Rouen, Haute Normandie
From Belgium (Bruges) we drove to France. We made reservations to stay at Hotel Mercure Rouen Champs de Mars. It is very clean and comfortable. The hotel is located by the Seine River but don’t expect “wonderful views” of the river. In fact the Seine river along Rouen has not the wonderful constructions we are used to see in Paris. There are some ugly buildings, a hospital and others constructions that does not have charm or character. The beautiful part of Rouen is the “main core” where the Old Town is located. So… don’t be disappointed if you look at the map, see that your hotel is located overlooking the Seine (and in fact it is) but the view is not a beautiful view!
Hotel Mercure has a parking garage but it is pricey, so… as soon as we got rid of our luggage we went outside and found a free parking spot located at the Hotel’s sidewalk! We could even see the car from our window if we wish too (we didn’t!). Anyway the hotel’s garage was used by us to park our bikes for free! They have a bike rack on the lower level and we felt safe leafing them there (of course we used heavy locks all the time).
As soon as we arrived we went by bike to the “Old Town” (5 minutes by bike and possibly 15 minutes walking). We were always by bike, so I can’t tell how long does it take to go by foot…. 🙂
Rouen’s Old Town is BEAUTIFUL!
The first sight we visited was the Cathedral. Amazing! The Cathedral was being restored at that time and the main door was closed. We entered by a side door, following a local lady. It was amazingly to admire the grandeur and the details of its construction, specially the glass work (vitreaux).
Rouen Cathedral is wonderful and it is also great to go outside and see the place where Monet stood while he was painting. Monet created various paintings of the Rouen Cathedral. One of them, The Portal, West facade view was painted in 1894, and can be seen at The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. We have been visiting this museum many times and looking to Monet’s magnificent art work always make us happy to be able to see such beautiful things, not only “in person” while visiting Rouen but also while visiting the National Gallery.
From the Cathedral we went walking along the charming Old Town and saw one more Rouen’s famous sights: The Great Clock of Rouen. This clock is located at Glos Horloge Street.
The Renaissance arc is from 16th century and the arc where it is placed divides the main street of Rouen in two segments. It is interesting to notice that there is only one hand! You can only see the hour but not the minutes! Probably because there was no point to worry about minutes during the middle age, when everything happened in “slow motion” and traveling from Rouen to Paris took about five days!
After more sightseeing and eating outside at a local restaurant we returned to our hotel.
I must say that it was difficult to find a place to eat because it was late (more than 2pm) so… it was not “lunch time” anymore. First we sat on a place that would only offer drinks at that time (oh no! we were hungry!) so we went to another place nearby where we were able to grab a salad and a sandwich. Time to go back to the hotel and have some rest as we were tired! 🙂
At night we were too tired to go out, so we went to the hotel’s bar where we drunk a couple of Heinekens and ate the salt biscuits we bought before.
On September 15th we went to Rouen‘s Old Town again! We started the day visiting the Joan of Arc Church (Jeanne D’Arc in French). The church is amazingly beautiful! Superb modern style, with wonderful stained glass work and fantastic ceilings made with curved woods!
Joan of Arc is called “The Maid of Orleans” .
Sainte Jeanne d’Arc church was designed by Architect Louis Arretche, in 1979.
The church was constructed in the same site where there was once the Old Market Square (Vieux-Marché). The executions took place in the Old Market and Joan D’Arc was also executed there.
The stained glass windows came from the Church of Saint-Sauver, from the Renaissance era. The church of Saint-Sauver was destroyed during the Second World War.
The architect was inspired by the Old Market place when he draw this Church. The open window façades and the curved wooden structure recalls us a market place.
This is a very sad place: The exact side where Jeanne D’Arc was murdered. The sign says: “Le Bucher”.
Also in French: “Emplancement où Jeanne d’ Arc fut brûlée le 30 Mai 1431”.
Half-timbered houses in Rouen: They are simply lovely!
Always a good surprise to the eyes: To walk along the medieval streets and see the modern Architecture mixing with the medieval houses!
Boulangerie-patisserie Paul is located on 35 Rue Jeanne d’Arc, Rouen.
We had breakfast here everyday!
Paul Bakery (also called Pain du Paul ou Boulangerie-Patisserie Paul).
This place has delicious and affordable breakfast. Usually we went to Paul in the morning, by bike, from the hotel. We parked the bikes in front of Paul Bakery (locked, of course) and we went walking along the Old Town. There are a lot of pedestrians in the Old Town and it would not be “polite” to ride a bike around so many people. This way, we had an excellent transport to come and go to the hotel whenever we pleased!
I highly recommend Paul (same brand we find dozens in Paris) as a place where you can have a delicious and affordable breakfast while you are visiting Rouen. They have some tables inside and the service is courteous.
We also walk along the Palace of Justice where we could see the attacks it suffered during the Second World War.
The wonderful 16th Century Gothic façade has been fully restored but all the holes that mark the bullets this building received during the war are present to remind people how bad the wars are. This is one of the most important buildings in France!
On the left of the above image you can see one of the oldest buildings in Rouen. It is a masterpiece. The “Ecole des Beaux Arts de Rouen” (Rouen Art School) is located in this building. It is so old that behind the arc of the entrance there is a metal net, so, if some parts of the ceiling fall the net will protect the head of people passing under it!
The Church of Saint-Maclou is a Catholic Church constructed in Gothic Flamboyant style. Unfortunately there are some days and hours when tourists are allowed to enter in the church, and when we went there the church was closed. We were able only to admire its exterior façades.
After a lot of sightseeing around Rouen we were starving! Time to have lunch!
We went to this delicious place called “Le Rocher” that has mussels prepared in every single way you can imagine. Delicious! We ate a LOT!!!
After lunch we went to visit the Rouen Cathedral once more. This time we had time to read about the renovations that are going on. We were also able to spend more time admiring paintings, sculptures and other Architectural details.
We continued walking all the way to Rouen Castle. This is the place where one of the trials of Joan of Arc took place.
From the Castle Tower we went along medieval streets to the City Hall where we admired the gardens and the beautiful building.
After this wonderful day we stopped by a Jean-Louis David hair salon where my dear husband had his hair cut! It was already time because the last time he had his hair hut was in Bellagio, Italy loooong time ago!!! 🙂
So…. on the next post you will be able to see his new haircut ! 🙂
On September, 17th, 2011 we woke up early, packed our stuff inside the car (bikes included) and we drove to Paul’s Bakery. As there is no parking place there (busiest street of town), I stayed inside the car at a garage entrance while my husband went to buy our baguettes and diet coke at Paul. Much better to eat a delicious baguette inside the car than wait a long time (and spend a lot of money) eating breakfast at the hotel!
From Rouen we went driving to Mont Saint Michel.
Read the next post if you want to go to Mont Saint Michel with us!
If you want to see more pictures of Rouen, please visit our pictures gallery on Flickr clicking here.