Now, a couple of months back (in October), I had written a post about one of my first trips to Rouen, the capital of Normandy (and the region in which I am living for work). That was all the way back towards the beginning of my time in France, and now, fast-forwarding to April, it is amazing how I have continued to return to this charming, medieval city again and again, whether for teacher training days or for catching transfers over to Paris and/or other French cities. Although I don’t live in Rouen, I have become very familiar with the city, in terms of where places are located; then again, it’s not a big city like Paris, and so it’s not too hard to get accustomed to it within a few visits.
However, it wasn’t until just this past Saturday that I decided to visit Rouen again, to meet up with other assistants from there and spend the day with; as we were nearing the end of our teaching contracts, we were soon to finish and leave France to return home, which could be in the United States, England, Australia, even Jamaica! So our meeting on Saturday was sort of our last “hurrah” before all of the packing and leaving started.
Now, I had visited Rouen properly before, but only towards the beginning of my contract back in September and October. But since then, I had stopped. As said, I have been using Rouen now as a place to catch transfers over to other cities in France during my travels, as its a big enough city to do so (I am based in a small town, where access is super limited). Returning that Saturday, though, I didn’t realize how nice it was. Even though I had seen the same buildings many times, I found something new in them that day, whether an extra detail in the cathedral design or in the pink flowers (cherry blossoms?) that were in full bloom, despite the rainy, Normandy weather. I had forgotten how rather nice Rouen was!
I was meeting a few assistants around 10h30 at the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Rouen, and so I met up with them there. One Australian (let’s call her “Rita”) and an American (let’s call him “Frank”), also from California like me, met me at the cathedral. We spent the morning visiting la Tour Jeanne d’Arc, a tower in which Joan of Arc was imprisoned for a few months during the winter, before being tried and burned later. Admission was fee, and so we climbed the three floors to the top, checking out the artifacts and other items related to the famous heroine of the 15th century.
Afterwards, we headed back into town, checking out une petite fleuve (“little river”) through one of the cobblestone streets of the old town. We had lunch at a café, getting a quiche for the main dish and a brioche perdue (like a pain perdu, aka French toast) for dessert. During our time together, we caught up on our lives teaching in our respective places in Normandy, as well as our travels throughout Europe during our paid vacations. It had been January since we had last saw each other, and so it was really nice to update each other.
Afterwards, we met up with another assistant (let’s call her “Shayna”) and her friend who was visiting Rouen for the weekend. Since they were not very familiar with Rouen, we gave them a “mini tour” of the main tourist attractions, including the Gros Horloge, the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Rouen, the Palais de Justice, and the Joan of Arc Church. We ended up hanging out inside of the Joan of Arc Church for a while, talking about n’importe quoi until 16h30, when we decided to head out (and I needed to catch my bus back to my small town a few minutes later).
Shayna and her friend were hungry, so they decided to bounce and head to McDonald’s. Rita and Frank walked me over to the bus station; we hugged, thanked each other for the lovely day, and wished each other the best after teaching. Bittersweet, I know, but I am glad to have met and became friends with them over this year abroad. Although we didn’t see much of each other except for that day and the times during our teacher meetings, we still managed to stay in touch during these months. I have to thank social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) for keeping our friendship going.
I took the bus back to Caudebec-en-Caux, where I was to transfer to another bus to get home. However, I had made an extremely grave mistake when planning it out, as I realized upon arriving back at Caudebec that the bus only ran until Friday, not Saturday. Crap…unless I figured something out, I would be stranded there for the night!
Thankfully, one of my colleagues was super kind to pick me up after I had called her, despite her being preoccupied with weekend plans with her friends. She dropped me off at my house around 20h20, and I was so relieved to be back in my flat. Ah, felt so good to be back…
…and there you go! My day trip to Rouen was a good, pleasant one, despite the *inconvenience* of returning home afterwards. While I didn’t do a whole lot in the city with Rita and Frank, our wandering (flâner) throughout Rouen, talking about nothing in particular, was just right with me. Definitely felt like something out of a Before Sunset scene (love that film series, by the way), and I really do hope that we can stay in touch over time, although it’ll be very hard to since we’re going separate ways afterwards. In any case, the memories made while in Normandy will continue to touch me again and again, cheesy as it sounds. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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