I’ve been here for two and a half months, and I feel that I’ve seen a good amount of Paris. There will always been more museums to visit, restaurants to try, and neighborhoods to explore, plus I have an ever growing list of everything I have yet to do here, but I’m feeling antsy to venture beyond Paris. Yesterday after class, my Norwegian friend Nikoline and I walked over to Gare St. Lazare, bought tickets to Rouen, and hopped on the next train out of the station. Neither of us really had any idea what Rouen is or what there is to do there. The only reason we had chosen Rouen was because a couple days earlier we were standing in front of a painting by Monet in Musee d’Orsay, one from his series on the effects of light and season on the Rouen Cathedral.
During the train ride, we read up on the town, situated just an hour and a half from Paris, that we were escaping to see. What we learned: Rouen dates back to the Middle Ages when it was inhabited by dukes and surrounded by a stone wall, Joan of Arc was tortured in Rouen, and it is a city in the region of Normandy, which neither of us had ever been to.
The quaint architecture made it hard to believe Rouen was just a hop away from Paris. I’m almost certain that the town was built so that no matter where you’re standing, you’ll be able to see a church’s gothic spear rising into the sky. We first went to the “keep” where Joan of arc was tortured in 1431 that still had remnants of its dry moat. This tower was one of many that guarded over the city of Rouen almost 1,000 years ago. Next, we saw the famous Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen (the one painted by Monet), and despite the renovations being done on part of the exterior, we were in awe of the grandeur and magnificence of such a cathedral resting in this quiet little city of France.
And if you’re wondering what language we spoke, it was english. I do speak French with most of my friends at EF, apart from a few exceptions. Nikoline is really a beginner in French and if we had spent the whole day trying to converse in French, it would have been an extremely quiet day! On the other hand, her english is basically perfect (as she informed me, apparently everyone in Norway learns english), so our day was not quiet at all but actually quite the opposite!