Day 23: Lyons la Forêt to Rouen - Grampies Cross Europe Germany to Spain Fall 2023 - CycleBlaze

September 18, 2023

Day 23: Lyons la Forêt to Rouen

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We carried our stuff back down the spiral stairs of death, and loaded our bikes in front of our house. We had not used most of the rooms, and the one we had used turned out to be quite small and inconvenient.  So our luxury splash did not turn out to be all that thrilling.  We made our way then back up to the town, to find our breakfast in the starred restaurant. The breakfast was ok, and did feature three types of soft cheese, such as the famous Pont l'Eveque. But we had a definitional issue when the formally dressed waiter asked us which of three flavours of jam we would like. He then brought us each a small bit of our one choice. Did that make this a one jammer breakfast, I wondered. Or a 3 jammer? 

Soon we were back outside in the central square. The Cafe du Commerce was there, with its whole patio space available for illegal bike stopping! How petty I am!

Cafe du Commerce
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We went back down the hill, past "our house" and so many of the lovely quaint buildings of the town.

Down "our street"
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There are only a few streets, but each is great.
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The half timber style is seen in England, Bavaria, and here.
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The ride to Rouen started with some climbing that felt significant to us. The track shows it, but it was not all that long, just felt like it for some reason. Once we reached flatter land, there were corn fields. We know these of course to be "cow corn", so no use sampling any. We were interested to see a way of harvesting it we had not known of before. Rather than cutting the stalks, extracting the cobs and then the kernels, the whole plants were being unceremonially ground up and blasted into the large wagons pulled by tractors. In this form we expect it could be made into cow feed in a silo or plastic wrap, but maybe it is destined for ethanol production.

Quite an exciting harvest scene
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Missed?
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Ok, better aimed.
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Cows were calmly (of course) watching the harvest action.
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As we began to approach Rouen, we were on the alert for a glimpse of the famous cathedral. It turns out Rouen has so many spectacular churches that even when you are really downtown you can not be sure if you are looking at the cathedral until the shapes are more familiar.

This nice bell tower outside Rouen was still not cathedral class.
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For a while our route into town ran beside a little stream called La Clerette. In medieval times this supported several mills, remnants of which can still be seen today. The one below is  moulin Pannevert. A mill at this site has been recorded as early as 1199, and the present structure might date from 1587. No, the name Pannevert is from then, the present building is 19th century. Flour production happened here as late as 1878.

The Pannevert site.
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The wheel is no longer turning.
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Gregory GarceauThe wheel in my town isn't turning anymore either. The quaint flour mill from the past has been turned into a gigantic, ultra-modern operation that pours flour into a neverending stream of trucks.
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10 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Gregory GarceauThat's progress, I guess. Not entirely convinced it is such a good thing, but then we are old and grumpy, so........
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10 months ago

Construction and roadblocks are always a problem since they may get us lost, and at worst create a long detour and waste of time. So our policy is to try first to blast through them. This one was ok.

The worker ignored us.
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But this one was tougher. We detoured around and failed to get lost!
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We guessed we had reached the real Rouen when we began to encounter really nice buildings, like the apartment below. 

This was just an introduction to Rouen. Its buildings turned out to be elaborately carved churches and cathedrals and unique half timber structures.
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What a complex streetscape!
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The crooked half timber houses at the end are in front of the St Malo church
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Unique!
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The square by the church is beautiful
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The St Maclou church. St Maclou is St Malo, the sixth century founder of the town of St Malo in Brittany.
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Rich FrasierAlso evidently the founder of a chain of flooring stores that are spread all over the country. Holy carpets! Who knew?
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10 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Rich FrasierAmazing thing history is.
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We wandered into a square with a mounted statue of Napoleon. It shows him accurately as a little guy. We read this is the square where Joan of Arc was burned, but we did not spot any memorial here.
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Now we entered what seemed like very extensive mostly pedestrian shopping streets. We really like those. Also, bikes were permitted to be ridden.

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Finally, on the Rue aux Juifs we came to what, again, was not the cathedral, but was still very fancy gothic architecture. This turned out to be the Palais du Justice (court house), from around 1500. Interestingly the place had been heavily damaged in WWI, and subsequent excavations revealed it had been built on top of some sort of synagogue. Hence the name of the street.

Part of the Law Courts building.
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A great thing is that our "hotel" (really, just rooms above a restaurant) was directly across the street.

Our hotel
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Here is a look down the street from our hotel. What a fun place to stay.
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Staying upstairs from an active restaurant, across from a medieval gothic building and on a street of  half timber buildings is a fun proposition. But you also have to define as fun coping with the practical limitations. For example, we again got a spiral staircase of death. (We should start a forum thread for comparing staircases of death.) In this case we would have to carry the bikes up one flight, and could continued unencumbered one more flight to our room.

Staircase of death. Better unload those bikes completely!
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While I was dragging some of our bags up the stairs, Dodie stayed down with the bikes. There she made the acquaintance of Lorena, a Brazilian journalist for a sports magazine. She said they are always on the lookout for inspiring sports stories, like maybe 75 year olds cycling across Europe!  Perhaps we will soon have a Brazilian following on Cycleblaze!

