La Havre was the town furthest west on our river cruise. Unfortunately, the boat has turned around and we are now heading east back towards Paris.
This morning, we were led into town by another area expert. She pointed out various historical buildings of significance. We spent a fair amount of time at the Ossuary of Saint-Maclou, a cemetery.
In 1348, the town experienced a plague that decimated about three-fourths of the population. The cemetery of Saint Maclou quickly became too small to house the dead and large communal graves were built in the ossuary.
The town of Rouen is probably best known for shopping. In fact our tour guide told us that she likes to window shop because she can’t afford some of the shoes she likes in the store windows. She added that the French term for window shopping is lèche-vitrine, which actually translates in English to “window licking”.
We completed the morning’s tour at the Eglise Sainte Jeanne d’Arc (Church of Joan of Arc). She was burned at the stake and ashes were spread in the Seine. Many years later, she was declared to be officially innocent of all charges and designated a martyr. The stained glass windows from the church are the original windows from the 16th century Church of Saint Vincent.
After lunch, we took another tour into town, this time for a cider and cheese pairing and a stop to attend a chocolate workshop. It seemed like we were walking in circles around Rouen and we ended up at the Hôtel du Vieux Carré. We entered into their restaurant to experience a cider and cheese paring.
The climate in Normandy is much cooler than the rest of France. As a result, the area is better suited towards growing apples instead of grapes and the specialty here is apple cider and not wine.
We were able to taste three different soft cheeses from the Normandy area: camembert, pont-l’évêque and liverot. The camembert was milky and buttery in taste and that paired quite nicely with the acidic nature of the apple cider. Unlike American cider, this was not overly sweet and had a really nice finish.
The pont-l’évêque was definitely the mildest cheese of the three. I think many didn’t care for liverot because it was the most aromatic and the most pungent cheese of the group. Eating this by itself was definitely not as interesting as when I paired that with the cider.
Our last stop was the L’Atelier du Chocolat shop. This shop is actually based in Bayonne France with outlets in various French towns. A pastry chef demonstrated how to temper liquid chocolate and how it has to be a 26C degrees in order to have the right color and finish.