A Conqueror and a Martyr
So, we were off on a Normandy road trip; there is so much to explore & discover in this region that we chose Rouen as our first base, the capital of Normandy.
We caught Le Shuttle to Calais, which is then around 132 miles (212km) to Rouen, if you go direct – but try telling Gary to do that.
Rouen’s striking centre piece is the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame, consecrated in 1063 in the presence of William the Conqueror. Notably, it also contains a tomb for Richard the Lionheart, which within rests his heart.
Owing to its age, location and its amazing size ‘Our Lady of Rouen’ has suffered over the years due to natural and man-made disasters.
It’s a really interesting Cathedral to wander around particularly to see L’Escaliere de Librairie (The Booksellers Staircase), which once led to the cathedral’s library.
Sound and Light
However, I think the Cathedral’s modern day must see, is the amazing light display that is projected on to the huge façade. Every evening at 11pm from June through September, families & friends gather to be awed by the display.
2017’s theme is William the Conqueror & Joan of Arc, the display lasts around 25 minutes and is repeated at around 11:30pm.
Here is a clip to give you a bit of a taster.
Although crowds start to gather around 10pm, we headed over at 10:55pm and had a great view. An added bonus is that it is free!!
Maid of Orléans – A little bit of history
Joan of Arc, whom you have probably heard of, played a significant part in Frances’ history, during her short life in the early 15th century.
After successively upsetting the English army, she was captured and tried. It was in Rouen where she was imprisoned in a keep (now known as Joan of Arc Tower) during her trial.
Joan of Arc was then executed by being burnt at the stake in 1431, at the very young age of 19.
In 1920 Joan of Arc was made a saint by the pope at St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
And the time is….
The Gros-Horloge or Great Clock is a striking 14th-century astronomical time piece, but I think it may be difficult to set your watch by, as it only does one revolution every 29 days.
It’s housed within an elegant Renaissance arch & it has one of Europe’s oldest working mechanisms.
Walking the streets
There is no better way of exploring a town than on foot; you wouldn’t want to miss out on any of it. Rouen has a wonderful surviving array of half-timbered buildings, which it gives Troyes a run for its money.
Along the cobbled lanes and alleyways are some great little shops and cafes, just teasing you to wander in and take a look.
Rouen has a pleasant bustling atmosphere about it. It’s easy just to sit back in one of its many cafés or bars and just enjoy listening to the locals, but our French is so bad we’re limited to a few phrases and the odd “Merde!”.
Within Rouen, there are so many interesting pieces of architecture from many different periods.
All within a fairly short stroll of each other, you will find the ornate Gothic Palais de Justice, the striking Church of Saint-Maclou and the Hotel de Ville next to the Abbey of Saint Oeun.
You certainly won’t be short of evening entertainment in Rouen, but make a little detour away from the obvious squares and wander down Rue Eau de Robec.
We found a lovely little restaurant Verrines Et Sens, that had an unusual concept of serving French food in a tapas style, whereby you each chose seven dishes and they could be a mixture of main course or dessert.
The food was fantastic, and made even more enjoyable by sitting outside by the little river.
Our accommodation for the three nights in Rouen was at the Mercure Champs de Mars, about 10-12 minutes’ walk to the centre of the town. However, it had secure onsite parking, which was important for us.
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