Monday, July 24, 2017


A visit to Rouen has been on my "to see" list since our first trip in 2006.  We didn't make it then and it has been on every "to see" list since. I first became interested after seeing Monet's paintings of the fascade of Rouen Cathedral at different times of the day.

We finally made it to Rouen May 24,2017.  We took the train from Paris and arrived in Rouen in 45 minutes.The train station is just outside of the old city which is, primarily, a pedestrian area; cobblestoned with many timbered buildings.

Throughout history, Rouen has been an important city.  Located on the Seine river, it is a seaport.  It is also the capital of the Normandy region of France.

We opted to walk since it was downhill.  I had the small hand drawn map from Rick Steeve's Guide.  We followed it and first stopped at the Abbey of St. Ouen on the way to the Cathedral.  We passed by the Ceramics Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the Ironworks Museum, which was closed until the afternoon.

Abbey St. Ouen

The statue of Napolean stands in front of the Hotel de Ville (city hall); adjacent to the Abbaye St. Ouen.
Founded in 563, it was an important Benedictine monastery. The abbey was sacked, destroyed and rebuilt several times during France's violent history.  No longer a place of worship, it was listed as a historic monument in the 19th century.  Today it is used for concerts and exhibitions.

The nave is very tall (108 ft.), higher than Rouen Cathedral and it is very bright inside due to the 3 tiers of windows.  The monks wooden stalls have been maintained as well as the ironwork.   The stained glass dates to the 14th century.
This stained glass was above the door leading out to the cloister.

Outside the covered walkway is a remaining part of the original cloister.

The renowned organ is massive.  It is housed in oak and is said to be the finest in France.
From the Abbey we walked a couple blocks to the Cathedral, passing many timbered buildings.  Did I mention all the cobblestones?

That is the spire of Rouen Cathedral.

This is the spire of St. Maclou which is behind the Cathedral

I loved the variety of architecture.  The alleys and streets were narrow and you could just imagine what it was like in Medieval times. Below is a narrow passage between two streets. There were small,pretty courtyards in there!

Rouen Cathedral
There is a large square in front of the Cathedral where you can find the Tourist Information booth, souvenir shops and some really nice cafes.  The one we chose, Paul's, had the BEST croque madam.  Woody had chicken with cider sauce.  A very good lunch.  There was also one of those little trains that take you around the area.  It would have been perfect since I had Achilles tendonitis and walking was becoming difficult; but it was booked through the afternoon.

 There was a lot of exterior restoration going on.  The statues of the Apostles (and others) had been removed from the facade and were placed inside the Cathedral.

The nave is tall and the interior quite bright with all the tall stained glass windows. This is a side chapel.

We had seen a replica of this carved stone stairway at the Architecture Museum in Paris.  Awesome!

The pillars were massive while appearing light and delicate. I am always reminded of Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth when touring a gothic Cathedral.

I don't think I got the best photos of the stained glass.A tripod sure would help!  I would love to see one of these incredible windows created and installed.

After the Cathedral, I wanted to see the Plague Cemetery.  My feet were screaming and I didn't know how much more walking I was going to be to do.  The plague cemetery was close by. It was built at the time of the Black Plague in1348.  Three fourths of the St. Maclou parish died and the small church cemetery had no more room for the dead.   So another cemetery was created next to the church and the victims of the plague were buried in communal graves.  Later 4 galleries were built around the cemetery to create a central courtyard. Three of these galleries were used as an ossuary during a later plague.  The 4th gallery served as a school.

The eerie decorations on the gallery buildings included skulls, cross bones and  grave diggers tools. From the 18th century, burials were forbidden in town centers.

After the cemetery we began heading towards the train station.  We stopped at the Ironworks Museum that had been closed in the morning.  It was small, interesting and free.  The museum was housed in an abandoned church.

Notice on the wall what appears to be the original "Swiss army knife".

There were several display cases of keys. Some were extraordinarily large.

