Cinq for the memories – deep background

In most of my previous big trips Claudia and I wrote a daily journal. Both of us would write in longhand in a diary about each days experiences but we would alternate who wrote first and second each day. The only place we didn’t do that was Isreal two years ago but because that was a class for Claudia she kept notes.

Its hard for me to read those old journals and I wrote half of them. Cursive writing is becoming as imposible for kids today to read as it is for me to read short hand. Its a dying art. So, treating this blog as my diary at least means that it is readable (as in legible if not addictive)

I decided early on to go on our own and not in tours. I wanted to meet French speaking people and not spend my time talking to English language tourists. I had hopes even of learning enough French to communicate with the locals. So far that has not been a great success but I haven’t given up. Claudia even suggested that we attend a french language immersion program in Quebec next year. I’ve been keeping up my hour a day online studying with the thought that perhaps in a year I could do in Quebec what I’ve not managed this year in France. That would give me two years and fits in well with a lecture I heard a polyglot (multi-lingual) give. She said it took her about two years of study at my daily intensity for her to learn the six or seven languages she’s learned by studying only one language until she masters it.

There were no glitches today. However after rising late (catching up on sleep) and coming home early to read it was because we realized we needn’t knock ourselves out hour after hour for 30 days straight. The four hours we spent walking around town was plenty. It was followed by some reading and then at 7 a dinner at a small restaurant our host recommended. It proved to be an excellent choice.

Here’s a capsule of our day beginning with that Cathedral we saw last night.

Like Notre Dame in Paris, Notre Dame in Rouen is magnificent. We stayed on the first floor while there and I took more pictures. Like all the cathedrals it was a labor of love, commerce and religion and bragging rights taking hundreds of years to finish. That Rouen, today a modest sized city, managed to pull off what Paris did is not that big a surprise. In the 1100’s it was, at 60,000 souls, the second biggest city in France. And they had hundreds of years to painstakingly build their otherworldly shrine. In about 1800 the spire caught fire and 30 tons of it fell through the roof taking many years to replace. It was rebuilt in the age of the Eifel Tower and swapped limestone and marble for steel.

Some of it was damaged in allied bombing in WW II but it escaped the total destruction of other cathedrals especially those in Germany. Many of the windows were taken out for their protection and replaced but others today only have clear windows which lets in a lot of light.

We traipsed up and down the streets through small stores many of which were made of timber beams like those found in Medieval England. You will see the timbers in the front walls with what looks like stucco in between them.

Tommorrow its on to the coast and the touristy city Honfleur across from industrial LeHarvre where my grandfather landed in January, 1917 to train for battle. We will be driving there and I hope to take in more scenic landscape than the one I could view from the express train.

Here’s a few of today’s pics which I sorted through as we watched PBS’s Washington Week in Review on the Internet:

Our hotel’s tea garden:

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The Rouen Cathedral by day (including a photo taken after the Second World War:

A Big shot whose sarcophagus shows him in decease with a dog at his feet:

Remember the Norman heritage on this one: