07 February 2019
Rouen: 1998 photos, 1972 memories
Meanwhile, I needed a place to live in Rouen, of course. The lycée let me stay in a room in the school, which had dormitories for students who were boarders, for a few weeks at the beginning of the year while I looked for an apartment I could afford to rent. I couldn't afford much.
Here's another view of the lycée, showing the main entrance.
In 1972, before Thanksgiving, one of my students told me after class that his mother wanted to invite me over to dinner at his house. I accepted, of course. When I got there, Mme S. and her husband invited me in. Their oldest son, my student, ate at the table too. He had two younger siblings who were called out in their pajamas to meet me and then say goodnight to everyone. Monsieur S. was a very opinionated man. I remember him asking me to tell him who had actually assassinated our President John Kennedy. It told him I didn't know, and that I didn't think anybody really knew. This was stretching my French. Monsieur S. immediately told me he already knew who killed Kennedy, and he'd be glad to clue me in. I don't remember what his theory was — what he said seemed far-fetched. He also pointed out that even it was what I wanted to drink with dinner, he did not allow Coca-Cola to be consumed at his diner table. I hadn't asked for any, actually, and I far preferred mineral water and red wine with my dinner.
Every time I walked from my Rouen apartment to the lycée, I passed by this old leftover donjon of the long-demolished Château de Rouen. It's called the Tour Jeanne-d'Arc. It's popularly believed to be the tower in which Joan of Arc was held prisoner before she was burned at the stake in Rouen in the early 1400s, but many historians doubt the accuracy of that belief.
At Thanksgiving 1972, Mme S. came to my apartment one day and brought me a turkey. She had heard of the American holiday and knew I wouldn't be able to find a turkey in the markets or shops of Rouen, and probably understood that I couldn't afford one anyway. She had ordered the bird from her butcher. The next time I was invited for dinner, a few weeks later, Mme S. was there but not Monsieur. I learned that they were in fact separated and she had asked him to come for the first dinner just for the sake of appearances. I was sort of glad he wasn't in the picture, and I ended up forming a friendship with Mme S. and her children that included weekly dinners, sessions of card-playing, and trips to places like Deauville, Dieppe, and even Reims (in Champagne), which was her home town. My French started quickly to improve.
I hope this isn't all too confusing, with memories from 1972 along with photos from 1998. I didn't have a camera when I lived in Rouen nearly 50 years ago. However, over the past dozen years, I've posted a lot of photos of Rouen scenes and landmarks on this blog (link).