Le Havre & Rouen, France
Jun 9, 2008
We made it back to France this morning after two days at sea. It was very nice and relaxing, having almost nothing we had to do, and all day to do it. We spent
A lot of time trying to find our way to the next trivia game or demo and of course, wine tasting – they do a really good job of it here. Saturday was really pretty choppy; the ship was going up & down when we were in the Atlantic. Once we hit the Bay of Biscay things settled down. Kit almost won another cruise playing BINGO, but just missed it by just one #. Sunday night was the last formal night – I’ve had to wear a tie more in the last 2 weeks than in the last 2 years! We heard there was a 6.1 or 6.2 quake in Greece, but we only get the London CNN and they don’t go into detail unless it’s sports, so we don’t know really where it hit. It’s kind of weird since we were just there two weeks ago.
Now, on to Le Havre and Rouen. We docked early and had to wait for most passengers to disembark since they were doing an all day trip to Paris. We only went ½ way to Rouen. Le Havre is a large and busy port, the 2nd biggest in France. It is on the mouth of the Seine River and is a major thoroughfare to Paris for ships and barges. In WWII it was heavily bombed, so most of the town is relatively new. And being Monday, most of the town seems to be closed. We chose to take the day trip to Rouen.
Rouen was also bombed in WWII, but not as severely – mostly closer toward the river. Much of the town still dates back to the 1500’s & 1400’s. Rouen is the capital of the Upper Normandy Region – sort of like a state capital. First, we saw the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. The Catholic Church granted her sainthood in the 1920’s and there is now a memorial at the site. The original church’s foundation is still visible, but they have built a modern church with some very interesting design elements. The stained glass inside is the most beautiful we’ve seen – much of it dates back to the 1600’s. It was thankfully spared in the bombings of WWII. Next we went to Palace of Justice – the main court house. It is an old gothic building that is 2/3’s the way through having the façade restored. It is quite impressive. We get lucky and are invited to go into the inside (hardly any groups get to do this – not even the other bus from our ship). Though we only get to see the outer chambers – this is one huge building and the restored wood ceiling is beautiful!
On the way to the next stop we saw the Rouen's arched Gros Horloge clock tower. It only has an hour hand since, back when it was installed, the hour was close enough to any time that anyone would need – besides, the chimes ring out on the ¼ hour. The clock also show the moon phase and the day of the week, represented by different Greek gods. Now on to the next stop and the Notre Dame of Rouen. As it turns out, all cities in France have a Notre Dame. You have to include the city in their titles. This one is as impressive as any. The main towers were built about 200 years apart and you can definitely see the difference in construction. The right tower is the newest. Built in the 1600’s, it is called the “butter” tower. The story behind this is that the people of Rouen didn’t want to give up dairy products for Lent. They made a deal with the head of the church and gave money instead of giving up dairy. The entire tower was built with that money! There is also one main steel spire that reaches over 230 meters off the ground. It is surrounded by smaller spires except on one corner. There was a severe wind storm in 1999 and that spire came crashing down early in the morning. Good thing no one was around, since each smaller spire weighs 28 tons. They are going to replace it next year.
We also learned of some of the old architecture. Back in the 1400’s & 1500’s people would be taxed on the footprint of their home, so they would build up and each floor up would be built out past the one below it. In 1520 they outlawed this because the tops of homes were literally touching each other. This was a major fire hazard. Also, the streets were not paved and when it rained the sun couldn’t get through to dry the mud. There are still several of these buildings and they all date back to 1520 or earlier.
We did get some free time so we found a small café and had a drink. It is so fun to people watch here! Then we stopped at a little bakery and bought a sandwich and a couple of pastries to take with us back on the bus. They were all great – especially the croissant – it was so light and airy that there couldn’t possibly be any calories in it!!
Now we’re back and have to go through the ordeal of packing to get ourselves of the ship tomorrow. We will dock in Harwich, England, then take a bus to London, then take the Eurostar back to Pairs where we will spend 5 days before coming home. We are anxious to get there since Kit’s brother, Kelly and his wife Lenore, are already there. They emailed us when they got in last night.
This will be the last post from the ship. Tomorrow we’ll be mostly on the go, so we will write again when we get settled in Paris.
Mike & Kit
Eating any time you want
Not having to wait for the check to come – just get up and go
Drinks anytime, anywhere and no one looks at you like you’re a lush
Very friendly people, we are a small family here now
Not a lot of kids/teenagers….. Awww how nice
No one texting or on a cell phone AT ALL
Beautiful scenery on the verandah (my favorite spot on the ship)
No cat jumping on you at 4am
Lobster Tails and Shrimp Cocktails
Watching ships come and go in all the ports
Looking forward to going thru our souvenirs to see what all we bought.
Least Favorite Things:
Older people who don’t know they can’t walk far, and hold everyone up
Crowds of tourists (even though we’re in that category too)
Saying goodbye to our new family
Leaving this beautiful ship and stateroom (did I tell you it’s bigger than our bedroom?)
The cruise is OVER!!
Packing up all our %^&* souvenirs