How Jeanne become Joan (A Day Trip To Rouen)

Doing day trips out of Paris on the train is really the best! The trains here are so simple (actually purchasing the tickets, not so much, but once you get on the train it’s easy) and within an hour you are miles out of the bustle of Paris in the beautiful French countryside. My friends and I decided to venture to Rouen yesterday which is the historic capital city of the Normandy Region and the site where Jeanne d’Arc (I’m going to go with the French version here) was burned at the stake – gruesome, I know.

We started our morning by visiting one of many cathedrals we would see during our day. Rouen is known as “The city of a hundred spires” and I would say it certainly lives up to that title. Almost all the churches have weathered fires, the 100 Years War, religious wars, extensive bombings during WWII, etc…. As we walked around, many of them were in the midst of being refurbished once again, leaving the outsides covered in scaffolding, but the insides remained absolutely stunning and beautiful.

The abbey church of Saint Ouen: Almost all the churches we saw were being refurbished and modernized: Inside Saint Ouen with its huge organ: The church of Saint Maclou:The Cathedral of Notre Dame in the center of town is absolutely huge! From the outside it doesn’t seem it, but from the inside, if really seems bigger than Notre Dame in Paris. While is doesn’t have the most intricate stained glass or embellishments on the inside that many cathedrals do, it’s vaulted ceilings are still quite impressive.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame:The 28 meter high ribbed vault ceiling: A model of the cathedral:Surprisingly, the least impressive church we saw was the church of Saint Jeanne d’Arc, which was opened in 1979. It was built on the site where she was burned, yet honestly, was not that nice. I guess in terms of modern architectural design it was interesting – I seriously think it looks like a fish – but for a building that’s to pay homage to a great French heroine, it seemed a little out of place.

You can’t really tell, but I’m telling you, it looks like a fish:Inside still had some beautiful stained glass:We had lunch at this very cute little tea shop called Dame Cakes. They had a menu full of exotic teas and drinks along with a delicious looking display of cakes, brownies and pies. I had an array of different savory cakes with smoked salmon, cheese and duck. I also had a piece of rhubarb meringue pie for dessert. I will always love rhubarb, but I’m not quite sure how I felt about the meringue on top. Regardless, it was a wonderful place for a lunch break in our afternoon.

Dame Cakes: 

A trio of savory Dame cakes: 
Rhubarb meringue pie: 

After lunch, we headed to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which was an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures representing almost ever school of European painting. Given the proximity of Rouen to Giverny, they had a impressive collection of impressionist paintings, including Monet and Renoir.

Monet: Renoir: ModiglianiThis one was just really really big!

From little bits of history I pulled throughout the day, I think I now have a pretty good idea of the story of Jeanne d’Arc. In summary, she was a French peasant girl who led the French army to several victories in the 100 Years War. She was captured in 1430 by the English, who put here on trial in Rouen for heresy. She was held in a tower, that you can still see today, until she was burned at the stake in1431 at the ripe young age of 19. One interesting, albeit somewhat gory fact I learned – her ashes and unburnt heart were thrown into the Seine so that no relics could be preserved.

Tour Jeanne d’Arc, where she was held during her trial: 
Dedication of the church built in her honor: 
The spot where she was burnt: All and all, it was a wonderful day trip. The sky threatend rain all day, but luckily for us, we didn’t feel a drop, although it was pretty chilly. I am really looking forward to doing some more day trips around France. Even though it’s so easy to travel around all of Europe, I sometimes forget how much France itself has to offer and how easy it is to explore on the train.

Here are few more pictures, and yes, I had to eat an eclair 😉

Giant clock to never lose track of time: Beautiful timber framed architecture: Quaint pedestrians streets: 
The eclair: (It was really good 🙂 

The Bastille Eclair

I’m realizing that in my pursuit to eat all the eclairs in Paris, I’m going to have a hard time writing about the shops that they come from because most patisseries here don’t have their own name. They just say Patisserie or Boulangerie out front. I guess I’ll just refer to the area from what it comes unless the store has its own name.

Anyway, this was my first eclair since the best one at Stohrer (actually, it’s not my first since then, but the first one that’s been worth writing about. Even in Paris you can find a really bad eclair). Right around the corner from me on Rue de La Roquette, is a very cute little patisserie that actually has an extensive display of pastries and breads for just being the corner bakery. I call it the Bastille eclair as you are stones throw away from the Bastille roundabout when you walk up to this patisserie.

I’ve had some bread from here before, but never anything else. After buying some produce at the market the other morning, I went inside to grab a croissant for breakfast. Needless to say, I walked out with 2 croissants and an eclair, since it looked so delicious.Since I had yet to have breakfast, I restrained myself and waited until I got home and had my croissant and coffee before I decided to take a bite out of the eclair. To start, it was definitely on the bigger side of eclairs that I have seen, making it all that much more alluring. I have to figure that getting anything this early in the morning means it has to be somewhat fresh, don’t you think? 

Right after my first bite, I knew that this was a decent eclair, but no where near the level of the Sthorer eclair, which all eclairs will now be compared to. While the pastry cream inside was good, although not quite as rich as I would have liked, the choux dough could not hold it’s own. Yes, I agree that the choux dough should be light, but this was just too light and flaky. As I’ve said, I had some bad eclairs here in Paris, so this definitely was not in the bad category, just not in the perfect category. Since this patisserie is just around the corner, I would certainly go back to grab another one, or maybe even try some of the other yummy things they had on display, but for now, I shall continue to sample more eclairs!!!

The Best Eclair in Paris? Perhaps…

I’ve realized that I have not had enough eclairs in my life. I’m somehow never quite as drawn to the eclairs as I am to the cookies and cake, which I often gravitate towards whenever I’m at a bakery. Now that I’m in Paris though and every patisserie has a healthy supply of eclairs, often in many different flavors, I’m finally realizing how much I’ve been missing out.

This realization stems from a recent visit I took to La Maison Stohrer, perhaps the oldest patisserie in all of Pars. Not only are they the oldest, but they also claim to have the best eclair in all of France too. I was a little hesitant at first, given, as I said before, I don’t eat eclairs all that often, but after having one for myself, I think they deserve the title. 

Bitting into these sweet creations was heavenly. The chocolate pastry cream inside was perfectly chilled and light as mouse. This is seriously a delicious piece of pastry. It took all the effort I had not to eat it up in just a few bites. I was about to buy a second, but remembered that I really didn’t need to eat two in a row and I was out of money! 

In addition to the eclairs, they have beautiful display of other pastries, chocolate and breads. Out front they had a special table selling extra galletes des roi, which are being sold at every bakery these days. 

I would definitely recommend La Maison Stohrer to anyone in Paris. It’s on the wonderful Rue Montogrueil, which is worth a walk down anytime. Now that I have discovered the pleasures of eating eclairs, I think I shall now try to sample eclairs for all different patisseries, to see if the one from Stohrer, is indeed the best eclair ever.