06 February 2019

Avant Paris, Rouen...

Before I went to Paris in 1998, I went to Rouen to spend a week or so with friends there. Rouen is the main city in a metropolitan area of half a million people in upper Normandy. It's on the Seine river not much more than an hour from Paris by train or automobile. I spent a school year, nine months, in Rouen in 1972-73, when I was in my early 20s.

Here are some of the famous landmarks in Rouen. The best-known may well be the old clock, above, known as Le Gros Horloge. It's in the upper part of an old gateway that leads to the pedestrian street that is the city's central shopping district.

The second landmark is the city's cathedral, Notre-Dame de Rouen. It's the gothic cathedral that the impressionist Claude Monet painted 30 times in all sorts of light conditions. It was badly damaged during bombing in World War II, but no so badly that it couldn't be restored. Richard the Lionhearted's heart is contained in an urn kept in a tomb inside the cathedral.

Another famous monument, at least for Americans who love French cooking, is the restaurant where Julia Child is said to have had her first meal in France 60 years ago. She and her husband Paul were driving from Le Havre to Paris and stopped in Rouen for lunch at La Couronne, on the Place du Vieux Marché. That lunch was obviously a life-changing experience for Julia, as spending a year in Rouen was for me. I'm also lucky to have had meals at La Couronne several times in my life.

There are two other impressive churches in Rouen. This one is the Eglise Saint-Ouen. When I was spending my year in Rouen, I lived in the middle of the city, near all these monuments (and near the train station). I was sort of adopted by the family of one of my students at the lycée where I was working, and my French became much more fluent that year.


  1. Rouen looks beautiful. I never made it there. I didn't know it was so close to Paris.

    1. Rouen is only 70 miles from Paris as the crow flies. It is a beautiful city, with many maisons à colombages.

  2. That's funny--Rouen was one of my first trips beyond Paris (I think my first was Reims and then Rouen).
    The first thing I think of with Rouen is that it's where Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake.

  3. As every day, I'm really amazed at the quality of these photos, when you think they're twenty years old! Of course, processing them with Photoshop helps, but still...

  4. I had no idea that Richard the Lionhearted's heart was in that cathedral!! I'm in my Plantagenet-Capet unit right now, in French 3, so I'll be sure and add this tidbit in :)

  5. I loved my meal at La Couronne!

  6. I spent three days by myself in Rouen a while back. What a great city.


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