We continue our visit to France. Today we are going to the north of the country.
Today we are going to Lille where a friend is waiting for us to spend several days touring the north of the country. At 11.46 we take the TGV that leaves from the Paris Nord station. An hour later we arrived at the Lille station.
Lille is the capital of the Upper France region. It developed economically in the 1990s thanks to the construction of the Euralille business district and the arrival of the High Speed Trains and the Eurostar.
The area was already inhabited around 2,000 BC. for the remains found on the banks of the Deûle river. After the Roman conquest of Gaul, the settlements on the Deûle River grew, although what is now Lille was nothing more than a scattered group of population centers linked by secondary roads. At the end of the V century a. C., a nucleus located on the eastern bank of the river began to grow slowly, being the densest of all the surrounding populations.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the location on the eastern bank of the Deûle gradually brought together the surrounding inhabited areas. The origin of the city of Lille is narrated by the medieval legend of “Lydéric and Phinaert”. This legend tells that Lydéric was the son of Salvaert and Ermengaert, princes of Dijon. When these went to England to father their future son, they were arrested by Phinaert, giant and lord of the lands of present-day Lille, who also executed Salvaert. Ermengaert was able to flee and, before she died, she gave birth to Lydéric, who had to be raised with a hermit, fleeing from the giant. When Lydéric grew up, he murdered Phinaert in revenge for the death of his parents, and received the giant’s lands, where he founded in 640 the city of L’Ile, from which according to legend Lille derives its name.
We go to the hotel to check in. We chose the Citadines City Center, next to the train station. A small apartment with a kitchen. It was very good and it cost us €64 per night.
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From here we went to eat and then to take a walk around the city. We ate at a place called L’Estaminet Gantois. It was very tasty and not overly expensive.
We walked around the Grand’Place, also called Place du Général de Gaulle, who was a native of Lille. It is the main meeting point for the residents of Lille, the square dates back to the origins of the city, around the year 1066, at the crossroads of the main fairs between North and South. Dedicated to trade, of which the Old Stock Market (Vieille Bourse de Lille) remains the most representative symbol.
It is dominated by four women: the Goddess at its center commemorating the siege of Lille by the Austrians in 1792, and the three women who crown the Voix du Nord building. These three graces represent the three provinces of the region: Artois, Flanders and Hainaut.
The Old Stock Exchange (Vieille Bourse) built between 1652 and 1653 by Julien Destrée, is considered the most beautiful monument in the city. The truth is that the building is quite spectacular. In the inner courtyard there are many stalls selling used books.
Behind the Grand Place, crossing the Vieille Bourse, we arrive at the Place du Théâtre. The square owes its name to the old theater that bordered the square and was lost during a fire in 1903. The current Lille Opera was built in its place.
The history of the Place du Théâtre is closely linked to that of the Place du Général de Gaulle (Grand Place) until 1652, the date of the creation of the Bourse du Commerce, called “Vieille Bourse”. Before the construction of the commercial interchange, “Vieille Bourse”, the two places formed only one.
Next to the opera is the Beffroi de la Chambre de Commerce de Lille, the new Chamber of Commerce. It was built in 1921 in a neo-regionalist style, inspired by the Flemish architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries, to replace the Old Stock Exchange, which had become too small. Its bell tower, 76 meters high, has a chime with 25 bells, from which comes the music of P’tit Quinquin, which is performed every noon.
A five-minute walk from the Place du Théâtre is the Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral. Built between 1854 and 1999 in the neo-Gothic style, it stands on the site of the old motte castrale, on which the Saint-Nicolas bell tower still stands.
The cathedral inside is impressive, with beautiful mosaics on the floor. You have to visit it, and it’s also free.
After visiting the interior of the cathedral, we decided to have a snack at a nearby place called Pâtisserie Méert. An impressive looking place with some really good sweets. Although it is quite expensive but, this is a special occasion.
After replenishing (unnecessarily) strength, we went to the Citadel of Lille. Designed and built by Vauban between 1667 and 1670, it symbolizes the conquest of the city by Louis XIV who ordered its construction to consolidate the defense of the Flanders border. With five bastions it forms a star-shaped defense, protecting a small inland city. The main gate still bears a Latin inscription in homage to Louis XIV, the Sun King.
