Saturday, 27 July 2013

Rouen, France: Jeanne d'Arc

After an emotional day at the Australian War Memorial I embarked on a train journey to Rouen, the capital of Upper Normandy. A town I only decided to visit earlier that same day, simply because from Amiens I could catch a train to Rouen, Paris or back to Lille. This was also my second day in a row of playing the exciting game of "Sleep Roulette".

Sleep Roulette is starting the day with no accommodation plans and just seeing where the day takes you. The end result could be anything from a beautiful mansion or a bonding session with the local homeless community. On this occasion I received a text message in response to a forum post on Couchsurfing. I accepted without knowing anything about this person except his name at the end of his text "Cheers, Francky"... One of my favourite sayings is "Hope for the best but plan for the worst". In this game you just hope for the best.

Upon arriving in Rouen I was greeted by Francky and his girlfriend, a very happy and friendly French couple around my age that are experienced travellers. After dropping my bags in my new room I am offered a tour of the city and handed a beer by Francky's girlfriend to enjoy along the way. Francky's girlfriend is Algerian heritage and it was Ramadan with Francky also joining in just for this one day. So it was just me walking around the city with a beer.

The tour included the spot Joan of Arc was burnt to death, the unique looking church of Joan of Arc, a cathedral too big to fit in one camera shot and buildings with machine gun damage remaining from WWII.

Francky's girlfriend left the tour early to prepare dinner. Upon returning Francky and I were met by a mini feast and since the sun was down Francky had completed his one day of Ramadan so he was now allowed to enjoy a beer with me.

The next night they had a projection show on the front of the cathedral with interesting music, including dubstep. A feature of all French cities during this time of year. The one in Amiens told the story of the saints represented by each statue (in French), the one in Rouen was the story of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) told only by projection and music (no narration). The cathedral was destroyed many times in this projection.

On my third and final night Francky and I watched free music events scattered across the city, with beers in hand of course. It was a like a mini Fete de la Musique. Afterwards we met up with more of his friends for many more beers before the five of us went back to Francky's for more drinks. I cooked a drunken version of my famous dish.

The next morning I left Rouen en route to Caen via Covoiturage. Covoiturage (ride share) is contributing money to share a ride with a complete stranger. This was less than a quarter of the train fare and much more fun! My driver was a uni student starting his holidays and offered to meet up and show me around my destination.

Lessons learnt:
Everything always works out
Walking around France while carrying a beer is usually acceptable
I'm still terrible with names and I apologise to Francky's girlfriend

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