Lorena from Brazil
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The hotel lady did not want us to take our bikes onto the staircase right away, because we had to pass through the restaurant to reach the staircase and she wanted to wait for business to die down. So we set off into town with the unloaded bikes.

The actual cathedral. It has three towers in different flamboyant gothic styles, and scads of carved statues on the exterior.
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See the cathedral and the palais du justice, where we stayed. Such a great central location.
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The filigree carving is amazing.
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Lots of figures standing around
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The tallest tower was under extensive renovation.
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Panels described the stages of construction, and other background. We like to see that this kind of work is happening.
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The cathedral was closed until 2 o'clock, so we moved along to another of the main sights in town, the Gros Horloge (big clock).  This has a movement from 1447, and was installed here in its own special building in 1527. I did not quite spot a minute hand - will have to check on that. But from the hour hand, it was about 1:30. The hotel lady had said not to do the bikes until 3:00, but it was now raining a lot and we had to go back to at least get our rain coats.

The Gros Horloge
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When we got back to the restaurant, lots of clients had been chased away by the rain. So the coast was clear to take our bikes through. At least the coast looked clear. I did not count on the hotel lady.  She intercepted me and insisted the bike could not come through, not for another hour anyway. "But, but, I exclaimed, I am already through. I only have to proceed 10 feet!" "15:00", the lady insisted, and wrote that large on a piece of paper, shoving it in my face. "You are acting so incredibly French", I blustered, "You should be ashamed of such behaviour". "15:00! 15:00!" she replied.

I retreated to outside, in the rain with the bike, and was just explaining to Dodie why I (and the bike) was back, when the lady's husband (and barkeeper) came out. "Gimme those bikes, let's take them through", he said.

To be fair, the kitchen for the restaurant was on the first floor, up the spiral stairs of death. The waiters needed to run up and down those stairs, not only to pick up the food but also to return the dirty dishes. I think 15:00 is when the kitchen closes, so the lady would want to keep the stairs of death clear of struggling Grampies before then. But what happened was that Mr. directed two of those athletic waiters, plus himself, to grab the bikes and whisk them up, like so many dirty dishes. It was all over in seconds.

For those seconds, though, Mrs. circulated in the background, doing Gallic gestures of exasperation. I tried to get a shot of her doing this, but she was moving too fast, and my shots were blurry!

The disputed ten feet of floor to cover.
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Freed of the bikes, we went back to the Cathedral, which was now open. Of course, like all the great gothic churches it offers that shot of the tall arches down the nave:

Inside Cathedrale Notre Dame
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A big feature here is the chapel for Joan of Arc, who of course after having been burned as a heretic is now a saint.

The Joan chapel
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The statue is a bit far from the barrier, but Dodie's telescopic vision spotted the flames at Joan's feet. The camera confirms that.
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The chapel is surrounded by panels explaining Joan's life, mission, and demise. We know from other travels in France that Joan is a big deal though out the country.
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The image of Jeanne d'Arc portrayed by the statue in the cathedral seemed different from the usual portrayal. Here are shots of two photos that are on the surrounding panels.

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Joan of Arc is naturally also famous in Quebec, and one of Quebec's greatest musical artists, Leonard Cohen, has a song about her. The best version is with Jennifer Warnes. If you have seven minutes, check out this Youtube, which also has some appropriate slides. (Dodie says don't waste your time, but we will ignore that!)

The cathedral also has more great stuff to look at. There is a long row of greater than life size carved figures of saints and prophets. There is no information on where these came from, but all are weathered. They must have been rescued from somewhere. 

Many carvings stand by the wall.
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Weathered, kinda scary
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There is also some very colourful stained glass.
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Wherever you look, there are interesting visual compositions of columns and arches.
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Look, they have their own spiral staircase of death.
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Way way up on a hard to see roof, Dodie spotted these cherubs!
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And at the very top, somebody on a horse, wearing a Frisbee?
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Karen PoretSaint Frisbee, is probably more accurate..;)
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9 months ago

As we walked back from the Cathedral to the hotel we again ran into the St Malo church

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Inside, spanning the tall arches is an unusual structure
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It might be a support, or perhaps only a decoration.
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And there is this great tree stained glass.
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Again walking home, we think this is the St. Ouen Abbey down the attractive street. What a great town and visit this has been!
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Today's ride: 43 km (27 miles)
Total: 1,200 km (745 miles)

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Gregory GarceauJennifer Warnes, the singer, not Jennifer Lawrence the young actress. But still, for sure, Leonard Cohen is a North American treasure.
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10 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Gregory GarceauThanks for the correction Greg. Of course I knew that. Can I blame autocorrect? Fixed it in the text.
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10 months ago
Gregory GarceauTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI get it. Auto-correct has cursed me with many embarrassing posts all over the texting and internet world.
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10 months ago
Susan CarpenterThanks for including the video - I really enjoyed it all, including the slides! I haven’t heard that song in a couple of decades, well before my visit to Rouen last summer where I developed a big crush on Jeanne d’Arc. I’ll enjoy the song much more the next time I pop Famous Blue Raincoat into my CD player
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10 months ago