After visiting the citadel we went to rest a bit until dinner time. For dinner we made a reservation at a restaurant called La Bastide 48. A quite luxurious place but we had a very, very good dinner. After dinner a short walk and to sleep that the next day a long day awaited us.
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We get up very early and go to the rental office to get the car. We pick you up and leave for Ypres, 39 kilometers from Lille.
Ypres is a small city in northwestern Belgium in the Westhoek region in the province of West Flanders. Very prosperous city during the Middle Ages thanks to the textile industry. Sadly famous for being one of the most violent and long-lasting fronts of the First World War, 4 major battles took place in which almost 2 million soldiers on both sides died in less than four years. On the battlefields around Ypres, the Germans used poison gas for the first time on April 22, 1915 as chemical weapons.
Before arriving in Ypres we had a small problem and that is that the GPS took us over and over again to the same closed road and close to the Belgian border. Whatever we did, we got to the same point. With that there was no roaming (being paid…) there was no choice but to use the orientation and take a good detour, but we ended up arriving.
When we got out of the car, we realized that it was unexpectedly cold. It was so surprising that our companions had to go to a store to buy some jackets.
As soon as we parked, we headed to the Grote Markt. But first we passed by the Sint-Pieterskerk, a small Gothic-Romanesque church founded in 1073 by the Flemish Count Robrecht de Fries. In 1638 the tower burned down and was not rebuilt until 1868. During the First World War, the church, like the rest of Ypres, was completely destroyed.
Continuing along the same street, we arrive at the Grote Markt. There we find the spectacular Lakenhalle building (cloth market). It is one of the largest civil buildings in Europe in the Gothic style. It was built between 1230 and 1304. The 70 meter high bell tower was built from 1250 as a sign of the power of the bourgeoisie. On the east side, the Gulden Halleke was built against the hall complex in 1360, replaced in 1620 by the Nieuwerck.
The building was completely destroyed during the First World War and later rebuilt. The restored cloth room was completed in 1967. The architects, including Jules Coomans, opted for a faithful reconstruction of the pre-war situation. At the bottom of the cloth walkways, the original stones are still visible, these are the largest. The higher you go, the smaller the stones become.
The building is truly spectacular, it is hard to believe that it is in such a small city. In the building we can find the tourist office and the In Flanders Fields Museum, dedicated to the study of the First World War.
Behind the spectacular building is the Sint-Maartenskathedraal, the former St. Martin’s Cathedral. Built between 1230 and 1370, it replaced a small Romanesque church from the 10th century that stood on the site.
Very close to the Grote Markt is the Menenpoort or Menin Gate, a city gate that was built by the British in 1927 on the east side of the city, as a “memorial to the disappeared”. Inside are engraved the names of the 54,896 names of British soldiers who disappeared during the First World War. The name refers to the city of Menen, a city that can be reached from the center of Ypres through the Menin Gate. The gate is one of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s memorials for the Missing.
Every day at 8 pm the “last message” is held in memory of the fallen.
As it was already lunch time, we set out to find an open place. For this we returned to the Lakenhalle area. On the way we passed the Ypres War Victims Monument, dedicated to the 155 civilian and military victims of Ypres who died in the First World War. There are also 21 names on two plaques dedicated to later victims who died during World War II when Ypres was occupied by German forces between 1940 and 1945.
We ate at a place called ;t Ganzeke is really called that, I haven’t accidentally touched too many letters), a huge restaurant and it was almost full. We ate very well and it was not too expensive.
With renewed strength we got back in the car and drove to Mont Saint Eloi (80km) to visit the ruins of its abbey.
Saint Eloi Abbey was founded on the top of the hill in 1066 by the Bishop of Arras, Lietbertus, and had already served as a place of worship centuries before. The entire abbey was completely renovated in the classicist style between 1733 and 1765. After the French Revolution it was sold and the buyer demolished the buildings for building materials. Today only two towers remain, which have been protected since 1836.
From here we went to Le Flambeau de la Paix (the Torch Of Peace) in Neuville-Saint-Vaast 4km away. It is a monumental hand rising from the ground with a torch and symbolizes rebirth after the turmoil of the Great War of Neuville-Saint-Vaast. Occupied and heavily fortified by the Germans since October 1914, this city was taken by French troops in 1915, house after house, after two weeks of furious fighting that cost the lives of more than 5,000 men and left only ruins. The monument is located directly opposite the military museum.
