For our last summer weekend, we drove up to Rouen to explore a bit of upper Normandy. We had a little airbnb apartment literally right downtown, with a view of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Rouen from our balcony. It was the perfect spot to be able to wander through the old part of Rouen and take in the sights.
Oliver was especially amazed by the different architecture of the churches in Rouen – very gothic, with the typical intricately detailed exterior. It really was pretty impressive. Every time we walked past the Cathédrale he would sigh, eyes as big as saucers, and say something like “wow, mom – isn’t it amazing??” Yes, Oli – it really was. For me it just blows my mind the incredible detail. I can hardly fathom the time and skill required to execute the construction.
Inside the Cathédrale is equally impressive, the sheer vastness of the church rather awesome. My dad laughed at my interest in seeing all the churches – when I was a kid we went on an incredible long summer road trip throughout the eastern part of Canada, from Toronto all the way to PEI and through the New England States. It was a great trip, but admittedly one of my memories is being incredibly annoyed and bored that my mom insisted on visiting literally every church and fort in sight. My brother and I tried to conspire to figure out how we could avoid some of the more tediously boring church visits. Anyhow – my dad thinks it’s funny now that I’m so interested. I tell him that my interest is mainly in the architecture, I just find it mind-boggling! Danica and I typically wander through the churches looking at the pretty details, while Derek and Oliver stop at every plaque, altar, and tomb, reading all there is to read and soaking up the historical details. I admit I was surprised by Oliver’s interest in that part of things, but happy that he is finding enjoyment in it!
Wandering through the rest of downtown Rouen was fun. There’s an interesting mix of history and modern. The medieval astronomical clock was pretty cool. It has a dial with the days of the week, and the phases of the moon cycle through the circles in the four corners. Le Gros-Horloge is XIV century, with the mechanism being built in 1389. Amazing! The age of things still really shocks me here, being from Canada where everything is so very young and new.
We ate at a couple really amazing restaurants. Pascaline’s was a typical tiny french bistro in the norman style. I think we all agreed that this is where we had our first really delicious authentic french meal. Since our visits to most towns so far have been fairly quick, we are often right in the centre of the touristy areas, since we want to see the sights. This of course means that the restaurants are also geared to tourists (i.e. – menus in both english and french, more expensive, and while often good, not quite getting to “delicious”). Anyhow, Pascaline’s was awesome. We had to take a family selfie to commemorate the meal. We also ate at a great couscous place called l’Étoile d’Or. We found there were a lot of Moroccan restaurants in Rouen, and the aromas emanating from them were irresistible.
All in all it was a fun visit, though I do wish we’d had more time to explore some of the areas further from downtown. We had a couple other places on our agenda to visit on this particular weekend, so Rouen was our home base but we weren’t there for as much time as we’d have liked. Maybe we’ll have the chance to come again, but there is just so much to see, and somehow only 10 months left in our year to see as much as we can!