Rouen - City of Spires
Rouen, spreads itself along the River Seine, 130 Kilometers down river from Paris. The lovingly restored and preserved historic centre in the quarter between the Gare SNCF and the riverside was rich in significant architecture. The somewhat random street layout of the medieval town has been largely retained with many pedestrian streets to delight walkers and to the consternation of the drivers attempting to traverse the centre. This made the quarter easily walkable and pleasant for pedestrians and contributed immensely to the pleasing and efficient physical aspects of the city. The people of Rouen are especially proud of the Gros Horloge, a one-handed clock trimmed in gold that overlooks one of these passageways.
Rouen is a city of spires! In addition to the vast Notre Dame Cathedral , painted so many times by Claude Monet, and where Richard the Lion Heart rests at peace, ...
.... we visited the even larger Abbey Church of St. Ouen. We gazed up at the gothic walls with the saints in their niches gazing down benignly and the grinning gargoyles ready to spill rainwater onto our heads in a shower. Inside, the massive pillars, soaring ceilings, colorful windows, and pictures of saints created a cool and peaceful atmosphere.
The adjacent former living areas are now the Hotel de Ville.
Walking along the narrow streets lined by rows of half timbered houses, some leaning a bit to the side or toward the street, we felt that we had time traveled back to 1450 or so.
The 'Place du Vieux Marche', where Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake, was especially rich in these venerable buildings but the modern soaring dark roofed memorial church with its glorious stained glass windows now dominates there.
The city had many neighborhoods of apartments very close to the historic centre for people who preferred a walkable urban location.
There were also more suburban areas, some with wonderful views of the Seine with single family homes as well as mid and high rise apartments and shops and schools nearby.
One morning, we jumped on a bus for a ride up to Canteleu, on a bluff just downriver from the city center. We found a commune of high and mid rise apartment buildings, row houses surrounded by lawns, schools and a neighborhood church.
Exploring the village center, we found a pleasant square with the Hotel deVille on one side and a row of mixed use housing on another.
We stopped into the tavern-tabac for drinks and sat sipping and observing the lively flow of clients for drinks, lotto cards and tabacco products and to watch the horse racing on TV. (One could bet on the race and then watch it on TV.) We felt welcome even though we did not bet. Nearby we noted the construction for the new extension to the city's tram line that would give the residents expanded mobility options.
After this interlude, we walked across to a nearby super marche' to buy food for a small picnic and sat on a bench to eat. "Bon Appetite", someone called as they walked by! After lunch, we strolled through the park and admired the sports fields. Canteleu offered its residents a good life in pleasant modern surroundings, with mobility options and convenient shopping for daily needs all nearby.
On another day, we took a boat ride on the Seine. Before boarading we first discovered renovated former warehouses now creating a pleasant waterfront destination. The trip passed an amazing lift bridge and the important port facilities which provide an essential contribution to the local economy.
On still another day we took the train to visit Giverny, the home of the impressionist Claude Monet. As we strolled the gardens, it was clear where he received the inspiration for so many of his paintings. Click here to view our Flickr album of photos.
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