Table of Contents
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
“A magnificent Renaissance mansion in the heart of Rouen is the five-star Marriott Bourgtheroulde“
In the heart of the ancient capital of Normandy, the lively and lovely city of Rouen was the home of William the Conqueror, Henry II Plantagenet, Richard the Lion Heart, and the site of the burning of Joan of Arc.
Marriott Bourgtheroulde is the perfect location in to visit the Cathedral, Museums, and other places of interest in the historic city of Rouen, all just one hour from Paris, and en route the D-Day Beaches and iconic Mont St Michel.
1. A historic monument in a historic city
Rouen is an ancient city founded by the Romans on the right bank of the River Seine. It was then the second-largest town in Gaul.
After repeated plunders by Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries, the duchy was given to their leader, Rollon, by the Frankish king to buy peace. But the most famous Duke of Normandy undoubtedly is William the Conqueror who became the first Norman king of England. The second most famous Duke of Normandy is Richard the Lion Heart who died in France in 1199. His tomb is at the Fontevraud Abbey but his heart actually is inside his recumbent statue that can be seen inside Rouen Cathedral.
Of course, Rouen is also famous for being the town where Joan of Arc’s trial took place and where she was burned alive in 1431.
The Renaissance heralded in an era of development and prosperity. Fortunes were made and wealthy families built beautiful mansions in Rouen. One of them was the Bourgtheroulde family who built the remarkable building where the five-star Marriott Bourgtheroulde is today.
Its architecture is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Its beautiful facade overlooks a quiet square in Rouen, and once you pass the sculpted front door –with its two iconic Norman lions – you’ll discover a spectacular inner courtyard.
On the left is the amazing Galerie d’Aumale with a unique bas-relief depicting the “Field of Cloth of Gold” meeting between Henry VIII and French King Francis I in 1520. The main building where the hotel is today is richly decorated with mullioned windows, symbolic zoomorphic sculpture and an elegant stone stairway. It’s no surprise that it was listed as historic monument as early as 1924.
The bar of the Marriott Bourgtheroulde
2. The Marriott hospitality
After taking some time to admire the courtyard, we climbed the stairs to the hotel’s reception desk, .and entered a totally different time.
The architects deliberately chose to create a modern and contemporary haven here. The vast atrium bar has been set under a high Art Deco glass roof, while the glass floor offers an unusual view over the indoor pool of the hotel.
The Marriott Bourgtheroulde has 78 rooms distributed around the building, including the corner turret, should you want to feel like a King or Queen for the night.
There are many different categories of rooms, all are very comfortable and finely decorated with wall panelling, colourful carpets and cushions, classic and contemporary furnishings, and vast marble bathrooms. Don’t miss a visit to the wellness area where you can relax by the indoor pool, tuckt into he sauna or hammam, work out in the gym and sooth muscles in the Jacuzzi. The spa has a wide menu of facial or body treatments too.
The buffet breakfast is served in a vast modern room filled with sunlight. The buffet offers everything you can and must expect in a 5-star hotel, service is efficient and it is a very good way to start a busy day.
More at www.hotelsparouen.com/en/
The Polish Dar Mlodziezy for the Grand Armada of Rouen
3. The Grand Armada
Every four years the Grand Armada gathers in Rouen, bringing more than fifty historic sailing ships and modern military vessels from around the world converge in one spectacular city. It’s the only event of its kind in France.
For 2023, the event will take place between June 8 and June 18. T
During these ten days, hundreds of thousands visitors flock to Rouen to be part of the festivities. Everyone has free access to the Seine River banks, to the boats, to daily live music concerts and firework displays.
There are also paid attractions such as cruises on the river to admire the armada from a different angle.
The Grand Armada ends with a grand parade during which the boats leave Rouen and sail along the Seine down to its estuary. On that last day hundreds of thousands people gather on the banks to bid farewell to these giants of the sea.
Medieval houses in Rouen
4. Rouen, a lively city
One of the many reasons to stay at Marriott Bourgtheroulde is that much of what you’ll want to see and do is in walking distance of the hotel.
The entire city centre is a vast pedestrian area filled with museums, historic sites, bars restaurants and hundreds of shops. There are several universities in town and the streets are filled with young people during the day and until late at night. Normans love to party, especially during the Grand Armada. On the Place du Vieux Marché- the Old Market Square- there are bars and restaurants with outside terraces and a lively atmosphere. The square is surrounded with well-maintained Renaissance and medieval houses.
A modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc was built on this square in 1979. Its architecture pays tribute to Rouen naval history with a roof that resembles an upside down boat hull made of wood, copper and slate.
Next to it is the site where Joan was burned alive.
Close by is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the largest and tallest (151-metres) in France. During summer, the gothic façade become a screen “repainted” with colourful digital videos and lights.
There are many other churches around Rouen, which is why it’s also called “the city with 100 church towers”.
Make sure you visit the “Gros-Horloge” -the Big Clock. This 14th century astronomic clock is in the middle of a Renaissance arch that spans a narrow street of Rouen town centre. Just look for the people gazing upward.
Abbey of St-Martin-de-Boscherville near Rouen
5. The nearby villages and specialties of Normandy
If you have a car, Rouen makes a good springboard for exploring.
Follow the river to the lovely villages of the Seine Valley, including picturesque ones such as Elbeuf, La Bouille, Jumièges, Orival or Saint Martin de Bosherville.
The “Road of the Abbeys” starts at the St Ouen Abbey, right in Rouen and will take you off town to Jumièges and St Martin-de-Boscherville Abbeys.
The Seine Valley is a land of plenty and is famous for producing tasty fruits, and thus a “Route des Fruits” has been created, which you can travel by car or bike. Make sure to arrive hungry so you can taste local apples, plums, pears or red berries. Normandy is also know for its apple juice, cider, pommeau, and calvados, an apple brandy with Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status.
You’ll also find loads of cheese makers and you will be able to taste world famous Norman cheese such as Camembert, Pont l’Eveque and the heart-shaped Neufchatel.
BeSeeingYou In: Rouen
Fun fact: There is a French pear variety originating from Rouen, the Passe Crassane.
Good to know: Like Paris, Rouen is split by the Seine River into two sides, the Rive Gauche (Left bank) and the Rive Droite (Right bank). Rouen’s old town is on the Rive Droite. A shuttle boat makes crossing between the two easy.
Getting there: From Paris’s Gare St-Lazare, trains leave for Rouen about once an hour, and the journey is less than two hours.
Stay: Marriott Bourgtheroulde
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny
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