We planned our day in Rouen around the walking tour in Rick Steves’ France book. Following his advice we drive into town and parked in the parking lot under the Place de Vieux Marché. This is an ideal location. You come up from the underground parking lot and are standing by the L’Église Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc. We were there on a Sunday, so had the added fun of a farmers market style market at the Vieux Marché
After walking around the market we explored the L’Église Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc. This church is on the site where Joan of Arc was burned at a stake. There is a lovey memorial garden to her along with a statue of the young warrior who went on to become a saint.
Following the walking tour directions we walked a short distance to the picturesque Gros Horloge. Immediately you’ll notice there is only an hour hand on the clock. Oh, to live in a time when all we needed was an hour hand – not precise minutes and seconds scheduled and tracked continuously.
The clock pays homage to the economy of Rouen at the time with lambs (wool) featured prominently on the clock.
We then detoured to see our first sight impacted by battle in WWII – the Palais de Justice. It still bears the signs of being hit by bombs and gunfire, but is being lovingly and carefully restored to its former glory. I find it honorable they are not totally erasing the scars of war – but leaving them to serve as a visible reminder of the price paid for our freedom to be tourists today.
A special surprise was accidentally wandering by a creperie I instantly recognized from my Pinterest boards. I pinned an image of this idyllic looking creperie while I was home dreaming of this trip – and now here I was standing there in front of it! A dream come true.
We visited the Cathédrale Notre Dame (Rouen Cathedral) after Sunday morning services. The front of this church is so ornate. You can find parables, saints, and more brought to life in the facade. Inside the church, just as with the Palais de Justice, the tale of the impact of war continues to be told along with the restoration that follows. It is inspiring to see this church restored to its former glory.
As you walk around the outside you can see a steel steeple that was built at the same time as the Eiffel Tower. If you catch it at the correct angle you can see the similarities between the two landmarks.
No trip to Rouen is complete without taking in the half-timbered buildings. What an ingenious way to dance around tax laws – when buildings were taxed on their footprint they built houses with small bases that grew up and out to minimize the tax bill. To see these bloated looking buildings today is quite a treat.
- It is inevitable that while on vacation you will travel on a Sunday. Our Rouen day was a Sunday. To avoid disappointment, just be aware you will run into closed restaurants, shorter operating hours and so on.
- It is a little tricky navigating Rouen. Be sure to watch your GPS and have maps handy as backup.