Saint Sofia Crypt and Sofia Archeology Museum Highlight Last Bulgaria Day

Saint Sofia Crypt and Sofia Archeology Museum Highlight Last Bulgaria Day

Saint Sofia Crypt and Sofia Archeology Museum Highlight Last Bulgaria Day

We returned to Sofia Bulgaria for one day before leaving the country to head to France for the next few weeks.  On our first day in Bulgaria, a week earlier, during the walking tour given by our friend Teddy, we had picked out a few things that we wanted to explore in greater depth.  So this day we went back to see more of St. Sofia’s Church (and its incredible ancient crypt) and the National Archaeology Museum.

We started it all off by taking a taxi to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  When we arrived there, I discovered we were early for St. Sofia (just across the plaza from the cathedral), which wasn’t set to open for another half hour.  So I took advantage of the beautiful weather (with a lovely blue sky) to take some pictures of the cathedral.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral reminds me a lot of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, with all its domes piled seemingly one on top of the other.  So I was happy to have the chance to snap some photos.  I also took the opportunity to take another look at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, right across the street and in fact right up against the side of St. Sofia Church.

There was a woman selling handmade linens nearby as well, and Therese spent a couple minutes looking through her offerings and chatting with the woman, before selecting a lovely piece (I believe it was a tablecloth).

Finally, the church was open, and so we walked over to see it.

Saint Sofia Church

Saint Sofia Church

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral may look like the Hagia Sophia, but this building is actually as old as that Istanbul monument, dating from the middle of the 6th century.  At one time, its interior was decorated with murals, but unfortunately, those murals were removed when the Ottoman Empire overran Bulgaria in the 16th century (at which time the church was converted to a mosque).  As a result, the interior is rather plain; nevertheless, I think you will agree that the ancient stonework, while austere, is breathtaking.

Considering the building’s antiquity, it is remarkable how much of it has survived.  There are spots where white plaster has been used to fill in areas where the stonework has been lost, and there are metal posts holding the sides of the buildings together (or keeping them from collapsing inward?); nevertheless, there is much of the original building to admire.

More wonders have been preserved below the street level, in the church’s crypt.  There are the treasures discovered during archaeological excavations, of the several buildings that were erected on the site before the present church, sacred spaces dating back to the second century.  Numerous early Christian burial chambers (including one that was ornately frescoed) and gorgeous mosaics floors are on display, making a trip downstairs a must.

Our next stop was not far away, at the National Archaeology Museum.  From the outside, this building is rather unassuming, a squarish former mosque.

National Archaeology Museum

National Archaeology Museum

But the wealth of treasures filling the wide open interior made this a very worthwhile visit for us – we spent a couple of hours there, and could’ve easily stayed longer, there was so much to see!

In addition to the wealth of material on the main floor, there are also several rooms rimming the structure on the second floor, filled with display cases covering specific aspects of the museum collection, like treasures made out of gold.  One of the most impressive pieces I saw there was a Peytral, or piece of armor that is strapped to the chest of a horse to protect it when riding into a battle (although this Peytral is so beautiful that it can only have been ceremonial).

After a few hours of serious intense culture, we were ready for some lunch.  Teddy had taken us through Vitosha Boulevard on our first day in Sofia, which is the city’s most celebrated pedestrian-only street.  Later in the week, when we were in Veliko Turnovo, we had eaten at Shtastliveca, a fantastic restaurant.  So when Teddy told us there was another Shtastliveca on Vitosha Boulevard, we immediately decided to make that our lunch destination for that last day in Sofia.

Shtastliveca Sign

Shtastliveca Sign

Now I must apologize that I don’t remember what the dish was that I ate for lunch that day.  I do remember that it came with a garnish of scallions and red peppers, and that it was a stew (of pork I think).  It was definitely quite delicious and completely dairy free (made that way special for me, thanks to our waiter’s – and the chef’s – good work).  Though we sat at the outside terrace, this restaurant showed many of the same signs as its sister in Veliko Turnovo – great food, great sense of style (just look at the tablecloth below).  A fabulous final meal in Bulgaria!

And thankfully, while it was still hot that day, it wasn’t quite as blisteringly scorching as it had been for most of the week – now that we were leaving, Bulgaria’s weather was finally starting to settle down.  While we looked forward to our time in France, we had enjoyed our time in Bulgaria, maybe even more than we thought we would – and so we were a bit sad to leave.

Posted in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Food, Churches, Countries, Dairy Free, Food, Lunch, Museums, Restaurants, Sofia, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lasagna with Miyoko Schinner VeganMozz for pre-Thanksgiving Munching

Lasagna with Miyoko Schinner VeganMozz for Pre-Thanksgiving Munching

Lasagna with Miyoko Schinner VeganMozz for Pre-Thanksgiving Munching

People who have read my blog for a while will know that one of the challenges for me is figuring out what to eat in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  I do most of my cooking the two days before the holiday, and I don’t want to have to worry too much about moving away from Thanksgiving cooking to attend to daily food needs.  This year, my solution is to make a big dish of lasagna that we can eat for lunch and dinner over the days until Thanksgiving.

Part of what inspired me is that, when I was most recently in Riverdel Cheese Shop in Brooklyn, they had lots of Miyoko Schinner‘s vegan mozzarella, which she calls VeganMozz.  Right away I thought: lasagna.  Of course, mozzarella alone does not lasagna make.  When I went to my local supermarket, Brooklyn Fare (which is in Midtown Manhattan, btw), I picked out some lasagna sheets made by Barilla, so I thought, why not make it easy on myself and get some jars of Barilla chunky marinara sauce as well?  I squared it all by picking out a straightforward recipe off the Internet by, you guessed it, Barilla – three layer lasagna.

