Rouen, Where Young Joan Went Up in Flames

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I’m in my hotel room in Rouen France and the sunlight is streaming in the window. Outside the sun feels like it’s about 5:30 pm, but shockingly, it’s just after 8. Here we are so far north and it’s just one day past the longest day of the year. I asked Isabella our tourism guide here what time it got dark and she said around 11 pm.

Rouen is a city of about 100,000 with a rich history, much of which centers around the famous girl Saint Joan of Arc. In 1979 a long tall building was built at the site of the place where she was so famously burned at the cross. There are remnants here of an ancient church that was carted away to make room for an outdoor food market. The building sweeps up and looks like the hat I’ve seen her wearing in paintings, inside it looks like a giant ship. Sixteenth century stained glass windows tell stories of Jesus and at night these colorful windows are lit from the inside to show off to those outside.

In the distance just a few blocks away is the famous 150 meter high spire of the main Cathedral at Rouen. It had four shorter spires around this immense one but in 1999, a tornado blew one of them down and it crashed into the nave.

The city is full of young people and many open squares, built after the bombing of WWII reduced mucP1540948 726151h of the old buildings to rubble. One square is called April 19, 1944 square, a date that both the priceless cathedral and the city were bombed by the allies fighting the occupied land.

Today thousands of students hang around cafes and there are many pedestrian areas..and sometimes smooch in the cathedral! These are the kinds of open pedestrian places I’ve always thought Northampton MA needed!