Rouen is the capital of Normandy and located on the River Seine. Being a port city, Rouen received its fair share of attention during WWII when more than 45% of its buildings were destroyed. It has recovered nicely and the medieval section of the city with its half timbered buildings is well worth seeing. There are few places in the world where you can eat in a building dating back to the 1400’s and only one where you can look over the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. You can do both in Rouen.
The Cathedral of Rouen dominates the city’s skyline and is an architectural marvel. I suggest bringing along binoculars so you can see all the details in the structure. Flamboyant gothic is the style, with an emphasis on flamboyant. The cathedral with its three towers inspired Monet sufficiently that he made over 30 paintings of the church. One of the towers is called the Tour de Beurre (The Butter Tower). In the Middle Ages, the consumption of butter was forbidden during Lent, but people could bypass the rule in exchange for a donation to the church. Evidently the people of Rouen liked their butter enough to finance a very impressive structure. The interior is grand with the best examples being the Booksellers’ Stairway and the rose window and organ located near the entry. The church also contains the sarcophagi of Richard I and Rollo, the Viking king whose success at fighting the Franks led to the creation of Normandy.
We left Rouen in the early afternoon for Jumieges and its wonderful abbey, sometimes called “the most beautiful ruin in France.” Located on one of the meanders in the Seine, the abbey was founded in the 7th century and is an excellent example of Norman Romanesque architecture. The weather was sunny and cool, which made the stroll around the grounds just a bit more wonderful.