If there's a silver lining to living in Le Havre, it's that were a quick train ride away from some amazing French towns, including Rouen, where we decided to spend our Saturday last weekend. Rouen is a beautiful medieval town, and was once one of the largest and most important cities in all of Europe. Today its home to about half a million people, give or take a few. It dates back to before the 5th century, when the Romans built a settlement there, calling it Rotomagus. As you can imagine, a ton of history took place here, including the death of Joan of Arc in 1431. She was burned alive at age 19. Ouch. The place was almost wiped out during WWII, and by allied bombs nonetheless. It's estimated about 45% of the city was completely destroyed, but in a stroke of great luck, most of the bombs managed to avoid the city center, where all of the historical buildings and anything worth saving was located.
Anyway, Christmas time in a medieval town? Yes, please. This place (like many others in Europe) seems magical this time of year. Christmas markets, carolers (like real, bonafide carolers, singing real bonafide Christmas carols), hot chocolate in the streets, home made candies and wooden toys...it was hard to remember what century we were in at times. I'm happy to report that Christmas is taken very seriously here, and they've obviously been doing it for a lot longer than America. Papa Noel (Santa Claus) is very popular here, and people love their traditions. As you'll see, Rouen was bustlin' with Christmas spirit. It was freezing cold, just as it should be, and it prompted me to buy my first scarf ever. I'm so francois now.
We're going back to this restaurant...by far the best meal I've ever had in France, and cheap too.
The church of St. Ouen, dating back to 1318.
One of the cool things about Rouen is how many church spires you see on the horizon. They were everywhere. It was hard to tell which Cathedral was the oldest, or most famous. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get inside this one.
A Pepsi Santa?! Blasphemy!
Yep, that's a pet skunk.
Christmas market in front of the Rouen Cathedral.
Rouen Cathedral, the tallest builidng in the world from 1876-1880.
I've been to a lot of these old Cathedrals, and this one definitely stands out among the rest. It's impressive. It was nearly lost in WWII when 7 British bombs fell on it, narrowly missing the key pillars that kept it standing.
A sampling of Monet's paintings of the cathedral, all showing different lighting conditions. There are quite a few, and they average at $40 million a pop.
The great clock of Rouen, dating back to 1409. No big deal.
Back to Le Havre.