A day out in Rouen

After our mammoth long drive on Saturday we’ve stayed for two nights in Rouen, Upper Normandy.

We picked Rouen because our original plan was to head further down into the Loire Valley. But, the sun has not been kind to much of France, especially Upper Normandy and the Pays de Loire, and so, instead, we will go on to Brittany from here. Chasing the sun.

However, we only had a vague idea of what there is to do in Rouen; I can’t honestly say we spent a long time pouring over guides to the city, nor did we have a full itinerary. So this is a report on our day, and not necessarily what might be the best things to do in Rouen! Do as you will, not as we did!

First of all we knew we wanted to see the Gros Horloge, and wandered there, along the Seine, from our hotel via streets with buildings wobbling and tipping side to side all around us.

church rouen normandy
square of buildings wattle and daub rouen normandy france
We popped in and out of churches, admired amazing gargoyles, and saw some really tame birds in a little garden.

We passed the Joan of Arc museum, which is an incredible building – a feat of architectural design. The windows look like eyes, the roof comes down to the ground at one point like a crocodile mouth, and there’s a part that looks like a whale tail. So strange, so interesting and bizarre! Toilets are free here, but the building was closed when we were passing. The roof is twisted and there are so many strange shapes. Crazy cool!


There’s a market attached, with gorgeous fresh produce, seafood and cheeses. Lunch o’clock!

Next we passed the Gros Horloge, which was closed as we passed but apparently gives great views of the city.

gros horloger rouen normandyThen we popped into the Notre Damme de Rouen.

This place was bombed during the Second World War, and James and I looked at the photos of the damage, and subsequent reconstruction, together. There then followed some difficult conversation While I tried to explain what a war is and why they kill people in a fight that damaged buildings and lives.


With their full bellies and having endured a 11.5 hour day travelling yesterday, the boys slept. And slept. And slept. So Rob and I fantasised about what we’d do while they were asleep. Should we go to a bar and watch the world go by while we enjoyed a beer? Should we buy a ridiculously chocolatly cake we’d never let the boys share? No. Instead we took advantage of our quiet time by erm, visiting the Aître Saint-Mclou.

This quiet, peaceful place has been used as a burial ground since the Roman times. They used to put the bodies in the centre and then cover them in quick lime. Later, when the body was decomposed, they’d move the bones into the buildings around the square. There are carvings in the wood of skulls and bones. Then back out into rainy Rouen.


Then, where else did we visit during our adult time? Ah, yes, Le Secq des Tournelles iron museum!


Over 14,000 items made of iron are housed in an old church, and a fascinating museum it is too. So many intricate keys, signs, and locks. In addition there are items for sewing, baskets for carrying snails (how very French!), as well as a bed and an iron curtain (no, not *the* iron curtain), among literally thousands of other pieces of ironwork.


I’m glad Noah woke up there because one of the words he’s picked up in the past week is “keys” and this gave him a great opportunity to practice his new vocabulary.

Finally we sauntered along the street to a café to pick up some tea, and then a walk back along the Seine to return to the hotel.

novotel suites rouen hotel play area in the lobby barOur hotel is Novotel Suites Rouen, and it is brilliant. There is a dedicated play area in the lobby bar, which is very well equipped and the boys loved it! Our hotel room was so well designed that it had me dreaming about changing our house in a similar style. There are two sleeping areas, a desk/table, and a little kitchen. Along with a full sized (deep, wonderful) bath and separate shower, this was a great place to start our vacation! The only thing I’d change would be to introduce a black out curtain between the two sleeping areas instead of the white voile there is now.

And now we are travelling to Mont Saint-Michel! Crazy trip, especially given the issues with fuel at the moment in France!

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