The Ironworks Museum was the end of our Rouen visit as I just couldn't walk anymore.  It was very disappointing because there was so much that we did not see; i.e. the Gros Horloge (large clock), covered market, Joan of Arc church and museum.  You could easily spend a day or two in Rouen.   Maybe next trip.

Monday, June 5, 2017

~Paris 9 May 2017~ DIJON

I  hope you aren't getting bored of hearing about Paris.  We decided on this visit rather spur of the moment. Woody had been checking airfares and when he showed me the price, I said "That's a no-brainer!"  So we are off on adventure #9.   Our stay was for 2 weeks~ May 11 to 26, one of our favorite times to go.  Spring and fall are the best.

We chose to stay in the 7th arrondissement again.

There is access to many of the iconic landmarks.  Our apartment is near the river and next to the Invalides.
(It is right under the "U" of Universite, right below the Quai d'Orsay.)  We had access to 10 bus lines. (That's a priority on our list now, right under an apt with elevator.)

I'll show photos of some of the highlights of the trip.  We took a 2 day side trip to Dijon, in the Burgundy region. We had a great tour of the wine growing area.  Evan, our guide, worked at a vineyard and is a wine connoisseur; we learned SO much. We also took a day trip to Rouen. Lastly, we attended an exhibition at the Grand Palais, titled Jardins.  I ventured out by myself one day and found the Musee Bourdelle.  It is the atelier of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.   I loved it and couldn't believe we hadn't been there before now.

So, let's start in Dijon.
We stayed at Hotel des Ducs which was in a prime location to see most of the sites in this town.  Our room could not have been smaller, but it was designed very efficiently and we had everything we needed.  Having a map, we headed out to find something to eat. We did not choose a great restaurant and had a very unmemorable meal.  We searched out Rue des Forges which is supposed to have many timbered houses...and it does!
You really feel like you are in Medival Europe walking down these cobblestone streets.

You can see the distinctive colorful ceramic tiled roofs found in the Burgundy region.  They were a status symbol when the buildings were built.  The designs and colors are striking.  We weren't far from the Notre Dame so we stopped there to get out of the rain.

This church dates to the 13th century.  The photo below was taken within the central portal.  The building has both Romanesque and Gothic features.

Unfortunately the interior was very dark.
The weather didn't help either~rain and low light.

Woody tried and tried to get some decent stained glass photos; but without a tripod they did not come out that well.

The Magic Owl of Dijon
It is not known when or who carved the owl into a corner of the church. It is dated to the 15 or 16th cent.
It is well worn because of a superstition that if you rub the owl with your left hand you will get your wish.   I didn't know  this until after we left Dijon.  I rubbed with my right hand.  The owl serves as a symbol of the city.  There is a self guided walking tour called the Owl Trail.   There are 22 plaques embedded in the walkways baring the image of the owl which marks a historical site.

In the center of the town there is the very large Place de la Liberation in front of the Palace of the Dukes. Built in the 14th century it was the seat of Burgundy power.  Today it houses the office of the Mayor of Dijon and also the Museum of Beaux-Arts.                              The guys in the photo are playing with the fountain; when they stand on one water spout, the water level in the others goes higher. Surrounding the Square are many cafes, great for people watching, and a few shops.
One day there was an environmental demonstration going on. They were mostly demonstrating against Monsanto.

The Musee des Beaux Arts has a large collection of Medieval Art and the entry is free.
I asked Woody to stand next to the swords to give perspective to their size.  I can't imagine how anyone could lift one of those. (I'm not sure what's going on with his expression.)

 The halberds were evil looking.  How many ways can you slay an enemy?  They looked like implements of torture and death to me.

Medieval Religious art has never really interested me, but these carved and gilded altar pieces were magnificent.  The detail in the intricate carving is unbelievable.

I took this photo because the piece was Limoges.  The colors were so vivid.

This is a replica of the Tombs of the Ducs.

The museum was interesting, well laid out, but due to extensive renovation many of the exhibits were not available for viewing.

Next we will be going on our Burgundy Wine Tour of the Cote d'Or and Cote de Nuits.