I’ve never been to Rouen. It’s one of those places on my list and even though it’s only 80 minutes from Paris, somehow I never got there.
I found a 24€ round trip train fare at the last minute last week so I decided it was high time I went.
Rouen is famous for its connection to Joan of Arc and its half timber houses. Not only did I find the half-timber houses in all varieties and colors, I also found some spectacular Belle Epoque and 18th century architecture thrown into the mix.
I arrived about 10AM on a partly sunny Friday afternoon and the city was calm. The first sight I saw walking from the impressive Art Nouveau train station was Rouen Castle, better known as Tour Jeanne d’Arc, where Joan of Arc was threatened with torture during her trial in 1431.
The Rouen Cathedral is the centerpiece of the city and one of the more important Gothic cathedrals in France. The cathedral also includes the Tour de Beurre/Tower of Butter, which helped finance the building of the cathedral with funds from the consumption of butter during Lent. (ONLY in France would you have a tower of butter). Construction of the current cathedral was started in the 12th century, but the origins of the church go back to the late 4th century. The cathedral was the inspiration for a series of Monet paintings in 1892 and 1893.
There are only three half-timber houses from the early 1300s in Paris, so I was dazzled by the dozens of crooked structures lining the narrow streets of Rouen.
Another beautiful sight was the elaborate Gros Horloge, an astronomical clock from 1389, which has one of the oldest clock mechanisms in France.
I found the most adorable and quirky place for lunch. La Rose des Vents is a vintage furniture and objet shop specializing in early to mid century items. The back part of the shop has a restaurant with a mish mosh of different period chairs and tables along with some kitschy lamps and art. The house specialty, served only once a week, was homemade fish and chips (so un-French!), which was crispy and delicious. Dessert was the most authentic American style cheesecake I’ve ever had in France.
I’ve been working almost every day in Paris for last two months, so the change of atmosphere and a day off felt great.
More tomorrow about Rouen, so stay tuned.
La Rose des Vents
32 rue St. Nicolas, 76000 Rouen
La Rose des Vents
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