We met Dominique and Laurence at the winery in Sauterne, sharing something in common. We all had nothing left in our tasting glasses when everyone else were pouring their remnants into the spittoon, ready for the next wine sampling.
They kindly invited us to their home town Rouen, if we had time. While in Paris, we hopped on a fast train and arrived in just over an hour.
We discovered Rouen is positively dripping in history.
Our hosts skillfully guided us through the ancient streets…
past Rouen Castle (1204) where Joan of Arc was tried…
into the striking Church of Saint Joan of Arc (1979) with the roof looking like an upturned viking boat…
with stained glass windows rescued from other churches…
across to the small garden marking the exact spot Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. The place with the flags being the oldest inn (auberge) in France (1345) so its customers would have witnessed Joan’s pyre in 1431…
then under the arch containing oldest clock in France (1389).
then they played their trump card. It sprang into jaw-dropping view..its scale
and detail …
the Rouen Cathedral (1035).
Scene of Claude Monet’s heroic renderings (1892-1894) that somehow eschew the detail and just capture its reflected light. I can’t imagine a more difficult task as a painter.
and the whole structure itself surviving multiple hurricanes, fires , lighting strikes and wars including bombings by both sides in WWII.
Richard the Lionheart’s heart is here too, when England lorded it over this part of France.
To cap it off and bring us rushing starkly up to more recent times, the WWII damage to the façade of the Palais de Justice, a reminder of yet another conflict this city has suffered. It is deliberately and pointedly not being repaired.
After this harrowing crescendo, we repaired to a crêperie to try and make sense of man’s ability to build magnificently one minute then destroy then next.
So thank you nos nouveaux amis , Dominique et Laurence, for a fascinating day and allowing us to look into your world. Merci très bien.
Au revoir pour le moment.