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France's Hidden Treasure

Alright, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Paris is nice. Paris is great. Paris is filled with romance and excitement and lots of sites for tourists to gape in awe at. But France has a hidden treasure. Well off the beaten path and far away from the flashes of cameras and loud city noises, you can find a beautifully preserved, medieval city that goes by the name of... Rouen.

Time stands still in Rouen. The tudor style buildings, the narrow, cobblestone streets, the tiny, charming "chocolateries," and breath-taking cathedrals will leave you speechless. The magic here is almost tangible. You've seen such places in movies, but there is nothing, nothing like experiencing it first-hand. Even the bustle of friends and families, shopping and laughing and stopping at the café, has an air of sleepiness. When you're walking the streets of Rouen, you're walking in a fairytale.

When I planned my trip to Rouen, I did so because I was curious to see the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. For those of you who need to play catch-up, Joan of Arc was a young woman who claimed to have visions from God (more specifically from various angels and saints) telling her to recover France from English rule. After leading many successful military campaigns, she was finally captured by the English, declared a heretic, and burned at the stake at the age of only nineteen.

When I arrived at the site of her execution, I was surprised to find there was absolutely nobody else there. No tourists snapping pictures. No crowds of people trying to peer over each other's heads to get a better look. No one. Just a small sign and a very large cross, dedicated in her name. I was absolutely struck by the tranquility. I snapped a couple of photos, said a little prayer, and moved on to explore the rest of the city.

I found the most breath-taking view in Rouen at the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. More likely than not, when someone hears the words, "Notre Dame," they immediately think of Paris. Notre Dame in Paris is beautiful. It is so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. But the beauty of Notre Dame de Paris absolutely pales against the magnificence of the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. In fact, it's just a square block of stone compared to its more extravagant counter-part. Which is saying something because, again, I had thought Notre Dame de Paris was one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever seen... until I saw Notre-Dame de Rouen.

Rouen Cathedral is over a thousand years old. There is so much detail in the architecture that you could literally stand and gaze at it for hours and hours and you'd probably still miss something. For those of you history buffs that are fans of Richard the Lionheart, you'll find his heart buried inside these walls.

Although I wasn't able to stay in Rouen for as long as I would have liked, I stayed there long enough to have it steal my heart. I have a new love now. A love of magic. Of wonder. Of enchantment. A love for France's hidden treasure... A city called Rouen.

Love, as always, from your,

It Girl Friday

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