Thursday, 6 April 2017

Rouen - with Satnav it's manageable!

Having bypassed Rouen, because of its difficult signposting, so many times over the past 12 years since we first came to live in France, we decided that it was time to stop and have a look around when on our usual Christmas jaunt to the UK.  At minus 6 degrees, it wasn't the best weather for tourism, but we hope that the photos taken will give you some idea of what we managed to see with a one night stop over.
A street map showing the cathedral area of the old town. The big clock and market halls, which I come to later, are a short walk off to the left side of this map!

The covered market halls, next to the Place du Vieux Marche, offer a good range of deli, fruit and fish for sale. Rouen is of course on the Seine river, so there is a direct route to the open sea for fishing boats and other river traffic.

Plenty of shellfish! They seem to pre-cook all  shellfish in France and it is hard to find them in an uncooked state.

The Place du Vieux Marche (Old market place) has some sinister history. In  1431, Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc (Joan of Arc) was burned at the stake there and today, a tall  steel mast marks  the exact place where the stake is said to have been  sited. 
This small church dedicated to her, as well as the adjacent market halls, were completed in the late 1970s. The church's bold architecture incorporates these stained-glass windows from the old Saint-Vincent church, which stood nearby, but was destroyed by bombing in 1944. The new church was inaugurated  by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, French President at the time and is now a registered historic monument. 


Children and adults having fun on the temporary outdoor ice rink on another part of the Place du Vieux Marche.

Next to the ice rink, this is the Wonder Wheel, a Christmas entertainment feature for the local inhabitants! All this under 100 metres from our hotel!

Cobbled streets in the old town. Plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. The Guinness for sale wasn't half bad!

In the rue du Gros Horloge (big clock!) is the Gros Horloge itself. This is the West side of the clock and the East side is similar. The arch dates back to 1527 and the clock to some time in the 16th century, but the clock mechanism is even older, made in 1389! This makes it one of the oldest in Europe, but since 1920 the clock has relied on electric power, even though the 14th century movement was still working well!

and a closer view, showing the coat of arms of Rouen on the stonework arch - the lamb of God held by two angels.  The head of one angel is wrongly placed - this was done deliberately by discontented stonemasons during construction! The dial is 2.5 metres (just over 8 feet) in diameter and a single hand shows the hour only.

The church dedicated to Saint Maclou. The spire is 93 metres (310 feet) high and the building work started some time after 1435, at a time when the Gothic style of church design was making way for the Renaissance.  However, the decoration inside is said to be macabre, harking back to the devastating effects of the Black Death, almost 100 years previously. Most of the church's impressive internal and external statuary has unfortunately been lost over the ages, principally during the wars of religion in the 16th century and the French revolution of the late18th century. 

At the early hour we were there, it was still locked up, so we did not get to see inside and therefore we are unable to bring you any photos!

Very early morning in Place Barthélémy, with Saint Maclou church on the left showing typical half-timbered buildings from the 16th century.  

Not many steps away from the last picture is the  Cathedral of Notre Dame (see map above), was started in 1145 on the foundations of a 4th century basilica, but was only finished in 1506! The spire you can just see through the mist is from the 19th century, and at 151 metres (500 feet) high, is the highest in France. It replaced a much earlier wooden spire which was destroyed in a lightning strike.

Statues (of which there are about 30 in these blank archways) in the ambulatory inside the cathedral are of apostles and other religious figures. 

The heart of King Richard I of England lies in a tomb here. The rest of his body was buried near Saumur in western France, but he was killed by a weighted arrow in 1199 during the siege of a castle not far from us here in Charente. King Richard, called the LIonheart by the French, reigned as king of England for 10 years, but he spent most of his time in France and the Middle East for the Crusades. He spoke no English (only Occitan - a dialect still spoken today) and rarely went to England!

The lofty nave

A better view of the vaulted ceiling and the oriel window at the far end.

Escalier de la Librairie (Library stair). The first flights were built between 1477 and 1479 and further flights were added  in 1788 to gain access to a new  upper floor level which housed the archives.

Detailed carvings surround the main front entrance doors.
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Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually! 


My Life in the Charente 1 you can find here if you want to read the past.

25 comments:

  1. Brings back happy memories of my trip with a friend from Paris. Must look back at my.posts. and my photos too. Stunning architecture on the churches /cathedrals. Did you go to the Joan of Arc museum ? ..super post thanks for sharing. Xz

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    1. Anne we were only there one evening and early in the morning before leaving again. Hardly anything was open and we were also short of time. The Cathedral has a chapel dedicated to Joanne d'arc, we also saw the new church. Glad it has brought back good memories for you. Take care Diane xx

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  2. How come he was King of England and hardly spent time here nor spoke English . Bit bizarre.

