Rouen - A City of Gingerbread Houses and Gothic Towers

My first ever trip to France was a huge success. Although most French people speak little to no English, France makes a perfect vacation ...

My first ever trip to France was a huge success. Although most French people speak little to no English, France makes a perfect vacation destination offering great food, centuries-old history, rich architecture and beautiful nature. Infrastructure wise, high-speed trains and a vast network of highways ensure that at least a quarter of the country can be easily reached on day trips from Paris. Normandy with its capital city of Rouen is one of such places.

Before going to Rouen, I knew very little about it. Basically, my day trip to Normandy came up the night before when I decided to rent a car to see some other places outside of Paris. Oh boy, did I mention that I hadn't driven a manual car for over a decade? That was brutal for the first few hours.
If you look at the map of France, Paris sits pretty much in the middle of the country, a little bit to the north. So if you drive or take a train for a couple of hours in any direction from Paris, you can end up in a dozen of different regions or even in neighbouring Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. What a delight after boundless expanses of North America.
Normandy is your best bet if you aren't willing to spend more than a couple of hours on the road. And you know how I picked the places to see in Normandy, right? Exactly - 'Images' tab in Google. 
I know it does not exactly sound like my approach to trip planning, but I had almost no time to plan ahead and could not resist seeing Rouen's gingerbread houses.
The good thing about going to Rouen without knowing it was that almost everything was a pleasant discovery. 
Although Rouen sits of the same river that flows through Paris - Seine, it's much deeper in Rouen and apparently even passable by large sea vessels. Unlike mostly flat Paris, the landscape in Rouen is rather hilly. 
Seine's south bank has been recently transformed into a new public space.
Rouen is home to Cathedral of Notre Dame of Rouen, one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen in my life. 
Rouen Cathedral is the tallest cathedral in France and was the tallest building in the world between 1876 and 1880 (151 m / 495 ft).
It astounds me how well it has been preserved throughout the course of its history despite the series of fateful events such as lightnings, fires, hurricanes, political and religious unrests and bombings. 
Like most of the Gothic buildings, the cathedral is dark and almost creepy inside.
Another discovery about Rouen was that Jeanne D'Arc, a national hero and fighter for independence from England, was captured here. 
A rather unusual for its design church that commemorates Jeanne D'Arc is located near the place where she was executed (burnt) in 1431.
Gros-Horloge (literally 'Great Clock' from French) is one of the oldest clocks in France. Its mechanism was installed back in 1389. It only has one dial and uses electricity to operate since 1927.
And croissants and macarons in Rouen - they are the best in the world. Hard to believe? Come and try yourself!

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