Bonjour, Welkommen, Hello Europe! travel blog

Today’s itinerary will take us from Chartres northwards towards Rouen, and then west to Caen where we will spend the night. All up the driving time should be about 3.5 hours. We were a bit tired from last night’s light show, so we’re taking our time this morning and leaving a bit later.

The drive out of the Loire region (where Chartres is located) was due to take about 2hrs, and we had planned to get there around midday, so we could eat lunch, but we ended up leaving Chartres about 12.30. I walked around a little bit in the morning to take some photos of some of the buildings around the hotel, and to start packing the car. It was too much effort as far as I was concerned bringing the car up to the hotel and loading luggage in, then driving off.

We took motorways all the way to Rouen, which meant more tolls. I think our main toll cost was about 8 euros, which we thought was a bit steep. The road system is fantastic though, and very well organised. Australia has a huge amount it could learn about infrastructure development from the French (and with hindsight, the Spanish too!).

On the way in to Rouen, we past the Seine river – which is the river which cuts through Paris – several times. We also passed several turn offs into towns which had chateaus or religious monuments. The French put up huge signs in brown with the name of the town and the tourist attraction there, and if it hadn’t been for Ali doing the first leg, we may not have made it to Rouen at all.

After our first stop off, we changed over, which meant I got to do the lovely drive into Rouen. Just prior to arriving in the city, we went past an industrial site which looked like it was mining (quarrying?) white chalk from the cliffs. There were also several spectacular bridges along the way which crossed the Seine.

When we got closer to town, we tried to follow the GPS, but some of the maps were a little bit out of date, and some of the roads were closed for roadworks. This made getting around town a bit more complicated. What also made it far more interesting, is that although I’d done my research about bits and pieces of the town, I’d not written places for us to navigate too. Eventually we found an underground car park opposite a church. The car park was so small, I almost mounted the gutter on the way in, trying to turn the corner to get past the ticket machine. Maybe there was a little element of not being used to a left hand drive as well, but I still say it was narrow.

After we got out and went for a walk, we looked at the huge Church next to us. The church was gothic (of course – what else in france!) and called the Church of St Ouen. We took some pictures from here, and then headed towards the Notre Dame church in the centre of the old town. The old town was quite quaint, lots of little buildings with odd shapes and clichéd colour schemes. Down one of the alleys on the way to the Notre Dame cathedral, we passed a bust of Claude Monet, who painted many pictures in the town, particularly of the cathedral.

The cathedral had some ruins on the ground for people to inspect, and it had a few beggars sitting around looking for a few euro donation. The cathedral was only one of the things in the town which was interesting to view. There was a fantastic looking clock, which was the prettiest I’d seen since the astronomical clock in Prague. A walk down the road that the clock was on, led us to a square of historical significance.

The walk led to a place which is called Place du Vieux Marche or the Old Market Square, which many people would know of, but not by name. In this place now is a weird looking church, which looks like an upside down Viking ship. There is also a museum to Joan of Arc in the square. The reason for this is because it is the place where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. A cross was put in to mark the place where the funeral pyres took place. Obviously, Joan of Arc was not the only person killed here.

After looking around here for a while, and at the old style buildings in the square, it was time to head back towards the car. On the way we passed the town hall of Rouen, or the Hotel de Ville as it is called. It was a huge, magnificent gothic building, which was very difficult to take a picture of. It’s on a very narrow street, and the building is quite long, so trying to fit the entire complex in was an exercise in futility, the only way to do it would be from the sky above.

We got back to the car, and started to make our way to Caen, which is our destination for tonight. Luckily Ali drove us out of town, as my nerves were a bit frazzled still from the stressful drive into Rouen. It is a lovely town, particularly the old section. Parts of it though – with it being a sailors port – are a bit nefarious. There was a couple of tattoo parlours, some adult stores and some dodgy looking characters walking around.

We’ve got another hour or so to go to get to Caen, so it’ll be nice for us to stop, and put the feet up. One thing is for certain though, we’re nearing our arrival at Mont Saint Michel, and I’m starting to get very anxious and excited. I’ve been waiting to see if for quite some time, and it’s going to eventuate really soon.

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