On this day I departed on a 2 day tour of the Normandy region of France. The first day was particularly full so I’m going to split it into two parts.
The day started really early, the group piled onto the bus around 7am for the 2 hour trek to Rouen. Our guide took us on a tour through the Rouen Cathedral. We exited out the back and into a medieval alleyway. The half timbered buildings reminded me a lot of Germany. We wound through the alley and past the Gros Horloge (yay another astronomical clock!), then made our way to the Church of Saint Joan of Arc. The church was completed in 1979 in the center of the ancient market square. This is the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431. I scoffed at how “new” the building was and from outside it doesn’t look like much. Architecturally interesting but so new in comparison to most of the religious structures in the city. The guide encouraged us to step inside. That is when we learned the many of the stained glass windows came from the 16th century Church of Saint Vincent. The old church was almost completely destroyed in 1944 during World War II, but the windows had been removed and stored in a safe location during the war.
We had enough free time for several of us to find a bakery, some coffee, and a toilet before boarding the bus. Our next stop, the harbor town of Honfleur. Along the way we learned about bocage and thatched roofs. Bocage are trees and bushes planted to define property lines and protect their harvests from wind. These natural boundaries caused some issues for Allied forces during WWII, bogging them down resulting in far more casualties than suffered on the nearby beaches. Along the way I also learned that they plant tulips and other plants in their thatched roofs. This was a very creative way to keep the thatching from blowing away as well as helping to prevent fires.
It was an adorable little village. The guide walked us in to town and gave us a brief tour of Saint Catherine’s Church before setting us free for lunch and shopping. The church is a vaulted wooden structure erected by shipbuilders beginning in the mid-1400s. The ceiling of the church bears a striking resemblance to a hull of a ship. It was uniquely beautiful. I roamed through the market and looked in the windows of several galleries. A store full of caramels caught my eye so I stepped in a bought a small package. As much as I love chocolate I’ve avoided it because its just not going to survive my travels.
The caramels were tempting me so I thought I should get some lunch. I stopped at a little bakery and bought some kind of salmon quiche. One of the fun and sometimes frightening things about traveling is not knowing for sure what you’re ordering/eating. It tasted good but didn’t really sit right.
I bumped in to several people from the tour bus and we wandered the streets as a group, stopped to take photos and buy snacks on the way back to the bus. All loaded up we were heading off to what I considered to be the highlights of the day, the Beaches of Normandy.