Thursday, November 1, 2012

Traveling on a National Holiday and Rouen, the Gateway to Normandy

I was up bright and early this morning to start my four day mini-vacation in Normandy.

Today is All Saints Day which is a French National Holiday and as it turned out a slight travel headache when dealing with Lyon's bus system. I left The Villa a full ten minutes before the C17 bus was scheduled to drive by on its posted Holiday schedule. I opted to leave my cozy bus stop when the bus had still not come by 15 minutes after said posted time.

Plan B called for catching the 25 bus around the corner which only came by once on hour on its Holiday schedule. It was a few minutes late but it got me to the Part-Deiu train station in plenty of time to catch my high speed TGV train to Paris.

Once in Paris, it turned out that I had to catch a Metro from the Gare de Lyon train station to the Gare St-Lazare station. I was not informed of this when I bought my ticket but I actually figured it out on my own!

My plan was simple, go to the information desk at Gare de Lyon and ask them how to best get to Gare St-Lazare. The lady was quite helpful as she handed me a map, said to take the #14 Metro which I could catch right there in the station. She even circled my destination, the Olympiades stop, on a Metro map that she gave me. With the aid of a very nice fellow traveller, I was able to purchase a Metro ticket from a machine. As we talked, she asked where I was headed and I told her. She was quick to point out that the information desk woman was indeed right about the #14 Metro but that St-Lazare lay in the exact opposite direction than the one she had circled on the map.

MERCI fellow traveller!!!!

From Paris, it was another 90 minutes to my final destination for the day, Rouen.

My hotel gave me the "attic" room for only 35 euros a night complete with sloping ceilings guaranteed to leave a mark or two on me if I got up during the night as the rooms ceiling slopes from about 6'6" down to 2'0" quite quickly. The Hotel is, at least, very well located to the city's main sights.

It was now time to explore Rouen, the city that was the sight of St. Joan of Arc's burning at the stake in 1431. The city is over 2,000 years old and has Gothic architecture and half timbered houses everywhere you look.

My first stop was the Place du Vieux Marche to see the memorial to France's patron saint at the exact spot where she was incinerated. A new church in St. Joan of Arc's honor stands near this spot and has a very definite Scandinavian feel to it. It must be remembered that this area of France was settled by Vikings who had raided the area for centuries. Then this area was known as Land of the Northmen which eventually changed into what it is called today, Normandy.

On the way to the next main sight, I came across Les Larmes de Jeanne d'Arc. Cool name for a GREAT chocolate shop. The bag of chocolate covered almonds was quite delicious!

Next up was the Gros Horloge or Big Clock which was built in 1528. It was very impressive. Someday, when I have my new computer, I'll have to post a picture of it for you to enjoy.

The Palace of Justice, complete with D-Day bombing pockmarks on one side, is a wonderful Gothic structure.

Rouen's most important building is the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is, of course Gothic, and is a landmark for art historians. Claude Monet painted its facade over 30 different times during his life. It is magnificent inside as well.

Once I had finished wandering through this very impressive Cathedral, it was out onto Rue St. Romain to see some very interesting shops and eating establishments on my way to the Aitre St. Maclou. This is where the people of Rouen buried victims of The Plague in the Middle Ages by dumping their bodies into a mass grave and drenching them with liquid lime to speed up the decomposition process. A perfect place to visit on All Saints Day don't you think?

Finally, it was time for nourishment so I went back to Rue St. romain and had a splendid repast at the Creperie le St. Romain. The main dish was a salmon crepe followed by a dessert maple syrup crepe. 

It was oh so good for me!

Before calling it a night, I opted to improve my digestion by walking down to the Seine River which runs through Rouen from Paris. A massive carnival was in full swing that stretched for many, many blocks. Young children were everywhere enjoying the evening.

Tomorrow I head out via a rental car to Bayeux to see their famous tapestry outlining the all important Battle of Hastings in 1066 and then head out to visit the historic D-Day beaches.

I am REALLY looking forward to the next part of this History Channel come to life weekend.


David said...

Today's meal sounds far more desirable than the pig snout salada.

Olivier R said...

I hope you LL have good weather today. Bayeux and the d day beaches should make the day very interesting. Enjoy

Anonymous said...


Pig snout salade et AWESOME.

Don't make fun of Lyon's food :)


steveswindle said...

I just thought of something...have you ever talked with Coach Rosy Nolan about his time there during WW2? He was a Paratrooper too.