>> Sunday, December 5, 2010
Before we bid adieu to France, we had to make a trip up to the historical area of Normandy. A place with a ton of historical significance and we felt it all around us. However since we were only on a day trip, we didn’t make it to the beaches of Normandy (I know! We were crushed about it too! Don’t remind me), but we were able to head to Rouen. The birthplace of Joan of Arc (sadly this was also where she was burned at the stake for heresy) and you can see her name everywhere around town, from the tower where she was kept to the square where she was burned.
Surprisingly the area around the Joan of Arc square is also the most well preserved area of town, it survived the bombings of WWII by allied troops and continues to stand tall. The buildings here have now all been turned in to a shopping area with names like Burberry to Chanel to Mango, but the buildings above reminded us of a time and place that is long gone (they also reminded me of the buildings in Amsterdam, where they’re all slightly leaning to one side or the other, like a Tim Burton movie).
If you walk down the main street, you’ll run in to a neat clock tower, which you can’t miss since all the tour groups stand there for at least 15 minutes talking over its historical significance. We quickly snapped our photos and continued on our way. This is the main area in Rouen so it also houses most of the restaurants and you can find many different types of cuisines here. Further down the road and the one of the main reasons for me coming to Rouen was the cathedral, a gorgeous gothic building that inspired Monet’s paintings and I can see why. If you look closely at the building walls, you can notice the charred walls from the bombings during the war. Certain parts of the cathedral were completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt afterwards, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of the building itself, I thought it actually gave it more character. If you walk around the town you’ll actually see quite a few charred stand alone buildings and towers that were ruins from the war.
Of course we couldn’t come all the way to Rouen and not have a taste of their food. We were able to find a nice busy restaurant beside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen (what a view!) and sat down to fill our stomachs. Luckily my other half (nope, not typing in better half because we all know it’s the lady that’s the better half, right? Right) knew how to speak French or else we would have just ended up pointing at random items on the menu and hoped for the best (like in Barcelona where we ended up with a fried egg over some French fries and noodles, it was interesting). Especially when the table beside you was enjoying a nice stewed lamb shank with baked beans and a lovely stewed pear dessert. Yes, I want what they’re having please, but not before I woofed down some of that delicious French bread!
Once our meal was consumed we found our way to the Church of Saint Ouen (the Rouen basilica), which was almost as awe inspiring as the cathedral, but smaller in size. Like the cathedral, it too faced heavy bombings during the war and had to be mostly rebuilt. The exterior basilica walls are very dark due to these bombings and it seems like the French has left this as a reminder to all. None the less, the building itself remains quite a sight.
After all that walking around, sightseeing and shopping, we managed to find a nice little coffee shop to end our day at Rouen. Aptly named Five O’Clock (since we were feeling drained and that it was almost home time) it was a great way to sit back relax in this little coffee / tea shop, which housed teas from around the world, and get a cup of caffeine jolt before heading back to Paris and prepping for our return home to Canada.