Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Day whatever, first stop Rouen.
We're up before dawn this morning for a 2 hour bus trip to the Somme Battlefields.
Today's writings though are about tracing the steps of Jeanne D'Arc in the city of Rouen as we did yesterday.
We had arrived here the evening before and our tour organiser had explained to us about the birthplace and death place of Joan of Arc, also known as Jeanne D'Arc.
I was a trifle disappointed yesterday as we docked at what appeared to be a very industrial part of the city with a huge fairground over the road, fully equipped with a Mighty Mouse, Ferris wheel and other amusements. I had thought we might have to contend with squeals and sideshow music thought the night but the fair is only just setting up and besides, I have come to realise that once our cabin doors are closed, no sound appears to penetrate so I am more than happy.
The morning offers us a beautiful still river with early clouds floating overhead beautifully reflected on the glassy surface.
Despite the carnival on the opposite bank.
Following yet another substantial breakfast, we are off on a walk through the city with a local tour guide and she takes us initially to Rouen's Notre Dame Cathedral which was partially destroyed during the Second World War. Some buildings still to this day remain in disrepair which is tragic given the date of their origins but many have been restored post wars and it is obvious.
The cathedral itself has received numerous bombings from both sides of the warring countries in their attempts to destroy the town's communication facilities but like all good catholic towns the main cathedral has been repaired as quickly as it could be. There are 100+ cathedrals in this town but we are guided through the main cathedral with its light filled towers. There are areas where the stained glass has not been repaired but where it is still intact, the colours are vivid especially when the sun shines through.
I manage to sneeze in the church as we are are sitting, listening to our guide describe the politics around 1600 AD history of the area. The sound reverberated throughout the church so I am aware why people talk in hushed tones as sound carries throughout and secrets can be heard at opposite areas of this church with its vaulted ceilings, if people are not careful.
We soon leave this place and marvel at the detailed construction of the facade out the front.
We then traverse along cobblestone streets which were created hundred upon hundreds of years ago looking into closed shops (unfortunate for us women with itchy purses) but much to the relief of our partners and husbands.
The photographic opportunities are endless here also and it is halfway through this walking tour that my camera battery decides to give up yet again. What is it with me and batteries I wonder.
Murray and I make a pledge to return here this afternoon to photograph certain aspects I have missed out on this morning.
The discussion turns then to Jeanne D'Arc and we are shown 'her' church and where she was held prisoner for a time and I cannot but wonder if my shoes walked where she walked so many years ago.
There was a farmers market happening in the square in front of us so we take a look there as they are beginning to set up for the day. This Rouen Farmers Market occurs once a year for this particular weekend so once again we are blessed to be here at the right time. Many are dressed in period costume, women in long white dresses with red scarves and men in pantaloons and white shirts with blue or red cummerbunds.
There is food to be sampled and fermented cider to be drunk and some of it is free and people are encouraged to help themselves to samples. I had a delicious doughnut pastry with a sweet white sauce inside. Delicious doesn't begin to describe the flavours that greet me as I place it in my mouth.
We then decided to return back to the boat after Murray bought some macaroons in one of the specialty patisserie shops to give to our entertainment tour guide who had expressed a love for these typically French melt in mouth meringue biscuits, previously.
Another option this morning as well as our walking tour was to travel to a macaroon factory where that group were given opportunity to make their own individual macaron. Alas there are no samples when we return (me thinks they ate 'em all on the bus on the way home!).
Yet another lunch (which you think you don't have appetite for until you're confronted by all that wonderful food), not to mention my now customary glass of white wine and it's time to venture forth again into the city, this time sans tour guide.
We got back to the cathedral, retracing our steps with a photo bomb by a French gent who thought he was très amusant and returned to the farmers market which which was by now jam packed with people. There were buskers and families and farmers selling their wares. So difficult not to buy fruit and vegetables that looked like they were fresh from the earth here but we did buy some biscuits the vendor assured me were very crunchy...making funny sounds with his mouth as he did.
We decided to return home once it began to rain and walked through a flea market as we did.
I know now flea markets in France are very similar to flea markets in Australia where people sell as much trash and treasure as they can and people try to barter to get the lowest price possible.
There are clothes and shoes and hats, even wigs, makeup, jewellery, crockery and various other items that had seen better days.
We made it back to our boat in time for Murray's now traditional siesta before dinner and my hair appointment with the onboard hair stylist who did a great job on washing cutting and straightening my hair despite lacerating his thumb with his previous client.
Back into the lounge for a chat with some of our new found friends then our entertainment guide comes in to discuss tomorrow's events which for the majority of we tourists will be quite emotional.
We are off to the Australian-French War Museum, Villers-Bretonneux and the Somme Battlefields tomorrow and it is to be an all day experience so our guide talks about the options for travelling and what we will see on the day.
Following on from there is a discussion regarding the impressionists of the 19th. Century including Monet, Renoir, Manet and Van Gogh to name but a few for those who elect an Impressionism Exhibition and museum instead of the First World War component.
Once again, another grandiose dinner is eaten by us all, then it's off to bed for the majority as I don't know about anyone else, but by the end of each day, I am becoming more and more weary.