Madness in Rouen

It really is madness in Rouen this week. On strict instructions from Tuesday’s tour operator I dutifully arrived at the Vieux Marché to show my group of thirty tourists the Vitraux (stained glass) rescued from St Vincent church during World War One to find a snaking queue in both directions through main entrance door.

“It’s not necessary to pay for entry” I said, as the well-dressed beggar on the door was doing a roaring trade with the unsuspecting Americans!

I wished I could have left out the stained glass and shown something more obscure and less stampeded; there were plenty of places I hadn’t had time to show them.

There are approximately 40 guides in Rouen, and over the last few weeks I have turned up to the river cruise ships to find guides who have been drafted in from Paris to help cater for demand. Some of them had had to rise at 4am to arrive on time. I am glad of my cosy apartment a second away from the centre.

Last night I cursed as the sounds of music came beating through my windows, thinking that once again the students in the neighbourhood were partying and it would be a night ‘thin’ on sleep, but pulled open the huge windows nevertheless to water the Geraniums hanging off my balconies, when I realised, with a start, that this wasn’t any old music…..

“Our House” was definitely playing at top volume, buffeted by the wind in my direction. And of course I should have known. My teenage son had headed off with a friend to listen to Madness on the quayside, a good 40 minute walk away, and I’d been relegated to babysitting. But now I had a perfect seat with the windows wide open to hear an hour and a half of Madness live performance, sadly without the visuals.. but we can’t have everything!


Every so often “Husband à l’Etranger” and I have raved about the cult pop groups of our time, only for our kids eyes to glaze over – “mum you are SO old”. Last night my son eventually returned,  converted, having managed to get himself five rows from the stage, and having videod entire songs on his phone. How could I have ever thought that mobile phones for teenagers were evil!




Thankfully the organisers were handing out earplugs to the crowd, of which, according to no1 son, there were thousands. Tonight he’s off again to hear ‘Pony Pony Run Run’ – now there’s a band that is definitely not of my time! But what the city is gearing up for is Friday night’s concert of “Mika”. Superbly popular in France, this will draw thousands, including me and my two younger ones, not necessarily because he is to everyone’s taste, but because his songs are internationally known and because Mika is bilingual French/English which adds to his fan-pulling capability in France.

So there you are, Rouen has drawn in the crowds, not only with the Armada ships, but also with these great free live open-air concerts.

It was madness, there has been Madness, and it still is madness, and will be until Sunday…

when the ships set sail once again and head for open sea. And then?

Well Rouen still has something to Impression you with,

But more about that later!

First views of the Rouen Armada

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Even the boulangers were full of Armada fever this morning as I passed by to take my first look at the Tall Ships  which had come into Rouen at dusk on Wednesday evening, passing under the Pont Flaubert, the tallest lift bridge in the world, and halting all the night traffic.

When I arrived on the quay, it was an impressive sight in front of me, and some ships looked simply too tall to have passed under the bridge, leaving me to ponder – a little like how ships get into a bottle – how they came to be upstream.

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“Climb the rigging” –

Which bit?

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But this is France, and there’s always time for a Fois Gras sandwich or some grilled Magret (duck fillet)! A snooty Maitre D of the big restaurant on the quayside didn’t want to seat me at one of his tables as I was on my own, but the bonhomie of the waiter at the Crèpe and Galette restaurant won me over and I settled for the ‘menu de jour’ with a ‘gobelet’ de Cidre!

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The crew of this ship were tucking into a fine looking lunch but had put a rope across the gangplank to stop chancers like me from trying my luck!

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The weather yesterday was scorching and amongst the many stalls along the quayside it was possible to buy Panamas

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I’m convinced though that they need a taller lift bridge. I shall have to watch on sunday the 16 June, when they all head back down river, and see how they really get underneath!

If you are free from now until the 16 June, come and visit!

Personally I am looking forward to my sunday picnic on the banks of the Seine, where, if I chose my vantage point carefully, they will all pass in front of me between 12 and 4 on their way back to open sea!