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.
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.
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 😉