The charm of the day-5 port stop is the realism of Rouen. Streets bustle with the working class. Old buildings have been restored to function as a city hall, courthouse, or retail shop, not simply as monuments to the architecture they exude.
Five street scenes of Rouen should scroll automatically below.
Next, four pairs of street scenes with building details highlighted.
Rouen was given the nickname “The City of 100 Spires.” The apex of the most famous and tallest cathedral soars nearly 500 feet.
Language is difficult, so I’ll return to tour topics.
Where was I? Oh, Rrroo-ahh-uuggh.
Rouen, population 110,000, is historic and vibrant, the capital of Normandy, and relevant to our themes. It took a bunch of gut punches during WW-II.
The invading Nazi armies were not deterred when Rouenians (I made a longer word from a word I already could not pronounce!) destroyed their own town’s bridges over the River Seine.
Civilian rifles combatted German tanks in an unfair firefight. There was more fire than fight. Handfuls of blocks, starting at the river, burned toward the city center. Nearly 1000 structures were destroyed before the soldiers released firefighters to save the stunning cathedral.
Also destructive was liberation conflict in 1944. “The Red Week” or “la Semaine Rouge” in May rained Allies bombs on the railroad-centric city until it was rendered red with the blazes of buildings razed in fire and blood of civilian casualties.
The great cathedral was damaged but survived and locals feel that is just one of their miracles.
In Rouen Cathedral, there is homage to the past long before WW-II.
Guide Estelle explains how the French Resistance was active here, cutting supply lines and communications to thwart the occupiers and aid the D-Day invasion.
Another Rouen cathedral has its own story of fire. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431, and a modern cathedral in her name sits at that very site in this city. Stained glass windows saved from older churches, a ceiling conjuring the Viking ships that once roamed here, and modern architecture are highlights.
The day spent in Rouen was terrific because it connected many concepts. Monet painted images of the Cathedral; World War was waged; history flared here in the 900s, the 1400s, and the 1900s.
There isn’t the glitz and glam of Paris, nor the epic “where it all began” sense of Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach. It is realism, except through the eyes and on the canvases of Monet … but that’s his impression.
The ship continued up-river in the direction of Paris, passing towns, churches, and limestone cliffs every day.
Aboard the Tapestry II, Captain Rudy guides the ship, greets everyone coming and going for tours, plus takes questions in the wheelhouse. Hailing from a Rouen family of sailors, the man in charge is a top nominee for “River Cruise Captain Of All Time” – should there be such an award. “Man, this man is non-stop!” (Last Hamilton quotation for this post.)
He does windows(!) joining his crew with bucket and squeegee to clean from the ledge as the ship rose in a lock. This night he surprises all, in his formal jacket with captain’s stripes, taking the microphone from a guest singer (also from Rouen) and crooning tunes with aplomb.