After two massive posts on Paris, I am finally writing about the the towns/regions that came after it. I will always be behind on these posts, but now I can start closing the gap. We begin in Rouen, France.
I arrived in Rouen, France, in the afternoon by train and met up with my host at the metro stop near his apartment. Rouen was my first time staying in an Air BnB residence and I was curious to see how it would go. My host, a guy named Alexis, spoke a decent amount of English, so there wasn’t too much of a communication barrier. We shared a dinner on my first night and got to know each other. It turns out that Alexis is a technician for the Rouen police department and he knows bits of America. He also owns several kittens. Some of you know that I consider cats to be the spawn of Satan, but I put that aside for the duration of my time in Rouen. The room I was in was just Alexis’ spare bedroom, which I guess is the whole idea of Air BnB. The room also had a small balcony, which would have been good for writing if it hadn’t rained while I was there. At Alexis’ suggestion, on my first night I paid a visit to the Rouen cathedral and saw the light show, which was a pair of short films that used the surface of the front of the cathedral as the screen. They were actually quite cool and I have to applaud the makers for the creativity in them.
The next day was my full day in Rouen (I was only staying two nights). I still hadn’t fully recovered from several days in Paris of full-throttle tourism, so I slept in. It was a foggy and rainy day in Rouen, as is common in the Normandy region of France, and there’s also not too much to see in Rouen, so I was in no hurry to get started. When I did set out, I first went over to the grove that marks where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Joan is a fascinating historical character with a brief (she was 19 when she got executed) but important role in the history of France. Right next to the grove is a modern church dedicated to her that has a distinct Nordic look. The ceiling looks almost like an upside-down ship’s hull. Stepping out of the church and back into the rain, I walked through town, passing under the old clock, which has just an hour hand, (there was no need for a minutes hand when it was built) and came to the Rouen cathedral. Rouen’s cathedral shares the Notre Dame name with the famous church in Paris. For those who don’t know, Notre Dame just means “our lady” (usually a reference to Mary, the mother of Christ) and there are quite a few churches across France that share the name. I would have gone in, but it was closed until 2:00pm, so I moved on and came to St Maclou church, but it was also closed until 2:00pm. Looking at my watch, I saw that it was 1:53pm, so I visited the nearby Plague Cemetery, which is a medieval courtyard that was used as a mass grave when the plague swept through Rouen. I pick the most cheerful sights to visit, don’t I? After a few minutes I returned to St Maclou, which was now open, and afterwards returned to Notre Dame. Though Notre Dame looks like any other gothic church, it has some distinctive stonework, a result of the fact that the church has had to be repaired multiple times over the history of the church. In the early days it was Viking raids and in the 20th century Notre Dame took several direct hits from World War 2 bombing raids. To finish my day I paid a visit to the Rouen Fine Arts Museum. The museum is like the Petit Palais in Paris in that it has a broad spectrum of items and no particular focus. In the central courtyard there was a large jigsaw puzzle that I spent a few minutes working on. I added my contribution to the puzzle and then walked around the museum until closing. I may have also accidentally gone into the special exhibit without paying. When I left the museum it was early evening, so I bought some food at a grocery store and returned to the apartment.
The next morning I slept in again, packed, and left for my next destination. My stay in Rouen was brief, but it was an important introduction to Air BnB and what to expect from it. The next three places I was going to were also Air BnB residences, so I was soon to be well experienced with staying in other peoples’ homes.