Travel diary: The good, the bad, the Rouen

This tale starts at an lookout over Rouen, a sunset, some unique food and finishes with a day full of small town charm in a fantastic French town. It was evening by the time we headed back from our day in Giverny, the hot sun still beating down as we walked quite fast, as usual, we were a few minutes behind schedule. Taking a seat on the train was wonderful reprieve for our feet which had walked a good distance that day. We were both quite tired so talk was a little more of a “wow, that was a great day” than any deep converstation.

We messaged our host several times to see what they were planning on for the night and if we had to make our own fun. Fortunately, they were free and already had an idea of what we were going to do for the rest of the night. This was fantastic news for us as we were a little lost about what to do for the night and for our weary feet. We organised our travel back to the house, and almost immediately we departed again. weaving through the roads of Rouen up a mountain. The setting sun flickering through the trees, bathing the mountain side in a wash of gold. We reached the top where the sight was breathtaking. The cathederal stood strong against the setting sun, spearing its peaks across the town as it cast its shadow. The river looked frozen from the height and the reflections of the town caught in its surface.

The air having lost the heat from the day bit into my face as I took a deep breath over the beauty of the sunset Rouen. I was caught in a beautiful moment that even now cannot be discussed well enough in words on a page. Far too soon it was time to leave, as the sun dipped lower and the evening drew later, stretching the shadows longer and longer across the town. The drive back home was almost somber as we reflected on travels and futures. There will always be something about a sunset that will take the minds of people to thoughts of ends and of dreams. We pulled up the driveway as the sun gave way to night. Set with a bottle of wine, good food and even better conversation the night bled away till we all retired to bed at a reasonable hour. 

The blackout curtains of our room made the alarm feel as if it had awoken me prematurely, the time on my watch disagreed though, and with a little effort I arose, my body feeling the ache of the walk the day before, I wondered if perhaps we were going to have a slower day; my wish never came true. It was a morning that I would not get a rest for a good many hours. Getting into town was a standard affair on the bus, as with most French places I have visited, they have a well connected town centre. Grumbling as we waited at the train station information centre to see if they had lockers for our backpacks was annoying my uncaffinated, unfed mind. We were informed the station had no lockers but to go to the cafe across and see if they had room to store there. This was not exactly normal. Yet the option of walking the whole day with our packs on and still recovering feet made us use the option.

Finally in the town we started walking, we found a Cafe and had a much needed ‘cafe creme’, basically a flat white. Along side this was a croissant which I learned the best way to eat was by dipping it in the coffee. Finally awake and refueled, our adventure started for the day. We became lost in the back streets of the town, wandering down alleys and through what I am sure was someones back garden. We sat in the shade of a cathederal, not even a particularly big one, but still one quite specutacular. Our feet took us in a directions of beautiful smelling food, hand made crafts, and my favorite of them all a sculptures workshop. As we wandered down the street, a store attracted our attention with some amazing work in the window, then through the open door the methodical tap of metal on stone rang out. We peeked inside and saw three workers tapping away at quite the piece of stone. This was a unique experience and as silly as it sounds one that will keep in my memory for a while.

We finally decided to head towards the Rouen cathederal. A magnificent building full of fine detail on the outside and massively vaulted ceilings on the inside. This to me would have to be one of the most beautiful cathederals I have ever visited, even over Notre Dame in Paris. One of the best things about this cathederal was the few tourists there. I never felt like I was one of the sheep being pushed along in any direction. If you were going to go to Normandy I would definitely make sure this is on your list.

Our time in Rouen was drawing to a close so we decided we had to at very least go and see the burning site of Jeanne D’Arc. Unfortunately there were quite a few school groups around so this was a short visit. Still very cool to see where it actually happened. With this experience over quite quickly we decided we had enough time for a bottle of wine and a picnic. So we gathered our supplies and headed to the gardens near the monastery of the Saint Owen. There we relaxed in the sun and soaked up every last second of our trip in Rouen.

Sinead will give you some insights into our trip to Paris in a post coming soon!

Stay Safe and Travel Far…

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