Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rouen - the 2nd destination in my train journey around France - Part 2

After three days in Paris, I boarded my first train to Rouen. To be honest I don't know why I chose this town, I probably think that would be a better place to go to my next destination - Mont St Michel - the second famous site in France after Tour Eiffel, and on the way to Rouen I may visit Claude Monet's garden at Giverny Vernon. But I was wrong - from Rouen to Mont St Michel - a long ride, but I was not wrong about Rouen - a beautiful old town with amazing Gothic cathedral. Unluckily I skipped my visit to Claude Monet's house due to my "ambitious" plan!

                  Vieux Rouen - the old town with many half-timber houses dated back in 16th century.

Before Rouen, I'd like to share with those who want to travel around France (or Europe) by train some infos:
It took me few months to prepare for this trip. Paris is indisputable but after Paris is what? My answer is clear - the villages and the old towns. I don't know why but I really want to see how is the countryside in Europe, how are the old villages, those not only surviving hundreds of years, but also considered as the most beautiful villages in the world.
The transportation I chose is definitely the train. It takes more time but less formalities, and especially to meet my long itinerary. I'm so happy that I did a good plan with my train itinerary.

Now what you need to know:

1. Select cities, towns you want to visit, to stay, make a good plan. 

2. Check the timetable at or ;make sure the timing between connecting trains is good enough for you to carry luggage (30' is more than enough), to check the departure board and to go to the right platform. To miss a train, a station...or to board a wrong train will be a big mess! 

3. Order your rail pass from the above sites, according to your itinerary - 5 or 6 or 7 days (mine was for 9 days). You can take many trains as you need in a day!  

4. Don't forget to validate the rail pass before boarding the first train. To validate - simply go to the ticket office, they will do for you with your passport! 

5. Check in advance if any of your trains requires the reservation (better to avoid it, while checking the timetable from two websites that I recommended), if so do reserve (with some small extra cost) and get a printed reservation ticket also from the ticket office (you can do it when you first validate your pass) or from the machine (but the machine is not working well). With the reservation ticket, only for TGV, you need to seat in the right coach, a right seat! While waiting at the platform you can check a board "Composition des trains" showing where your coach will stop, stand near by so you don't need to run along the platform to find it.  

The last thing - be at the train station long before than 2 minutes (the French rail company is surely very proud of their perfect on-time (by minutes!) so they advise all passengers need to be at the train station not later than 2 minutes before boarding!), but to me, I need more time to check my exact platform.

Ok, now let's go back to Rouen - a historical capital of Normandy, about two hours by train from Paris. I arrived to the train station around 9:30 in the morning. At many train stations in France, you won't see any taxi, what you see is the board, in front of the station, with taxi telephone numbers, you need to call it (you better speak French, not many drivers can speak English!) if not, you have to walk from station to the hotel. Many people do it! Me too, so I always book the hotel, not far from the station!

                   I arrived to Rouen around 9:30 in the morning, the old town still in sleep.  

              No GPS, reading a printed Google map to find the way to hotel wasn't always fun! 

                    The coffee terrace still empty when I was on the way to my hotel...

                    The famous half-timber houses in the old town - typical Normandy style.

             Nice restaurant but opens only from Tuesday to Saturday with a nice apartment for rent.  

                  One of famous and popular brands for breads (sandwich) and favourite! 

               11:00 am - still not much visitors on the street, but later in the old quarter...big crowd. 

It's a famous Notre Dame Cathedral in gothic style, the facade, built in 13th century. It's huge, stunning architecture, very impressive inside, I regretted that I couldn't take much photos inside, it's so high, so impressively vast, simply incredible, it was quite dark and all in grey so my camera didn't work well (probably I was not good at all!)

It was my luck with a corner sun-lighted from a glass window, look at the amazing stairs, the main hall is  indescribably spectacular with all stunning columns, I wish I have my tripod to get a better shot, but I left it in the hotel.

                    Another small corner in this giant cathedral. 

                Another beauty inside this massive architecture. 

             I can't imagine these half-timber houses are hundreds years old...some back to 16th century!

                 The quiet corner and love to walk on this mossy cobbled pathway...

                   It was early September, no rain yet but this pathway so greenly mossy! 

                     Another quiet corner in a morning sun light...

                Wish to have that bike, after hours and hours I really feel tired walking around...

              A commercial district - the shop in blue specialised in very nice handmade porcelain stuffs... 

              and here the owner-master, very friendly, running the family business...

Early in the morning while walking around in the old town, I was passing by this shop, saw a man sitting behind the table, focusing on his work, I simply tried to get a photo of him from the outside, but by some how he saw it and asked me in. I spent some time talking to him, found that together with his wife and son they are running this business - the Rouennaise traditional decorated plates. Three of them are all artisans, all works here are hand-made. They have a neighbour who is originally from Vietnam with two sons - professional violinists. Before I left, I wrote down for him words "Bát Tràng", as he was interested in Oriental porcelain, but never heard about our china. I just found their site so for those who want to know more about Faience de Rouen. Click here! 

                      Wondering is it a furniture shop or florist - very creative and practical! 

                   Or like this old bookstore with this pushchair...

            I was told each town tried to decorate with flowers due to the nationwide competition (!?) 

              Another early morning coffee place with a view to another cathedral. 

The famous Rue du Gros Horloge - the name comes from that giant astronomical Renaissance-style  clock, first build in 16th century! Later on in the afternoon it was very crowded so I didn't have a chance to go up to the tower to see how this clock's inner workings! This street is crammed with all stores but some old houses are dating from 16th century still remain.

I spent only one night in this town, walked around from early morning to late afternoon, back to hotel and missed the light show at 10:00 PM. But later on during this trip I did enjoy two fascinating lighting shows in Blois and Avignon. Hope I can post my video in here! Until then see you at my next destination - the extremely famous site - Mont Saint Michel.

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