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    1. I can hardly argue that his subjects followed him on Facebook ho ho! I wondered the same myself! He was 41 when he was killed and he took the throne aged 31. Without reading his life history, I recall vaguely that the late 12th century was a time before there was a Parliament and England was run by nobles living in grand houses scattered about the countryside. This could perhaps have allowed the king to do his own thing. The 12th century was also the age of the 3 (?) Crusades when the English army spent a lot of time in the Middle East. Not a great answer so I guess I'll have to read a book on 12th century England and let you know!! Nigel

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    2. Than you Nigel for taking the time to reply with an explanation . Interesting . Love the bit about FB. Haha. Get Reading too. Take care Anne x

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  3. I am absolutely blown away by the intricacy, size and age of these buildings. Glad you got to make a one night stop over.

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    1. Considering the primitive tools and equipment those people had, it is amazing to us also, we who are steeped in the history of Europe from an early age. They also had persistence, given that these huge buildings took many generations to complete -this cathedral perhaps 12 generations! It's unthinkable today, when we consider 5 years is a long time to build something, but in those days we must remember there would be long interruptions for wars and plagues, the Black Death, to take into account.But they stuck at it! Nigel

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  4. Oh, my word, that clock is magnificent! It's a beautiful little city. My kids recently made me get a smart phone, and installed the GPS/map feature on it. I've even used it once. I'd imagine it would be quite handy in navigating a place like Rouen. I'd think it would be too cold for the Wonder Wheel in December, but, like you, I'd be visiting those beautiful cathedrals and enjoying the little shops. Looks like a very nice stopover on your way home to the UK for Christmas.

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    1. The clock is amazing and to think it has been working all those years. We have still not made it ti a smart phone but I am guessing the time might soon catch up with us!! We both have two very old cell phones that we only use for emergencies! I cannot tell you how many times we got lost in Rouen when we first bought our house in 2005, we then finally found a great detour that was quicker which we usually still use today :-)
      Have a great Sunday Diane

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  5. I really love your accounts of your travels and visits, Diane. Your writing is excellent and your photography is superb. This one is no exception! Perhaps you ought to be writing for wider publication, and profit! ;D

    Take good care and have a great week - - - Richard

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    1. Richard I have to admit that I could not do the write ups without Nigel's help. Yes the photography is all mine, and I write up what I can. Nigel does a lot of the research and most of the write up is his. What I do write is always put into Kings English :-) He is a fanatic about grammar and spelling and my Rhodesian schooling does not pass his strict rules :-)))) Never the less thanks for the kind comment from both of us.
      Cheers and have a great week Diane

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  6. Bonjour Diane,
    Merci de nous faire partager votre visite de Rouen avec ces magnifiques photos de la ville historique .
    Bravo aussi pour toutes vos recherches sur l'histoire de la ville que vous illustrez de manière très agréable!
    Belle semaine à vous!

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    1. Merci pour le genre de commentaire. Mon mari est bon dans la recherche! Bon week-end. Diane

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  7. I love that you share all of the beautiful architecture on your travels. The Escalier de la Librairie is really beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Pam, it is a beautiful cathedral and I agree the stairs are gorgeous. Happy Easter Diane

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  8. Thanks for sharing such wonderful photos of your travels. We were in Rouen years ago on a trip down the Seine this bring back such great memories.

    Jo

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind comment and I am delighted to have brought back good memories. Have a great weekend Diane

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  9. You certainly packed in as much as possible in that short space of time Diane, I'm always in awe of the churches in Europe, the architecture is so magnificently complex and detailed, must have taken years to complete.. even our oldest buildings seem so simple by comparison ☺

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    1. You are right we did not leave much spare time!!! European buildings centuries old are quite remarkable. How did they manage to build them in the first place and how have they withstood the time through weather and wars. Thanks for the comment and have a good week. Diane

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    1. Thanks Regine for following me to my new blog. It is a beautiful place. Have a good week Diane

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  11. Hello Diane. I'm glad you found me at the WEP blog as it's great to have your new blog address. It looks good here. Thanks for the trip through Rouen. I've been there but it was a bit of a nightmare finding our way around. It's such a beautiful city. And your photos are gorgeous.

    Denise :-)

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  12. You captured it all beautifully Diane. What a terrific looking city.

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  13. Hi Diane,
    Back from Spain!
    Lovely set of photos, one can see you enjoyed that trip to Rouen!
    The crayfish pic make me hungry, when I start with this type of food, I can't stop! LOL!
    Warm hugs, keep well and enjoy this lovely weather :)

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  14. Dear Diane! It's so nice to read you again, and your pictures are as always beautiful. Amazing "horloge"! Rouen is a city I would love to visit. So I thank you so much for the wonderful tour, too bad the weather was not the best!. Best regards!

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