France equals Paris? Or Nice, Cannes, Folie Douce, or any other exotic Instagram-worthy location, right? I’m not going to lie: I didn’t choose Rouen- it definitely chose me. It was literally the only university in France that had a connection with our university’s Geography department. It wasn’t exactly an easy move either: leaving Southampton two hours after my last exam, finding myself in France the day after and losing my purse along the way. But, now I’m here I couldn’t be happier that I’m settled in quaint Rouen rather than the other busy tourist-hubs.
I’m not saying Rouen is totally free from clichés – the town centre looks like a medieval postcard. This probably has a lot do with its incredible architecture, boasting another intricately designed church at every turn in the street. So, it’s not like Rouen hasn’t been the recipient of any acknowledgement- it is the town in which Joan of Arc died.
But, there is something- dare I say magical- about strolling through the city centre. I’m always mindful of how fast I’m walking, to avoid tripping over the cobbled streets in my brogues AGAIN and bumping into yet another man clutching a baguette in one hand, cigarette in the other.
My favourite street is the ‘Rue du Gros Horloge’- the oldest street in France, rumour has it. Yet, I find it bizarre that the street is lined with a mélange of petites boutiques, ZARA, and, of course, one of the three McDonald’s to be found in the medieval capital of Europe.
Yet, the one attraction that really stole my heart is the Gothic Cathedral of Rouen standing proud and towering over the entire town. I was with my close friend the first time I encountered this glorious structure. She just smiled at me and told me how despite living here for 2 years, she still is amazed by its beauty, sheer size and hence sometimes journeys into town just to gaze at the cathedral.
This glorious town centre is located 5 minutes away from the River Seine, proving to be a wonderful early morning jogging route or late night inebriated wander, kebab in hand.
I’ve got to say, as stressful as it was to organise, my accommodation is the best I could ever have hoped for. Although the vending machine by the entrance was a strong selling point, the location is equidistant from the town centre, the ‘vieux marché’ and the river.
Other than its aesthetics and must-see historical sites, just the day-to-day life of Rouen won my heart over. The excellent transport system means I can awake half an hour before my 8:30am lecture (RIDICULOUS time I know) and make it to Mont-Saint-Aignan (the main university campus), situated atop of a huge hill and providing the best panoramic view of Rouen.
So, if you’re looking for a picturesque location to have a pain au chocolat, or shop, or even get boozy on €1 wine, then I would recommend Rouen. I could not be happier to be spending 6 months of my university career living here and I’m going to miss waking up to its stunning views. Rouen, thank you for choosing me.
Sound too good to be true? Check out the links below and be amazed…