Then we went to the Nécropole Nationale de Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, 8km away. It is a military cemetery and monument inaugurated in 1925 and almost 45,000 French combatants rest there, of which 20,000 are in individual graves, who lost their lives on the front between October 1914 and September 1915. With 25 hectares of surface, It is the largest military necropolis in France.
The enclosure is really overwhelming. That large area full of crosses… It makes my hair stand on end just remembering it.
Directly opposite, on November 11, 2014, on the centenary of the Great War, an international monument is inaugurated with the names of 600,000 soldiers who fell on the ground of the North and Pas-de-Calais between 1914 and 1918 called Anneau de la Mémoire (Memory Ring).
After the overwhelming visit, we returned to the car to go to Arras, 15km away, which is where we were going to spend the night. But on the way we stopped for a moment at the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery. Its curious name comes from a small cafe that was located here and was destroyed during the bombing of 1915. In addition to giving its name to this sector, it also gave it to a communication trench that brought the troops to the front line. Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades here in March 1916. Buried here are 6,725 British soldiers, 749 Canadians, 116 Australians, 7 New Zealanders, 43 South Africans, 15 Indians and 4 Germans.
From here we went straight to Arras, the historical and administrative capital of the Pas-de-Calais department. Existing since the Gallic period when the Atrebates settled in Artois, its development began when the Romans conquered the region in 56 BC. Although it is known that there were already Neanderthals inhabiting the area 200,000 years ago.
Arras is known for its two magnificent baroque squares that form a unique architectural ensemble in the world, its bell tower and its Citadel, both classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. With 225 buildings listed as historic monuments, Arras is the city with the highest density of monuments in France.
We left our things at the hotel, choosing the ibis Arras Center Les Places, located in the heart of the city between Place des Héros and Grand Place. The room was tiny but well set up and relatively cheap.
We immediately went to visit the city. We start with the Place des Héros located in the center of Arras, between the town hall with its municipal bell tower and the rue de la Taillerie that connects it with the Grand Place. Formerly known as Petite Place, it was renamed Place des Héros in 1945 as a tribute to the city’s resistance fighters who were killed during World War II.
On the square is the Hôtel de Ville d’Arras, the city hall. Its construction began in the year 1501. The building was destroyed during the First World War and was rebuilt exactly the same. Its spectacular 75-meter-high bell tower stands out.
Nearby is the flamboyant Gothic Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Arras, built in 1920 to replace the 16th-century church on the site, which was destroyed during the First World War.
At dinner time, we entered a site that I had seen on the internet. It’s called L’Ami Bidasse’, tucked away in a basement on Rue de la Taillerie, it serves French food at a great price.
After dinner we took a last stroll through the Place des Héros and went to sleep so we could get up early.
Today, for personal reasons we had to cancel the plan for the day. We had to run to Brussels to take our friends to the airport who had to go back to Spain.
On the way back to Lille, as it was on the way, we decided to visit Ghent. When we were in Belgium we couldn’t visit it due to lack of time. But first, as it was getting too late to eat, we decided to stop at a town halfway called Ternat. We made quite a discovery, a place whose name I can’t remember and I can’t find on google maps, so I don’t know if it’s still open, where we ate an exquisite hamburger. The gentleman who attended us, who seemed to be the owner, managed to explain to us by signs that he only spoke Dutch and the menu was only in that language, but in Belgium at 3 in the afternoon it had to be whatever it was. So we point a finger at a random burger and PRIZE! It was brutal. The man, not to speak the same language, was really nice and friendly.
With a full stomach, we set off again for Ghent.
As soon as we parked, we went in search of a coffee to see if it was less bad than in France and yes, it was quite good. We had it at a place called the Vooruit cafe, in a really cool building called the Vooruit, which is an event room.
Ghent is the capital of the Belgian province of East Flanders. It arose from the Celtic residential areas in the area of the confluence of the Leie and the Scheldt. In the Middle Ages, fueled by a thriving woolen industry, Ghent became one of the largest cities in Europe.
On those days there must have been some music festival since there were stages all over the city where there were groups playing music of various styles.
