France - Rouen - Burn Baby Burn
Jun 16, 2004
|Heading further to the east, my next and last stop in Normandy was a quick visit to Rouen, historic capital of Normandy. It's said that Rouen has one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, but Rouen is likely more popular because it's where 19 year old Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431.
It's also where I ran into my first, and hopefully last, accommodation glitch.
The Lonely Planet guidebook is a backpacker's bible, filled with all sorts of useful travel information. But the books aren't always updated every year and sometimes the information is no longer accurate. I haven't been booking accommodation in advance as June is still a fairly light month for tourist traffic, and I haven't had any problem just showing up at the hostel and getting a bed ... until today that is.
For some reason I broke from my normal routine upon arriving in Rouen, and instead of going straight to the hostel, I went to the Tourist Office instead. A very helpful place in France, especially since they speak English there! Anyway, to make a long story short, the hostel I had chosen either no longer exists or has moved and we couldn't locate it, all the hotels in my price range (i.e. very cheap) were full, and I eventually had to take a "very no frills" hotel room at around 3x what I would normally pay for a night!
Anyway, once I finally got my accommodation organized, I was able to dump my gear and head out to explore the city.
Rouen has a beautiful historic old town area with a large cathedral, cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. I'm beginning to see that every place in France has a beautiful historic old town area with a large cathedral, cobbled streets and half-timbered houses!!
I could also see that Rouen has a definite "Joan of Arc" theme going on. That was okay with me because up until recently I was "Connie of ARC" (my previous employer for those of you who don't know) so I could relate.
They have a Joan of Arc Street running north and south through the city, Joan of Arc bars, restaurant and hotels, a Joan of Arc wax museum (no, I didn't go), the Joan of Arc Tower where she was imprisoned before her execution, St. Joan of Arc's Church which is strangely of very modern design with one full wall of beautiful stained glass windows, and last but not least a memorial cross and plaque marking the "actual spot" where Joan of Arc was burned and martyred.
Rouen is also considered to be the "gateway to impressionism". The city, and especially the Cathedral, were a source of inspiration to many great and famous impressionist artists including Monet, Renoir and Cezanne. The impressionist collection at the Fine Arts Museum boasts to have the second finest collection of impressionist paintings after Paris.
The Cathedral, located in the heart of the city, is magnificient, a true masterpiece of French Gothic architecture. The cast iron spire is the tallest in France. Inside the cathedral are many tombs of Normandy dukes, as well as Richard the Lionhearted who loved the city so much he ordered that his heart be buried there (damn, I couldn't find it!).
And that quick trip to Rouen concludes my tour of Normandy. It's now time to start heading south.
I hope this finds everyone happy and healthy and enjoying the spring/summer. Keep in touch. Cheers for now, Connie