitane cult. We both wanted the chance to see some lavender fields and go home with some photos.

Photo licensed for free use

Anyway, the impressionist painters like Van Gogh and Cezanne thought the fields were worth paining.