Wednesday, 21 March 2012


A couple of weeks ago, my mum and a friend of hers came to visit and, after a couple of days, when they had pounded the streets of Paris and were all museum-ed out, we decided to go to Rouen for a day trip. Rouen is about 100km, or several meanders of the Seine, from Paris but in some ways it felt like half a world away.

The first foreign experience was driving to within 5 minutes' walk of the city centre and the cathedral and finding a parking space. One that I could drive into with no reverse manoeuvres required. And it was free.

We'd been walking around for about twenty minutes when a glance at the clock reawakened my old provincial fear of not being able to find anywhere to get lunch on a Sunday, as it was after two, so we made a bee-line for the nearest restaurant, La Walsheim on Rue Martainville. We were greeted by about 6 busy but friendly waiters (culture shock again!) and got a table straight away. By pure chance, we seemed to have stumbled upon the best Sunday lunch venue in town. Not being desperately hungry, we all had salads, but it's definitely a place I would go back to with a bigger appetite, as most of our neighbours were eating enormous plates of choucroute , Norman specialities and other delicacies. It was also the first place in 4 days that was able to serve my poor mum a cup of coffee that she could actually drink (she is not a big fan of espresso or very milky coffee and the idea of adding a bit of hot water to ordinary French coffee was a bit beyond the Parisian waiters we encountered.)

After lunch, we went out to visit the cathedral and the medieval streets around it. Rouen cathedral is gorgeous: tall and elegant with delicately carved stonework.

Plaques nearby remind visitors the trial of Joan of Arc.

I also liked the tombs of Richard the Lionheart and his brother, complete with Lions, and the statue of Saint Peter complete with a massive key to open the pearly gates.

By the time we had seen all of that, we had forgotten about dear old Joan and forgot to go and see the giant cross that commemorates her being burned. Mum and her friend were disappointed but I wasn't - I can always use it as an excuse to go back for a sneaky Sunday lunch at the Walsheim.

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