Rouen

It takes about 45 minutes from either house to drive to Rouen, the capital of upper Normandy.

The Gothic cathedral, and the churches of Saint-Ouen and Saint-Maclou help to give "the town with a thousand spires" its name.  There is an old town - a beautifully restored medieval quarter; Rouen's history was turbulent; it was devastated several times during the Middle Ages by fire and plague, and was occupied by the English during the Hundred Years War. The monuments and stories are fascinating.

Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake here in 1431, and the memorials range from a lovely statue in the cathedral, through the Tour Jeanne d'Arc, to the church in the market square, the plaque marking the place where the she was burnt, and the inscription, "O Jeanne sans sépulcre et sans portrait, toi qui savais que le tombeau des héros est le coeur des vivants...".

Rouen was badly damaged during the Second World War. You can see for yourself the medieval restoration and the plaque in the catherdral explaining how, if the flying buttresses had been damaged at a certain point the cathedral would have been lost.

Le Gros Horloge is a beautiful astronomical clock near to the cathedral. The Monument Juif (Jewish Monument), under the Palais de Justice, may be of interest too.

The Musée des Beaux Arts will perhaps be top of the list of museums to visit in Rouen, followed closely by the Musée de la Céramique and the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles (ironwork museum), amongst others.

You may also like to visit Rouen's botanical gardens, Le Jardin des Plantes. For a quick tour, there's always Le Petit Train and here's another quick reference Rouen site.