In deference to Marie-Françoise and Roland having driven more than 750 km yesterday, our plan for today was a short trip to Rouen, about 25 km away. Consequently there was no rush to get away. We were up soon after 7:00 am and noticed the rain had been enough to cause the open skylights to close automatically but it was well after 8:00 am before we sat down to breakfast.
After breakfast we moved slowly to prepare for our day out. It was approaching 10:00 am by the time we drove out and we arrived in central Rouen about 20 minutes later. Our main target was the cathedral and the nearby exhibition about Joan of Arc. As we entered the city I reset the GPS for the cathedral and we began to look for parking. There were signs indicating that a car park near the cathedral had space but Majella spotted an entry to an underground parking lot before we got to the cathedral and down she went into the Palais de Justice parking station. Having parked, we emerged on foot out of sight of any recognisable landmarks and it took us a few minutes to get our bearings and set off for the cathedral. We were lucky that the rain had ceased some time earlier and held off until much later in the day.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l’Assomption de Rouen is huge. It was consecrated in 1063, in the time of William the Conquerer, before he conquered England and when he was just plain William the Bastard. It has been added to over the centuries and is still undergoing restoration work to remedy damage it suffered during World War II. There would have been damage from bombardment of surrounding areas but it took direct hits from 7 bombs when a British raid could not reach its assigned target and dropped the bombs on Rouen. Many of the statues that adorned the front of the building have been taken down and placed within the cathedral as the restoration work proceeds and the steeple is shrouded in scaffolding to support work there.
When we went inside I was struck by the height of the vaulted ceiling. I think it may be the highest I have seen. It certainly was impressive in its height and in the length of the nave. Many of the stained glass windows were destroyed and there are some post-war replacements in a more modern style but some of the more traditional pieces remain. It is a very impressive building and a reminder of the random destruction that results from conflict.
After spending 45 minutes or so exploring the cathedral we moved out and down the nearby street to the historical display about Jeanne d’Arc. It is an audiovisual presentation spread over multiple spaces and levels in what used to be the episcopal palace. The audio is in French but there are headsets provided with translations. The presentation recounts the story of Joan, her original trial in 1431 and the posthumous retrial in 1456 that overturned the original verdict that resulted in her death by burning. It is an intriguing story and the presentation concluded with an account of how the story has influenced the people and history of France in the centuries since.
By the time we had finished there it was close to 1:30 pm and we were looking for lunch. Majella declined the first suggestion from Marie-Françoise because she is over galettes and crêpes. We walked through some of the streets featuring old buildings that have survived for centuries, including an impressive clock, and finished in a simple bar where Majella and I had baguette sandwiches and Marie-Françoise and Roland had croque monsieur. We had decided by then that we could have a simple lunch and think about going out for dinner.
After lunch we walked back to the Office de Tourisme on the cathedral square where Majella picked up a map for a walk through the medieval area of the city. We set off on that walk and meandered through a series of city streets. There were some interesting old buildings and some sections that seemed neglected. The most interesting sight along the way was the church dedicated to Joan of Arc. It was built in the 1970s in a modern style with a striking roofline and colourful stained glass. The shape of the roof and the curved timber ribs of the ceiling were designed to represent the flames of Joan’s execution. Toward the end of the walk we came back to the Palais de Justice which was also undergoing restoration work, visible on some high sections where the limestone had been cleaned and gleamed even in the dull light of an overcast day. On the lower walls near where we walked we could see pock marks presumably caused by stray munitions in the war.
It was after 3:30 pm by the time we found our car in the large parking lot and Majella was able to navigate the tight turns to exit. We headed back toward Croisy sur Andelle. Not long after we left the car park it began to rain and persisted quite heavily all the way back and beyond the time when we were back to La Ferme du Manoir and comfortably settled inside.
The rain was enough that we rethought plans for going out for dinner. Instead Majella decided to use the tabletop raclette set that Marie-Françoise had brought as a gift. It was powered by 4 tea light candles and worked well enough for the four of us. Melted cheese was served with the cooked potatoes from the Buchy market warmed in a pan and a salad. We had red wine but lacked the gherkins that are part of traditional Swiss raclette. Dessert was the remnant of the blackberry sauce from last night served with cherries in eau de vie de cidre from Lamalle, crackly caramel, and cream. For a meal determined by what we had at hand it was very good.
As we were finishing dinner about 7:00 pm the sun came out. After we had cleared up we went out for a walk around the gardens. We saw, but did not meet, Igor the Newfoundland out for his evening walk with the person taking care of the estate while our hosts are away for the week. We also saw the chickens, ducks and geese being rounded up for the night. They are very much free range.
So ended another day on our travels. Once again the weather varied across the day but did not prevent us from doing anything we had planned.