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ROUEN, France (Day 2)
Today was another great day with an excellent guide, the same guide we had yesterday. And we also had the same beautiful weather.
Because our guide knew we liked open air markets, we went to one near the center of Rouen as a first stop. The market was somewhat small in terms of the stalls with fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, etc. But we′d gotten there fairly early so perhaps we arrived before other sellers. Our early arrival may also have contributed to the fact that we saw fewer locals out shopping for their day′s groceries. A large flea market was in the same open square as the farmer′s market. That swallowed Carol and our guide for what, to me, seemed like an eternity.
After the market we began our walk through the center of the old city. We turned into a hidden alley way and reappeared in a large and, considering its history, striking and peaceful courtyard. WARNING: The rest of this paragraph deals with crisis–mode post mortem practices in the Middle Ages so, for the disinclined (which included Carol), jump down to the church paragraph below. What made this courtyard so unique was that the "apartments" (more like rooms) ringing the square were used to store bones during the time of the 100–Years War and the Black Death. The city ran out of gravesites and so dug up those who were already buried, removed the bones to this courtyard, and buried new corpses in the reopened graves where they were left to turn to bones and start the whole process over again (Remember, this is Catholic France where cremation [except at the stake] is forbidden and so the dead had to be buried.)
Then it was off to the churches (it′s France after all). We went from one very large church
(first photo) to a larger church right behind it (second and third photos). What they had in common was partial destruction during one or another war, after which they were rebuilt. In addition, serious destruction of churches also occurred during the French Revolution where not only the nobility got killed but the stone statues of Old and New Testament figures literally got beheaded. And of course these revolutionaries had no problem seizing the property of both the nobles and the church.
In the second cathedral they were just refurbishing the carillon. The bells were on display and were huge. The other photo is of a draw bridge just ahead of the ship with the cathedral in the far background.
Walking through areas that had been city center for hundreds of years we passed along typical medieval streets (a trench in the center of the street to flush away waste and garbage). Some of the cross streets were only wide enough to walk a horse through. A number of houses had to be repaired or rebuilt after WWII and look pretty much like they had before the War. Interestingly, in earlier times, the Seine flooded and came up as high as the city streets so the first floor was often raised and a stone step placed at the entrance.
At the center of one of the main streets was the town clock. It′s still running but recently changed to an electric movement.
We have been so used to TV and movies that we have to pause to remember that we are not on a stage set but in the middle of the real thing (or at least the real thing after it had been restored to look like the real thing).
We ended the day with a walk to another square where there was an ultra–modern church built to commemorate Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake in Rouen. The cross at the front of the church was a reminder of her martyrdom.
A wholly satisfying trip to Rouen.
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