Walking we reach the Sint-Baafskathedraal, the Cathedral of Saint Bavo. It was originally a parish church dedicated to John the Baptist. In 942, Transmar, the Bishop of Tournai, consecrated the church as the Church of Saint John of which only the crypt remains today. The construction of the current one was carried out in three phases from the 12th century until its completion with the construction of the nave from 1533.
When we visited the city was completely covered by restoration. a pity
A little further on is Het Belfort van Gent, the Belfry of Ghent, a large bell tower dating from the 14th century. At 95 meters high, it is part of the emblematic “Three Torens” (three towers) of the historic center of Ghent, together with the towers of the Sint-Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo’s Cathedral) and the Sint-Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas Church).
Opposite Het Belfort van Gent is the Sint-Niklaaskerk (Church of Saint Nicholas). Built between the 13th and 15th centuries to replace the old Romanesque church, this Scheldt Gothic church is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
Nearby is the Sint-Michielsbrug (Saint Michael’s bridge) and next to it, the spectacular Oud Postgebouw, the old post office building, designed by the architect Louis Cloquet and built between 1900 and 1908. Since 1998 it was sold by post office, it has been converted into a shopping center on the ground floor and apartments on the top floor. They look cheap.
Crossing the bridge we arrive over the river Lys, we arrive at Sint-Michielskerk (St. Michael’s church). It was built between 1440 and 1825 in the late Gothic style.
At this point we turned around and went to rest a bit enjoying the live music that was on a stage on the riverbank.
After the break, we made our way through the crowd. We crossed the river again, this time over the Grasbrug bridge and to reach the Groot Vleeshuis, a meat market that already exists in documents from the year 1251. The current building is a restoration for the 1913 world exhibition, identical to the existing building in 1744 The building is now used as a promotion center for regional products from East Flanders.
Crossing the Vleeshuisbrug bridge we arrive at the Gravensteen, the Castle of the Counts of Ghent. Built in 1180 by order of Count Philip of Alsace to replace the previous castle that stood on the same site as this one, it is the only remaining medieval castle in Flanders with a nearly intact defense system.
Currently you can visit the guardhouse, the wall, the homage tower, the count’s residence and the stables. The entrance with audioguide costs 12€.
As it was getting late, we went for a walk towards the car. On the way we passed by the Stadhuis Gent, the city hall of Ghent. The façade on the Hoogpoort side shows the Flamboyant late Gothic of the early 16th century, which contrasts sharply with the Renaissance style of the Botermarkt façade. In this more recent wing (1559-1618) you can see three-quarter columns and Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pilasters, inspired by Italian palaces.
We get to the car and go to Lille (72km). The hotel was the same as the night before we spent in the city.
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It’s time to get up early and get on the road, there’s a long way to go. The first stop: Mémorial Neuve Chapelle at 36km in the town of Richebourg. This monument pays tribute to the memory of the 10,000 Indian soldiers who died in France during the First World War, and particularly during the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle. It was inaugurated on October 7, 1927.
The next stop is the Mémorial national du Canada à Vimy at 27km. It is an impressive monument inaugurated on July 26, 1936 to honor the memory of the 66,000 Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War, especially the 11,285 in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in this very place. It is very shocking to see many fences with warning signs not to cross them since there are still unexploded mines and it can be dangerous. More than 100 years later.
Just opposite is the Monument to the Moroccan Division, much more modest than the previous one, to pay tribute to the Moroccan soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War.
Very close, less than 1 km away is the Center d’accueil et d’éducation du Mémorial national du Canada à Vimy, a military museum and next to it, Part of the trenches of the First World War that are preserved. We can also see several craters from bombs dropped on the ground in the area.
From here we head south. We made a technical stop in Arras at 11km to eat a kebab and continue to Thiepval, at 37km to visit the Thiepval Memorial. It is a memorial dedicated to the Franco-British armies and the British soldiers who fell during the Battle of the Somne in the second half of 1916. It was inaugurated in 1932 in the presence of the President of the French Republic Albert Lebrun and the then Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII. 72,244 names are currently registered in it. Bad luck wanted it to be under restoration and was partially covered by scaffolding.
A 10-minute drive away is Ulster Tower. Opened on November 19, 1921, it was one of the first memorials to be erected on the Western Front and pays tribute to all Ulster soldiers and especially those of the 36th Division who served in the Great War. It is inspired by the Tower of Helen found on the Clandeboye Estate, County Down in Northern Ireland.
