LE TOUR DE ROUEN – Joan of Arc on a bike

Rouen’s streets have olde worlde charm, but you need a bike that can handle the cobblestones.

Our tour gave us a half day off from following the lollipop stick and left us to look around Rouen on our own. It’s not necessary to go far to find the main attractions, and there were bikes for hire – for a mere one euro per day.

Take your ‘pic from the cy’clic rack.

It took some poring over the instructions (though they were in English as well as French) to work out the system.

You punch in ‘day pass’, take a deep breath and  insert your credit card. You are issued with a secret code, you are charged one euro, and you have 60 seconds to free your bike from the rack. A refundable deposit of EUR150 is taken from your card, in case you should decide to keep the bike for yourself.

I think they look good, and EUR150 would be a modest price to pay for a comfortable city runabout. But when the Tour de France comes through the town in July, don’t expect to see many of the teams using Rouen Cy’clics.

Cheapskate that I am, I then needed to find another rack within half an hour. If I clic’ed my bike back before then, there would be no further charges.

On the map I found a bike rack by the square where the unfortunate Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for hearing voices. Serious scholars who considered themselves intelligent debated long and hard (and probably some still do) about whether the voices in her head came from God or the Devil.

She was burned, before a change of political climate led other serious scholars to decide she was a saint after all. Sorry for the inconvenience, Joan.

Saint Joan is now honoured by the place where she was burned at the stake.

Rouen was heavily bombed during the WWII Battle of Normandy, and a new church stands in the marketplace.

The church of St Joan was controversial when first built.

I clic’ed another bike from the rack and pedalled on over the cobbled Rouen streets.

No entry, except for bikes.

Just good friends, or is that his lunch?

The great clock and half-timbering.

I took a little break at the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Rouen.

It too has a chapel dedicated to St Jeanne, and has some famous dead residents in Richard I and William I.

Richard the Lionheart

William the Conqueror.

There’s no reason to believe the good-looking, pious chaps depicted in the statues look anything like the real Dick and Bill. Probably the sculptor never saw his subjects.

The streets were sometimes crowded…

…but on the bike you can explore the quiet back streets.

I’d had enough of churches for the day, so I just spent a pleasant hour tootling from rack to rack.

The system worked well, the bikes were comfortable and more people should take advantage of the system.

Note too that helmets are not required in Rouen, or anywhere in France.

The writer was the guest of Viking River Cruises.


Filed under Budget travel, Cycling, France

6 responses to “LE TOUR DE ROUEN – Joan of Arc on a bike

  1. Mike

    As of now Rouen is on my French cities I would officially like to visit. Thanks, Richard.

  2. Agnès van Putten-Beloeil

    We were there on a 14th of july some years ago with the familiy. A nice place to visit, to eat in one of the nice restaurants in the old city. We had later a firework on the Seine.

  3. Good pictures – the grey weather seems to compliment the buildings don’t you think?
    The charges against Joan were many and serious including witchcraft, blasphemy, fighting a battle on a Sunday and wearing men’s clothes and these plus the other sixty-six almost all carried the death sentence. http://aipetcher.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/a-life-in-a-year-7th-july-cross-dressing-and-st-joan-of-arc/

    • That’s a great post, Andrew and I heartily commend it to anyone who wants to know more about St Joan. My knowledge comes from (forced) study of George Bernard Shaw’s play in Grade 8.

      If she committed sixty-nine capital offences, naturally being burned at the stake was too good for her. And wearing trousers and fighting on Sundays – really those French mademoiselles have no shame!

      Just as well there was a church to enforce justice, thus saving God the trouble of punishing her Himself.

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