What do Joan of Arc and Monet have in common?

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of France  ,
Monday, August 27, 2007

Hi everybody!
We decided to take a short break in France and revisit a town we had only briefly stopped in before - Rouen. We had been to Rouen in route to/from somwhere else and had thought it would be worth another visit, but had not gotten back there until now. Rouen is famous as the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and also the place where Monet took an apartment in order to study the changing light on Rouen's Cathedral. We explored both completely different aspects of this small town. We also drove an hour or so away to Giverny to visit Monet's gardens. These gardens are beautiful. It's easy to see how they inspired many of his paintings.

The Cathedral dominates the old town with its tall spires and Gothic style. We saw a nice orchestra concert (Faure, Strauss and Mendelssohn) there one night. At 10:00pm, every night in August, there was a slide show, called Pixels, projected onto the Cathedral. This slide show "pixelated" different Monet drawings and paintings of the Cathedral in an abstract way. Running simultaneously was a slide show on a screen at the edge of the plaza with the related drawings/paintings (or parts thereof) and new age-ish music (think Philip Glass) playing. The whole show ran 15 minutes and was done twice each night. It was very cool. Different parts looked different depending on where you stood on the plaza, so we had to watch it about 3 times over 2 nights.

The other famous church in Rouen is the Joan of Arc church. This is a modern church built on the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. The church has a beautiful Scandinavian feel and is one of the few modern churches we've seen in Europe. Also at the same site are the ruins of a previous church and a typically amazing cheese and produce market.

Rouen itself is a nice break from other tourist destinations. Being here 1 full day and a night was the perfect amount of time. The old town has a lovely large clock above its main pedestrian street, there are old medieval timbered buildings, and the remains of a cemetary for plague victims.

Giverny has only Monet's gardens to offer. We had to stand in line for quite awhile to get in, but it was worth it... the gardens are magnificent. We saw the waterlilly pond, surrounded by weeping willows, and walked the many rows of flower beds - mostly segregated by color. There is a peaceful path through a small bamboo grove as well.

On the way home we took the "Route d'Abbaye", in hopes of visiting a few abbeys and their gardens along the way. The most spectacular of these was Abbaye Saint-Georges de Boscherville, which had beautiful manicured gardens. Although the detour through the abbey route turned our 6 hour drive into a 13 hour drive (because we also decided to take secondary roads instead of the main highway back home), it was a pleasant day for driving and we got to see some beautiful scenery along the way.

Happy travels!
Melanie and Chris
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