The tower was closed and it was not possible to access the interior, so we went 12 kilometers to visit the Mémorial national sud-africain du bois Delville, which looked good. It is a monument in the town of Longueval inaugurated in 1922 to honor the 3,150 soldiers who participated in the First World War, of whom 1,080 died in just 6 days (from July 14 to 20, 1916) in this place. There is also a museum chronicling South Africa’s involvement in the two world wars and various conflicts during the cold war.
Unfortunately it doesn’t open on Mondays so we couldn’t go in and it was one of the most interesting monuments to see. We settle for taking a picture of it in the distance.
Before starting the march to Caen, where we had the hotel, we decided to have a coffee in the village. The only place there was called Le Calypso II. A rather seedy place that serves as a gas station, cafeteria, tobacconist and post office. We were surprised that the coffee was the least dog we had on our entire trip and the place was seedy as hell. To go to the bathroom you went through the master’s house but, as the place was, it was surprisingly clean. The owner was very nice. We managed to understand him (thanks to the little french that my girlfriend remembers from studying it at the high school) that he was the grandson of a man from Zaragoza, I seem to remember that he was a Republican exiled after the Spanish Civil War. The truth is that, to know that we don’t speak French, he talked nonstop. In any case, it was a pleasant surprise.
After coffee and a pleasant chat, we started the march to Caen, from which 300 km separated us. We decided to take the toll road, which was about 20€ but we saved 1 hour of walking (3.15 instead of 4.19).
The hotel we chose is the ibis Caen Porte de Bretagne. Well located because, as we were only passing through, it was next to the highway.
We hired a great offer on the Ibis website, for 57€ we even had breakfast included. The room very well, in the style of all the Ibis in which we have stayed.
The problem was at the reception. To begin with, the girl at the reception only spoke French. I find it really serious that a receptionist from a prestigious chain like Accor does not know how to communicate in English. With that situation, the second problem was making him understand that we had breakfast included, which was free for an offer they had on the official website when making the reservation (two months before).
Everything was going to tell us that with the price we had paid it could not be that it was included. Giving it as impossible we decided to go to dinner. On the way back from dinner there was another guy who did speak English, but the same problem. With that price there is no breakfast (give it the happy price). He already gave up when we showed him all the reservation details directly from the Accor website. We were finally able to have breakfast the next day after nearly two hours of arguing.
Today we get up early again. We went down to breakfast with the uncertainty to see if they had fixed yesterday’s problem and, yes, it was fixed. We finished the simple buffet and set off for Bayeux, which separated us 28 kilometers.
Bayeux was founded in the 1st century BC. by the Bodiocases during the Roman Empire under the name of Augustodurum. In the year 890, the Vikings invade and destroy the city.
Bayeux is famous for its embroidered tapestries, especially the Bayeux Tapestry.
A masterpiece of Romanesque art from the 11th century, the Bayeux Tapestry, also known as the Queen Mathilde Tapestry, is a gigantic embroidered tapestry 68 meters long (you read that right), commissioned by Bishop Odon, half-brother of William, to adorn its new cathedral in 1077. It recounts the events of the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy. The story begins in 1064, when the King of England, Edward the Confessor, orders his brother-in-law, Harold, to go to Normandy to propose to his cousin, William the Conqueror, the throne of England. The story ends, after many events, with Harold’s death in battle from an arrow in the eye and William the Conqueror named King of England in 1066 in Westminster Abbey.
We leave the car in a parking lot very close to the cathedral and we go to visit the city. The first thing we come across is the impressive Notre Dame de Bayeux Cathedral.
Notre Dame de Bayeux Cathedral, begun during the Romanesque era, was consecrated in 1077 by Bishop Odon de Conteville in the presence of his brother, William the Conqueror. After suffering significant damage in the 12th century, it was rebuilt between the 12th and 15th centuries, in different Gothic styles: Early Gothic, Radiant Gothic and Extravagant Gothic. Actually, most of the construction took place between the years 1230 and 1270.
The visit to the cathedral is free so we took the opportunity to enter. The interior is beautiful and the crypt is spectacular.
On leaving the cathedral, we went to visit perhaps the most representative image of Bayeux: the mill.
