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Normandy Rouen day trip


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As we wend our way north through the countryside of Normandy the trees are starting to change colors — we are on the train to Rouen for a day trip. We’ve been meaning to do this for several years, so today . . . . Making the day even more enjoyable is the wealth of information we got from a friend in Paris; She’s from Rouen. A walking route, points of interest, restaurant recommendations, wonderful.

It is an easy walk from the Gare Rouen into Rouen center, first stop the Musée Beaux Arts. After spending too much time going through the rooms of the bottom floor — all with not particularly interesting (to us) paintings from the 16th, 17th centuries, we get to the good stuff on the upper level. A number of Monets (one of the Cathedral, of course), quite a few Sisleys, a Rubens, a very nice portrait by Caillebotte, a Velaquez, and, ta da, a Caravaggio we have all to ourselves. There is also a sampling of modern stuff; a roomful of abstracts, etc. For a city this size it is a great museum.

We walk through narrow cobblestone streets (Rue Beffroy, Rue de la Seille) with half-timbered buildings — some three storey houses couldn’t be more than twelve feet wide. We end up at L’Espiguette, our kind of café/bistrot — rec’d by both of our Paris friends. The menu is 4-4-4-4: four entrées, four plats, four plats each of which has a supplement, four desserts. E&P, or P&D, €14,50.

We split two entrées and two plats. To start: oeufs mimosa with a couple of slices of tuna; and — we’ll be doing this one at home: yellow squash sliced length-wise paper thin, layered with thin slices of Parmigiana, some pine nuts, chives, thyme, olive oil. Oh yeah. Two plats: rosy-red skirt steak, shallot sauce, frites; two discs of Crottin lightly roasted with honey, a mixture of greens, figues, and one beautiful big date. A small carafe (50 cl.) of a light red. We’re happy, real happy. The two guys running the room are good; very personable.

Well, that slows us down. For some reason I think not many tourists go to Rouen; Janet thinks otherwise. She’s right. It’s a Thursday afternoon in late October. There are quite a few tourists standing in the plaza in front of the Cathedral Notre Dame gazing at the wondrous facade. This is the church front Monet painted over and over, different times of the day, different times of the year. We saw one of those this morning. It is spectacular. Snap, snap, click, click go the all cell phone cameras (and just one or two real cameras, alas). We go inside — totally anticlimactic to me; Janet strongly disagrees.

We meander through the central area — the historic grand clock (Gros Horloge) is also spectacular in its own right — to the Saint Ouen Abbey church. Our Rouen-born friend says not to miss, the interior is just wonderful. She hasn’t been here in awhile; it looks like the church has been decommissioned as a place of worship. The interior is now a construction site for an international arts exhibition on Mythologies, set to open in a couple of weeks. More interesting are the two pétanque courts, games in full swing, out front. It has been a long day; we take a slow walk back to train station. Our one regret: had we known, we should have traded our time going through the museum first floor for a visit to the museum of ceramics just across the way from the museum.


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Thank you for such great info. I’ve only spent a few hours in Rouen and plan to return. The author Simone de Beauvoir lived there (worked as a teacher) and that is what drew me to visit.


10+ Posts
Thanks very much for an excellent report. Rouen has been on our 'to do' list for some time and I hope that we will finally get there later this year.


10+ Posts
Thank you for this wonderfully written report. We will be traveling to France in May (1 week in Paris, 1 week in Normandy) and will be visiting Rouen for the first time. Your report is very helpful

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