Friday, October 20, 2006


I spoke to Gipsy at the registration desk, and she told us the place to shop was Rouen, a city just north of where we were staying. Rouen is easy to pronounce if you say the word “run” while swallowing a potato.

Rouen is a city full of medieval halftimbered buildings that are bigger on the top than they are on the bottom. Some of them look as though they shouldn’t be standing, but they’ve been there since the 14th century.

We visited the beautiful Rouen cathedral that was heavily damaged during World War II (and by a rare tornado in 1999). It contains a tomb similar to the one shown here, containing the heart of Richard the Lionheart. The rest of Richard is buried all over France.

Rouen is home to a charming avenue called Rue Gros Horloge, which means Big Clock Street. There’s this huge, ornate 14th century medieval clock hanging on a building (it used to be on a tower, but was moved in 1529 to hang awkwardly on an archway over the main shopping district). It only has one hand, indicating the hour, and a wheel showing the day of the week. I guess in the 14th century, nobody cared if you were 20 minutes late for a meeting.

Rouen is also where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. There’s a very nice public square with a beautiful modern church, and a plaque identifying the square as the place where public floggings, humiliations and executions once took place. On the way back to the car, we passed the Palais de Justice, a beautiful, ancient building that is still covered with bullet holes from the fighting during World War II.

Eventually, we pointed the car north and headed for the English Channel (known as “La Manche” in French, which means “The Sleeve” because of its shape). We stopped at a few seaside villages along the coast, most notably the town of Etretat, which has magnificent palisades flanking the beach, punctuated by natural arches.

There are some very old buildings along the coast that somehow survived the Allied invasion. This one is actually a hotel.

By the way, we found out where Osama Bin Laden is hiding:

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