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We continued walking around the wonderful old part of the city and got back in the car to go to our next destination: the Batterie de Longues-sur-Mer, 8 km away.
The German Battery is the main work of the Atlantic Wall. The Longues-sur-Mer battery remains one of the most spectacular sites in the Normandy landing beach sector with its four casemates that still house the cannons. Originally, it played a strategic role on June 6, 1944.
From here, we continue to the Normandy American Cemetery, 15 km. We park in the huge cemetery parking lot and first of all approach the coastline, from where there are impressive views of Omaha Beach, the main point of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944.
The American Cemetery, which is also a monument, is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the St. Laurent Temporary American Cemetery, established by the First United States Army on June 8, 1944, as the first American cemetery on European soil. It contains the graves of 9,385 US servicemen, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and subsequent operations.
On the walls of the disappeared, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the monument, 1,557 names are inscribed. Rosettes mark the names of those who were recovered and identified.
Despite the number of people there, the venue is overwhelming. Such a huge expanse with so many tombs. Is awesome.
Overwhelmed, we returned to the car and drove to the Crisbecq Battery, 60 km away. Crisbecq Battery (sometimes called Marcouf Battery) was a World War II German artillery battery built by the Organization Todt near the French town of Saint-Marcouf and formed part of Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. The main armament was three 21 cm Czech Kanone 39 guns, two of which were housed in heavily fortified casemates up to 3 thick in concrete. The battery, with a range of 27 to 33 kilometers, could cover the beaches between Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Pointe du Hoc.
The place was completely abandoned after the war until in 2004, two history buffs bought the land, restored it and opened it as a museum. Admission is 7€ (2015) and it is quite well put together to be done by amateurs.
After visiting the museum we ran to Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue 17 km away, to visit the Ile Tatihou, a small island of only 29 hectares in front of the city. The island contains the Fort Vauban built in 1694 and since 2008 it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Unfortunately we arrived too late and narrowly missed the last amphibious vehicle that takes you to the island, so we had to settle for photographing it from afar.
We decided to set off for our new destination: Rouen, 240 km away. There we took the hotel night because it was too close to Paris to leave the car because I had no desire to enter the capital with the car. We took the toll road because we saved more than an hour of travel for the 9€ it cost.
After looking around for the hotel a few times, we finally found it. We chose the Rouen Saint Server, a small hotel very central and for only €40 per night. We checked in and went to dinner. Looking for a place, we realized that the city looked very nice. The idea was to leave very early for Paris but we decided to spend the morning in Rouen. Walking around we found a small (very small) pizzeria with good looks and good prices: pizzeria de la cathédrale. We were not disappointed. Huge homemade pizza for €7 in the heart of the city.
After dinner, from which we had a good piece of pizza left over and we took it to the hotel for breakfast, we went to rest and plan the next day in the city.
Today we get up early to enjoy Rouen before going to Paris.
Rouen is the administrative capital of Normandy and is crossed by the Seine River. It is known as the city of a hundred bell towers and for being the place of the martyrdom of Joan of Arc in 1431, where she was burned at the stake in the Vieux Marché square.
The first thing was to take a walk through the beautiful old town until reaching Place Barthélémy, where the Église catholique Saint-Maclou is located, an impressive Gothic church built between 1437 and 1517 by the architect Jacques-Eugène Barthélémy. The church is considered by art historians to be a jewel of extravagant Gothic art.
Here we sat down for breakfast in a small cafeteria called Antico Caffe, a very bad coffee (of course) but a croissant that was… it’s the most delicious croissant I’ve ever tasted. A dry stick, without filling or anything… spectacular. Of course, the price was just as spectacular (expensive), but it’s worth it.
After gaining strength, we went to the nearby Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, a spectacular Gothic building built in the mid-12th century. It was in the archbishop’s palace of Rouen, in the Gothic style, contemporary to the cathedral, where the second trial of Joan of Arc took place. In this cathedral is where the heart of King Richard I of England is buried.
During the 1890s, the famous painter Claude Monet painted a series of 30 paintings depicting the cathedral at different times of the day and the seasons.
We continue walking through the center, which is really beautiful. We do not regret having thought better of staying to visit the city instead of going to Paris early.
