Rouen is one of my favorite destinations in France. It is the capital of Normandy and has been claimed by some to be the birthplace of Impressionism. As a student of Art History, I can't resist a stop at Monet's gorgeous home in Giverny, which is on the road between Rouen and Paris. Impressionist painters from Monet to Gaugin and Pisarro flocked to Rouen from Paris for the gorgeous light and change of scenery. To this day, Monet’s paintings from the Rouen Cathedral Series are some of his most memorable works.
Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral is a miracle of architecture. With the tallest spire in France, the building has come to symbolize the resilience of the city itself. The Cathedral was built on its 4th century foundations and continued to evolve with 12th century construction and then reconstruction after World War II. It houses the tomb of Richard the Lionheart the famous Duke of Normandy (as well as his actual heart!)- A fitting tribute to this awe-inspiring Cathedral that is the figural heart of Normandy. An amazing way to see the Cathedral is via "Le Balcon," a space on the top floor of the "Espace Monet-Cathedrale." The building offers an unparalleled view of the city skyline and iconic monuments below.
On the way from the Cathedral to the famed Place du Vieux Marche is the Gros Horloge. Housed in a renaissance archway, this gorgeous clock is one of the oldest in France, dating from 1389. It makes for an amazing vista up the street and helps frame the Cathedral.
Joan of Arc
Through the cobblestone streets from the to Cathedral to Place du Vieux Marché, you can marvel at the colorful half-timber Haute-Norman architecture. In the center of the Place is a tall, skinny cross and a church that honors Joan of Arc, my favorite lady boss, who won military acclaim at the Siege of Orleans. She was burned at the stake at this very spot on May 30th, 1431 at the age of nineteen. The architect Louis Arretche designed the striking 1970's church to evoke the flames that engulfed her. It also houses an amazing floor-to-ceiling stained glass window from the 16th century.
Rouen would not be complete without its food lore- you can't discuss French food without mentioning Julia Child and you can't have Julia Child without La Couronne. On Wednesday, November 3, 1948, Julia and Paul Child stopped for lunch at La Couronne after their ferry landed at Le Havre en route to Paris. The restaurant is in the oldest inn of France and Julia would later remark it was "the most exciting meal of my life." The sole and duck are now legendary. Rouen was her first taste of French food and the beginnings of something great. Worth a look too are the Musee Des Beaux Arts and an instagram favorite – Musee de la Ceramique.
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