A day in Rouen

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The old part of town

Rouen is the starting point for passengers wanting to visit the Normandy beaches where the D-day landings took place in June, 1944. I think many of our American passengers would have had a grandfather or other relative who took part in that epic invasion. However, Uniworld’s brochure says “you’ll visit Normandy’s beaches, including Utah Beach and Ste-Mère-Église, with a choice to venture to either the American, British and Australian or Canadian beaches.” I imagine there may have been some Australians in the British units but there was certainly no Australian army unit at D-day. Our boys were a bit busy on the other side of the world fighting the Japanese.

That said, I had intended to go on the visit, including an opportunity to see the Bayeaux Tapestry, until Pete pointed out that for five hours of that thirteen-hour day I would be sitting on a bus going there and back. Pass.

Peter and I grabbed a town map and headed into Rouen for a look around.

We’d already been to the cathedral so we went into the historical centre, complete with cobblestoned streets, half timbered buildings, and some wonderful architecture.

The Palace of Justice is an amazing Gothic building parts of which date back to the 15th century. In fact, the site is much older. Normandy’s parliament sat in a building on this site and in 1976 during repairs workmen found the remains of a Roman cellar. From there, they found a place they called ‘la maison sublime’, where graffiti in Hebrew were discovered. It’s believed this place was Jewish but its function is unknown. Jews were expelled from France in 1306. Why? Basically, the king wanted their assets. Read about it here. It’s easy to understand why the Jews wanted their own country at last.

Palace of Justice with ornate late gothic/renaissance facade
The damage done during street fighting in1944 is obvious

The very modern Church of Joan of Arc forms part of the edges of the market square, including the ruins of the original building. Joan is the patron saint of France (since 1920) and we found references to her in many places. In summary, she “…achieved fame for her role in the siege of Orléans and the coronation of Charles VII of France during the Hundred Years’ War against England. After successfully leading several French military actions, she was captured, handed over to English authorities, convicted as a heretic, and burnt at the stake in 1431. Twenty-five years later, her conviction was formally overturned. She was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920, 488 years after her death.” [1] She was only about nineteen when she died. The Joan of Arc Museum is located next to Rouen’s cathedral.

The new church in front of the remains of the old

This statue is said to mark the spot where she was burnt at the stake.

Note the flames

We wandered past the Temple of St Eloi which is a protestant church in a Catholic country. A church was first built here on an island in 1228 but the current building dates back to the 14th century and combines Gothic and Renaissance architecture. During the years of the Revolution it was used as a factory, but in 1802 it was handed to France’s Reformed church. It’s in Place Martin Luther King and is apparently open for services, although it looked pretty abandoned to us.

Temple of St Eloi

We found the city markets (les Halles) and drooled over the produce.

Fruit and veg
Small goods and dairy

Then we bought a flat white from a coffee stall. It’s a wonderful contraption, built around a bicycle so he can cycle to work and set up where it suits.

Hand crafting a flat white

Everywhere we went we found fascinating little streets, lovely graffiti, and old buildings.

I don’t know what the umbrellas mean

This is (I think) the clock makers’ street. The timepiece in the arch has one of the oldest movements in France, made in 1389 – but the clock is now electric. The phase of the moon is shown above the dial. In the photo, it’s half full.

Gros Horloge

Rouen is a wonderful place. Visitors could spend days visiting the museums, roaming the streets, and sampling the cafés. We loved it.

If you’re new to this journey and want to find other parts of the trip, go to France 2022. That page has all the posts.

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