A weekend in Rouen, Normandy's capital city

Back in July Simon and I met us with friends in Rouen for a weekend of catching up and sightseeing. Rouen in the capital city of the region of Normandy which was formed in 2016 when the old regions of Haute Normandie and Basse Normandie were combined.  It is in the Seine Maritime département and situated on the River Seine. 

Before we visited we knew it was the city where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, we know it had an imposing cathedral as we had seen that when driving past on our way to Paris and we were aware it had a posh clock!  Other than that we were pretty much unaware of what we were going to find.  Were we disappointed? No!  Rouen is a gorgeous city full of half timbered buildings bordering narrow streets and numerous large churches/abbeys, evidence of its prosperity during the Middle Ages.   The posh clock is in fact an astronomical clock, le gros horlorge, which has a mechanism dating back to 1389. It is built in a Renaissance arch over the Rue du Gros-Horloge, which begs the question what the road was called before the clock was built?!

Le Gros Horlorge, Rouen,Normandy

Food buffs will love the wide range of restaurants from across the globe (we ate French, Indian and Algerian cuisine during our trip).  If you are a cat lover, like us, then you should not miss Rouen's famous cat café: Café Moustache.  Some of Rouen's street cats live here whilst waiting to be re-homed.  Unlike traditional cat refuges these lucky felines take priority with possibly more cat beds than human tables and chairs and a crazy array of high walkways, bridges and tunnels for their entertainment  ... and that of the café's human customers!

Cat Café, Rouen, Normandy

There are so any photos online of Rouen's streets I thought I would add some pictures of some different things that caught my eye over the weekend.  In the Tourist Office (opposite the cathedral) I chuckled when I saw you could buy Normandy versions of both Monopoly and Trivial Pursuits and of course there were plenty of Heula products.  Heula produces a range of goods such as clothes, computer accessories, stationary, foods and post cards, all celebrating the food, architecture, history, countryside and weather of Normandy complete with a very healthy dollop of Norman humour!  Rain and umbrellas feature a lot as well as cows, apples and tractors. 

Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, Normandy style

Heula Normandy post cards

For a moment away from the bustling city streets a visit to the gardens around the Abbaye de Saint-Oban will provide a moment for quiet contemplation ... or some exercise in the outdoor gym should that be what you are looking for.  Simon was however rather disappointed that the sign he saw allegedly warning of falling beer {bierres} was in fact meant to warm of falling stones {pierres}. He was most disappointed!

The garden of the Abbaye de Saint-Oban, Rouen, Normandy

OUtdoor Gym in Rouen, Normandy

Is is peierres or bierres at risk of falling?

At the end of our weekend we were both surprised and happy to find somewhere totally unexpected to rest our tired feet - a beach!  Each summer a section of the bank of the River Seine is turned into a beach and activity area - anyone can take advantage of the free deckchairs and parasols and children will enjoy playing in the clean and surprisingly deep sand.  There are also organised sports and activities for youngsters and a café.  

Beach next to the River Seine in Rouen, Normandy

If, however, I had to recommend just one thing to see in Rouen it would absolutely have to be the Light Show at the cathedral.  Every evening through the summer and early autumn you can have your breath taken away by the most spectacular light and sound show, using the front facade of the cathedral as its stage.  I had imagined something along the lines of those kaleidoscopes we had as children but I was vastly underestimating what we were shown. Every aspect of the Gothic cathedral was used: we saw enormous candles appear in each window, Crusaders scaling the wall, using each ledge with uncanny realism and most amazing of all, a giant serpent sliding in and out of the doors and window. Stunning. Just stunning. If you are in Rouen when the light show happens do not miss it.

Rouen Cathedral Light Show
Rouen in just under 2 hours from the gite so definitely possible for a day trip. Alternatively, you might do better to add a couple of days there to the beginning  or end of your stay here so you can take in this glorious show and all Rouen has to offer.  We didn't get to visit any of the musems and there were more gardens to enjoy but we simply did not have time.  We will have to go back again and see what winders the light show will give us on a return trip.

Have you visited Rouen and or do you know anywhere else that does a similar light show?  Apparently Bayeux does something similar and at just 45 minutes from the gite this is on our to do list.

A week-end in Rouen

Suitcases and Sandcastles