My fellow guide and I had a huddled conversation this morning over how on earth we were going to get our 50 Amercan tourists through the heart of the city of Rouen this morning. Lining the streets on every side, cheek to cheek, was every conceivable stall groaning under the weight of speciality and artisan foods from the length and breadth of Normandy. Finally colourful umbrellas held high, Joan of Arc’s story having already being recounted on a quiet corner, we snaked our way through the crowd to the Vieux Marché and the cross in the garden outside the Eglise Jeanne d’Arc.
Maybe the end of the historic tour, but for me, the start of a fun-filled lunchtime. A quick call to my younger boys back at home to describe the sweet stall I had just passed, and the boys were hastily on route to the café where I had taken refuge for a pause, before launching ourselves into the crowds to taste all that was on offer.
Having started with a creamy hot chocolate, our next stop was of course the sweet stall. But barely had we paid for two groaning bags than we spotted our favourite chocolatier on the other side of the street making chocolate truffles before our eyes.
-“on offer, for a limited time only” he called, and I knew it was true since last year, once thoroughly addicted, the truffle source dried up by about the end of December, leaving an agonising 8 month wait until this year’s Fête!
Now loaded down with two bags of sweets and a huge groaning bag of truffles, we came across the Macroon stall and walked away with chocolate, Tiramisu, Spéculoos, and Framboise flavours.
But the fun was still to come. As we reached the corner the noise became deafening. Right there, across the street from the Oyster bar, a jazz band was entertaining the crowds. If you look really carefully you can see the oyster shells piled high on one of the tables.
Leaving the band we headed down the street to see what else we could find!
-wonderful fresh vegetables,
– Normandie “escargots” (snails)
and crates of delicious “champignons”.
-Don’t forget the “Neufchatel” cheese, formed in the shape of a heart by the Normandy dairymaids to the allied soldiers in the First World War.
The soft pretzel breads caused a stir with my boys! So much so that they forgot to clamour for a fresh crèpe or a gauffre (waffle)!
But full on fresh bread, sweet bags in hand, with music still ringing in our ears we headed happily home! I hope our American visitors enjoyed it as much as we did!