Day One in Rouen

Since it is impossible to sum up our road trip through Brittany in a blog post or two, I decided to do completely separate blog posts. I’m still not sure how many posts that will amount to but for now, let’s start with Rouen. Our first stop was the capital of Normandy. On the last day of May, we headed to Rouen by car. Since I’m halfway through my driving theory book (in French), Grégory did all the driving. After endless fields of wheat and barley that practically line the French highways, we finally reached Rouen just in time for lunch. Expecting it to be a big city, we were surprised at how soon it felt familiar. Since we mostly focused on the old town of Rouen, we never felt overwhelmed in any way. We explored everything of interest to us and nothing felt rushed.

Half-timbered houses in Rouen
Woman walking next to half-timbered houses in Rouen

After grabbing a quick bite, we slowly began discovering the city. More importantly to me, we paid a visit to the imposing cathedral of Rouen. I spent so much time studying this Gothic church back in college due to its architectural and sculptural importance. Being able to see it with my own eyes felt surreal. I still can’t wrap my head around it! She was a beauty, still standing after all these centuries. Even after all the fires, WWII bombings, and lightning strikes. She sure went through a lot!

Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Rouen
Cathedral in Rouen

After a quick visit to the Saint-Maclou church, we visited the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles. Housed inside a 16th-century church, it is a fascinating museum dedicated to wrought ironwork. It was intriguing to see so many different objects painstakingly designed to the smallest detail. We took it easy since we still had two more days in Rouen so that evening we cooked a lovely dinner together at our Airbnb. Later on though, we decided to check out earlier than planned and visit Étretat on the last day. That left us with only one full day in Rouen.

Day Two

Thanks to the slow evening we had the first day, we were able to get up early the next day. A quick stop at the local bakery and by 6:30 AM, we were already in the old town. I was eager to see the Gros Horloge of Rouen early in the morning. Since it’s in a busy pedestrian street, I wanted to cherish it in quiet for just a little bit. It dates back to 1389 and it is a beautifully detailed astronomical clock. The adjacent belfry provides you with the history of the clock. And at the very top of it, you can see a panorama of the entire city!

Woman walking down the street of Le Gros Horloge in Rouen

Following more walking around the city, the temperatures slowly started to reach summer highs. So we decided to settle down at Maître Corbeau for a cold salad lunch. With our bellies full, we set off for more walking. However, we took a two-hour break at the Airbnb because of the high temperatures. Our apartment was close to the center, which was convenient for spontaneous breaks. We could just pop into the city whenever we felt like it! And we did, for coffee, an antique bookstore, and discovering hidden parks.

Half-timbered houses in Rouen

One last visit to the city and we ticked off everything on our list. When it comes to Rouen, what I was mostly interested in was the old town architecture. Therefore, I mostly pinned various streets around the city. They were such lovely examples of half-timbered houses dating from the 13th to the 18th century. It goes without saying that the entire time we were wondering how any of those houses are still standing. And I was dying to know what their interiors looked like!

Half-timbered houses in Rouen
Old buildings next to a tree

All in all, the two days we spent in Rouen were more than enough for a relaxing visit. It was a short but pleasant visit to a city with impressive architecture. I’ll fondly remember those early morning walks in the sun. When the only other people we met were the ones preparing their stalls at food markets. And stumbling upon a church every 500 meters. I would heartily recommend it for a longer or shorter stay. It’s definitely a good base for visiting the rest of Normandy. For us though, it was time to slowly head to Brittany. But first, one quick stop in Étretat. More on that in the next blog post!

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