6 November 2014

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France

I love Paris. Love, love, love it, but one of my favourite French holidays involved actually leaving my favourite cream and grey arrondissements, and hail a train into the countryside for a rambly day trip. After a last minute dash and several very grateful merci's to the train guards (who could obviously spot the lost and confused tourists a mile away) my Mother and I settled into the double decker train (which still amazes me, I don't know why)  watched the hazy green country side ramble past us.

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Tumbling out of the fairly non-descript train station completely mapless and more than slightly clueless we parked ourselves in a small cafe to enjoy a steaming coffee and fresh pain au chocolat. At one point we looked at each other very smugly as if to say 'huh, look at us intrepid travellers. Thousands of miles from home, and fitting in to a provincial French town'.

The capital city of Normandy, Rouen was at one point one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe. Self-governing and one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, there is a beauty to the buildings; a hint of the Parisian majesty but with a far more relaxed atmosphere.

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France - Adventures of a London Kiwi
The present Gothic Cathedral of Rouen, complete with Tour de Beurre (butter tower) financed by the sale of butter during Lent
We weren't (for once, I am a Church addict after all) visiting for the beautiful Gothic Cathedral, but entranced at the thought of  discovering the history associated with Joan of Arc - Rouen is the town she was brought to when accused of witchcraft, and subsequently burnt at the stake.

Born to a farming family, Joan claimed to have visions of divine figures who instructed her to drive the maundering English out of France. Illiterate, and incredibly young, Joan donned men's clothing making her way to the French court of the embattled crown prince Charles of Valois, and inspired the demoralised French army to win a momentous victory at Burgundy. After seeing the prince crowned King Charles VII, Joan was captured by Anglo-Burgundian forces, tried for witchcraft and heresy (amongst 70 other crimes she was accused for) and eventually burnt at the stake in the English strong-hold of Rouen.

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France - Adventures of a London Kiwi

In the town centre (it was all of 20 minutes walk side to side) stands a modern monument to the Sainted martyr. We wandered through the crisp autumn air, marvelling at this slice of European history, so raw and almost tangible. Outside the fluid grey building is tiled in undulating layers of slate grey tile, but inside...

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France - Adventures of a London Kiwi

...honey coloured ceilings curve the eye through the building to full height stained glass windows.

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France - Adventures of a London Kiwi

That's the beauty of travelling. You never quite know what you'll discover.

It was a lovely day trip, full of silent moments, chattering coffee mugs and wandering. There are a handful of churches, museums and Rouen Castle (rumored to be the holding place for Joan of Arc in her year of imprisonment - though I believe it's been disproved now.)

Joan of Arc and Rouen, France - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Sometimes throwing the map away simply makes for a wonderful way to explore - do you?

8 comments :

  1. I love learning about Joan of Arc, or Jeanne D'Arc, she was my hero when I was a little girl, I thought she was so brave.

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  2. I also loved Joan of Arc when I was little. She was one of the few female historical badasses that girls actually learned about in school x

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  3. I went to Normandy with my school when I was about 10. We saw the Bayeux Tapestry, that was incredible.
    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

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  4. This is so great! I am such an over-planner when it comes to vacations, but there is something so much fun about just wandering and discovering. I may have to take your advice and just go out and explore!

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  5. What a lovely post! I absurdly adored visiting Rouen and your stories and photographs bought it all back for me!

    Carly xo

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  6. throwaway the map! i totally agree. i mean, keep it around because you don't want to end up in the middle of a city in the dark and tired and cold without one (that might have happened one time....) but other than that, i like to let the sites guide me. also, i'm with you with the double-decker train awe!

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  7. I really want to explore more of France, picking a stop on a train might be a good idea. Or just starting off with this place, it looks like it's got loads to offer!

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  8. When I'm alone, I better hang onto that map! But if I'm with someone else, throwing the map away and wandering is one of my favorite things to do. Love that shot of the light on the ceiling, by the way. Gorgeous colors.

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