First views of the Rouen Armada

armada 001


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.

armada 005

armada 006

armada 007


“Climb the rigging” –

Which bit?

armada 009

armada 010

armada 011


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!

armada 015


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!

armada 013

armada 014

armada 022


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

armada 021and cool off at the fruit stall with freshly prepared melon and fruit brochettes

armada 017


armada 023


armada 027


armada 024


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!

C’est Chaud à Rouen – Hotting up for the Armada

The cherry-pickers were out on Monday putting up ‘Armada’ bunting across the main street through Rouen, rue Jean d’Arc. There is a charged atmosphere about the city, expectant, and ready. The first Armada tall ships will hopefully arrive in Rouen next Wednesday evening, passing below the Pont Flaubert, the tallest lifting bridge in the world, which will be raised for the occasion.

But for today I was meeting another boat, and was there on the quayside just as The Viking moored after its gradual journey down the Seine from Paris. Should I have been worried? The last time Vikings were seen on the Seine, the city suffered from total destruction, pillaging, and Normandy was handed over to them. Thankfully for me, this Viking ship contained 120 American tourists who were keener on admiring our treasures, than plundering them. This is after all 2013 and not 841.

I am envious of the Americans, for when they continue their journey towards Le Havre, they will have the pleasure of watching the Armada ships sailing up the Seine from an excellent vantage point, the Seine itself. But for us, we have a week of ceremony, free access to the ships, fireworks and a ‘maritime Sunday mass’ ahead of us.

Tourists and visitors are arriving in their masses to watch the spectacle, the hotels are bursting at their seams, and everywhere you chose to look  there are people carrying poles atopped with a shiny red disc denoting ‘group 2A, 2B, or 2C’. I should know, today I was one of them guiding the many tourists around the great monuments of Rouen, trying not to lose Americans in the general hubub and swirling crowds, and trying to keep count of 30 heads whilst at the same time telling them how the leaders of the Harelle riot lost theirs in 1382, and how we lost Jean of Arc for ever.

My diary is crammed with tour dates, many of the guides are running at three a day,  but for some of us, we have to somehow fit in the picking up and dropping off of our children who are incorporated into choirs for both the rehearsals and the the sunday maritime mass, and find the time to provide them with brightly coloured teeshirts (with no buttons or logo) for their performance in front of the cameras. as the 640 strong choir will be televised.

One place I shall certainly be, with my boys,  will be on one of the many bridges spanning the Seine watching the fireworks display at 11.30 on Friday night, which are rumoured to be outstanding. Having missed the great British Guy Fawkes night for the past two years, and inexplicably been out of France for every 14th July, this is an event we cannot miss.


So if you are at a loose end next week, Rouen is where you need to be, and if you see a numbered ‘lolly stick’ waggling above the heads of the crowds, you never know, it could just be me!

A fortnight from now we may just catch a breath for a brief moment, before the ‘City of Impressionists’ festival begins…

But that’s another story!

All photos thanks to google