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Rouen, France

Some of History’s Greats Made Their Mark in this Lovely City Along the Seine

Rouen is the kind of place that charms you immediately. Before you even set foot on a cobbled stone, your eyes will rest on the spires of the famed Rouen Cathedral, rising above the medieval quarters and buildings. Set along the Seine, the story of the Normandy capital runs deep, as it has been a seat of power in some way since the Middle Ages. Counted among those who have influenced Rouen’s culture are some of history’s most pivotal figures, those who have shaped wars, dynasties, the arts and so much more.

The city is a highlight of Crystal Symphony voyages in 2022 and 2023, which offer a rare sailing on the Seine to overnight on the banks of this fascinating city. As you wander the stunning streets, you’ll find yourself on a bit of a time hop, as Rouen’s greatest stories – and those who starred in them – are still very present today. Several of the people who have made their mark here need no introduction, though their significance merits highlighting…

Joan of Arc – The 19-year-old martyr Jeanne d’Arc met her tragic end in Rouen in 1431, which, in itself, is not a happy ending. But the event only served to spark her legacy of heroism and shine a light on her bravery in battling the British on behalf of the French king. She is revered here still, with the Church of St. Joan of Arc casting a conspicuously modern figure against the cityscape. The architecture is significant, with the rooftop sweeping to symbolize the flames that burned her at the stake and stained-glass windows from a 16th century church that once stood near the site. Comparatively, the commemoration at the site of her execution is modest, as the Rouennais prefer to draw more attention to her life than her death. Still, both are profoundly important to Rouen’s history. The Joan of Arc History Museum sheds even more light on the young heroine, located in the archbishop’s palace.

Rouen Cathedral, France
Rouen’s gothic cathedral inspired Impressionist master Claude Monet

Claude Monet – Enchanted may be an understatement. Monet’s interest in Rouen’s cathedral bordered on obsession, as the master of Impressionism created more than 30 paintings of the sacred site, at different times of day, during different seasons, over two years in order to perfectly capture the light on its façade. The series of paintings, completed from 1892 to 1893, served to forever connect the artist to this city. Today, the room across the street from the cathedral that Monet used as his temporary studio (which was then a lingerie boutique) is used for art classes for the next generation of masters. Rouen itself romanced many others – Gaugin, Sisley, Pissarro and others all have works showcased here, having been inspired by the famous light of the city.

Julia Child – Where does the woman who inspired multiple generations of home chefs find her own passion for cuisine? In Rouen. Specifically, at La Couronne (French for “the crown”), where, in 1948, Julia Child enjoyed what she recalled as the “most exciting meal of my life.” In her memoir, My Life in France, Child shared her hesitation to enter the Michelin-recommended restaurant due to concerns she wasn’t “chic enough.” Fortunately for millions of aspiring chefs and foodies the world over, she found her way inside and dined on oysters on the half shell, sole meuniere, Loire Valley white wine and other delicacies that sparked her entry into the world of French cooking.

Fun Fact: In her book, Child also highlights Rouen’s famous clock tower, the beautiful stained-glass of the cathedral and the Old Market Square where Saint Joan met her fate. An establishment since 1345, La Couronne is still located in that square, welcoming guests. 

Crystal invites travelers to  plan your future journey with added flexibility as we look ahead to sailing together again.

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Posted on January 19, 2018