Walking on foot, we reach the Gros-Horloge, a Renaissance pavilion that extends along the street with a low arch. On the Renaissance double dial, the single hand points to the time.
Returning to the car, we finally passed the Place du Général de Gaulle, where the town hall is located and, next to it, Abbatiale Saint-Ouen. Opposite the square is an equestrian statue of Napoleon I.
Hôtel de ville de Rouen (town hall), is the former abbey of Saint-Ouen, in the building of the former monks’ dormitories. The abbey was abandoned in 1790 and from 1800 the new town hall was installed here.
Next to the town hall is the abbey church. Founded around 750, the Abbey of Saint-Ouen was one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Normandy. After the French Revolution, the yauntamiento moved to the former monks’ dormitory, a beautiful classical building from the mid-18th century. The abbey church, which many visitors take for the cathedral due to its majestic proportions, is located within the former convent gardens.
Now we went to the hotel to get the things to pick up the car and leave it at the rental office, at the train station in the city. We take the train at 12.59. The ticket cost us €10 per head. At 2:10 p.m. we arrived at Saint Lazare station. We went directly to the hotel, the Hôtel ibis Paris Gare du Nord Château Landon 10ème, next to the Gare du Nord, which was where the next morning we took the train to the airport. The hotel is quite good, in line with all the ibis, a small but comfortable room for 70€ a night.
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We left our things at the hotel and went to the Église Saint-Sulpice. To get there we took metro line 4 to the Odéon station. Built in the 17th century, on foundations from the 12th century, the Saint-Sulpice church is one of the largest in Paris. Inside you can admire the chapel of the Virgin with a statue of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, the sacristy and the Louis XV-style woodwork, the mural paintings by Eugène Delacroix and the great organ by Cavaillé-Coll. The church of Saint-Sulpice is one of the settings of the novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Down Brown (in my humble opinion, bad and simple to say enough. Good to invest in advertising).
In front of the church, on Place Saint-Sulpice, is the Fontaine Saint-Sulpice, also maliciously called the “fountain of the four cardinal points” because it is decorated with four statues of Catholic bishops, famous preachers from the time of Louis XIV , but who were never made cardinals. The fountain was erected between 1843 and 1848 by the architect Louis Visconti.
After visiting the church, we got on the metro line 12 to Place de la Concorde. From there we went towards L’église de la Madeleine. Passing first through the nearby Le Village Royal, a shopping arcade that I have no idea how they let us in. Stores like Chanel, Dior and stuff.
L’église de la Madeleine is located between Place de la Concorde and the Opera House, in the heart of Haussmanian Paris. Its construction lasted from 1764 to 1842. Its aspect of a Greek temple, without a cross or a bell tower, is very atypical in the area of religious architecture. Napoleon wanted this church to be a pantheon to the glory of his armies.
From here we went for a long walk to the Champs de Mars, to say goodbye to the Eiffel Tower. And early to sleep that you had to get up early, not much, very much.
Impressive morning. He had to go back to Spain. At 6.15 in the morning we left with the RER B to Charles de Gaulle airport. You had to go with time because it is gigantic. About 40 minutes later we got off at Terminal 2 station. From there we walked a long way to a shuttle bus that took us to our tiny terminal, 2G. Something happened to me at the control that had never happened to me or happened again until we returned to France in 2020. My girlfriend passed calmly and when I went to pass, asking if I had liquids, I took out the two toiletry bags full to the top. The boy’s face was a poem and he even called someone else to lend us a hand to put them in little bags. Of shame… Now yes, never again.
Almost two hours late, around 10:30 (instead of 8:35) we left for Bilbao airport where we landed an hour and a half later.
Review of the trip
Paris… the city of love… The truth is that I expected more, I guess because of the expectations I had after being one of the most famous and visited cities in the world. Still, it’s a beautiful city… and expensive. I was very surprised by the friendliness of the Parisians, which I did not expect as they do not have a good reputation.
The north of France really enchanted me. Beautiful landscapes, with charming medieval villages. A kind and charming people and a quite turbulent recent history but that particularly attracts me a lot. oh! and a superb beer…
The worst… the coffee. In my later trips I would confirm that it is the general trend in France. The hottest coffee I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to the US and Canada).
I recommend the excursions and, at the same time, I think I will repeat them. (And I repeated 5 years later).
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