Yet again, one of our amazing travel agents is on the road! John C. is headed this time to France, where he will visit friends in Paris and explore the Norman town of Rouen.
John has flown in over the weekend from Portland to Charles de Gaulle, at a very early morning flight of 6:55 AM, arriving at 9:05 AM on Monday on the overnight Air Tahiti Nui. After a dinner that evening with some beloved friends, he finds himself on the tracks to Rouen.
photo by clairity
John is taking the morning train from the Paris Saint Lazare station (8th arr., for those googlemappers) to the the Gare Rouen-Rive-Droite. As the crow flies, Rouen is roughly 135 km from the center of Paris, so on the TGV it should take no time at all. He will be staying Wednesday night at the lovely Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale on Angle rue. Let’s take a quick look at where John will be nesting for a bit, shall we?
Rouen lies in the north on the river Seine, and was once the capital of Normandy. The Rouennaises’ claim to fame is, well, as the execution site of Jeanne d’Arc and the birthplace of the novelist Gustave Flaubert (best known for his scandalous 1856 work, Madame Bovary). To enjoy the many historical and natural sites of Rouen, tourists can explore by foot, by bicycle, or via a light rail line that runs north to south.
A defining highlight is the gorgeous Rouen Cathedral, a product of Gothic and Renaissance blends, whose latest reconstruction dates to the 12th century. Despite its fragile appearance—delicate spires, cobalt blue stained glass, and faded, ornate skeletons—the church has endured Vikings, lightning storms, Calvinists, wind storms, WWII bombings, and the wear and tear of centuries. The so-called Butter Tower was attached in the early 16th century, from funds donated by local Christians who refused to abstain from butter during Lent, and had to pay a fine for their indulgence.
This magnificent church was the inspiration of many artists, including Claude Monet, John Ruskin, Roy Lichtenstein, and Mae Babitz. Most famous is probably Monet’s collection of thirty cathedral portraits, a study of shimmering light, color and technique that now is hosted at the Musée d’Orsay.
You can also gaze at the wildflower field that once marked the spot of Joan of Arc’s funeral pyre, renamed Place du Vieux Marché. Tourists can climb to the top of the Gros Horloge, the starfish-like astronomical clock, for some fantastic views. Visit Flaubert’s house – turned museum – located at 1 rue Lecat or admire the floral delights of the botanical garden Jardin des Plantes de Rouen, an address that was once the departure point of several historic balloon ascents.
If markets are your fancy, come on Saturday or Sunday at Place Saint Marc for fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, and antiques. Unfortunately John will miss this wonder of Rouen!
Want to wander a bit farther? The Norman countryside and its pastures and hills are perfect for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Try out the cliff arches of Etretat, the charming Les Andelys village, the 17th century harbor of Honfleur, and of course the UNESCO-beloved Le Havre, still recovering from shelling during the Battle of Normandy.
Paris – Rouen, TGV
Departure: Paris Saint Lazare, 8:53 AM
Arrival: Gare Rouen-Rive Droite, 10:05 AM
Estimated travel time: roughly 1 hour
Train ticket price: $47 comfort class, $31 economy.
One restaurant meal: 10-50 euros
Bottle of Wine: 4 euros
One way local transport: 1.40 euros
Interested in a summer in gorgeous Normandy? Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503.224.0180 for more information.