I had already gotten some ground beef and Italian sausages (sorry, vegans) on that same trip to Brooklyn Fare.  But then I realized, I need more in the cheese way to really make the dish work.  So I scouted out possibilities at Whole Foods Supermarket, and settled on grated vegan parmesan made by Follow Your Heart.  For a ricotta substitute, I chose Follow Your Heart sour cream (I know, much more liquid-y than ricotta, but it worked pretty well).

Last night, I put it all together – browned the meat while the pasta was cooking, sprayed my glass pyrex casserole, layered noodle/meat sauce/cheese mix until finished, saved some grated VeganMozz to sprinkle over the top, and with my oven on convection mode, it came out great.  One tip on using the VeganMozz: if you want to grate it, do so right after you remove it from the refrigerator.  If you let it warm up, it gets too soft, making grating a mushy mess.

My wife and my daughter, who came over to have dinner with us, both proclaimed it some of the best lasagna they have ever eaten.  So thanks to Miyoko’s Kitchen and Barilla, and everybody else who had a hand in feeding us while we make ready for the big food day on Thursday!

 

Posted in Cooking, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, Products, Recipes, Vegan cheeses | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rouen Ceramics Museum and Palais des Thes and Dame Cakes

Rouen Ceramics Museum and Palais des Thes and Dame Cakes

Rouen Ceramics Museum and Palais des Thes and Dame Cakes

Having spent a full day in Bayeux the day before, we got an early start on our fourth day in Rouen, a Thursday.  In the afternoon, we took a bus over to the Musee des Beaux-arts stop, and walked past that august museum (which we would visit the next day), to approach one of the museums on our list that we had not seen in 2014 – the Ceramics Museum.

The entrance to the museum is actually in the back, so first you see the front of the building, but you walk up the stairs to its right –

Ceramics Museum at the Street Level

Ceramics Museum at the Street Level

then you turn left and walk through one door into the museum’s courtyard –

Ceramics Museum Entrance to the Courtyard

Ceramics Museum Entrance to the Courtyard

then finally, you enter through a set of double doors into the museum.

Ceramics Museum Entrance Door

Ceramics Museum Entrance Door

The Ceramics Museum is another branch of Rouen’s City Museum, with hours only in the afternoon, and free admission.  Housed in the former Hotel d’Hocqueville, a modest mansion with several floors of manageably-sized rooms, visiting this museum is the perfect way to pass an afternoon.

First Plate You See When You Walk in the Door

First Plate You See When You Walk in the Door

From the first plate displayed behind glass not far from the admission desk, I was thrilled.  And while I can’t tell you a lot about the different sorts of ceramics, I have made note of some details that may be instructive.  Rest assured that what I make note of is a tiny fraction of what we saw that day.

The first room is noteworthy as a room all by itself – the walls are covered with the decorations original to the house from before it was a museum.  Nevertheless, the display in this room stole the show – among the pieces exhibited was a Deruta plate from the 16th century that was just splendid.

Deruta Original Plate

Deruta Original Plate

The next room we entered was dedicated to the works of Masseot Abaquesne, mainly floor tiles created by his studio.

Another room contained earthenware sculptures such as these two entertaining ones of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

Earthenware Sculptures of Cleopatra and Marc Antony

Earthenware Sculptures of Cleopatra and Marc Antony

One piece on display that I found extremely intriguing was a violin covered in Delft ceramic.  I wonder if this piece was made to honor a particular musician, or if it in fact could ever be played.  It doesn’t show any signs of ever having been strung, but it could have been.  I am sure one of my string player friends could tell me whether you would be able to get any good sound out of an instrument with a ceramic body.

Delft Violin

Delft Violin

Probably my favorite piece of the entire collection was also contained in the display cases in that first room – a plate ringed with rabbits and hunting dogs with a pair of lovers in the center, from the Renaissance as I recall.

My Favorite Piece in the Entire Collection

My Favorite Piece in the Entire Collection

When we left the museum, we walked southward into the center of Rouen, first passing through the Allee Eugene Delacroix and its awesome gate.

Gate at Southern End of Allee Eugene Delacroix

Gate at Southern End of Allee Eugene Delacroix

Our destination was the Palais des Thes.  We had brought some teabags with us from our stay at Astor St-Honore Hotel in Paris, but those only lasted us a couple of days.  So we were hoping to get enough tea – in bags or loose – to last us for the rest of our stay in France.

The shop sells mostly loose tea.  We indicated our preference for mint tea, and they let us sniff two kinds, one that was a sort of Moroccan mint with green tea, and a second that was a very intense perfumy mint.  We decided on the former, and left very happy with a container of first class tea.

Half-timbered Houses Near Palais des Thes

Half-timbered Houses Near Palais des Thes

As on many occasions in Rouen, we turned and looked up and there was a breathtaking vista of the city’s ancient looking architecture.

Fountain Across from Dame Cakes

Fountain Across from Dame Cakes

Our next stop was at Dame Cakes for some afternoon refreshment.  Situated right across the street from the old Archbishop’s Palace, Dame Cakes has quite an auspicious location.

On this occasion, we decided to get a table and have some refreshment in the cafe itself.  None of their cakes are dairy free, sadly (they sound fantastic).  But, as had happened the first time we visited here during our stay in 2014, when I told the waitress about my allergy, she steered me toward the front counter and its display of dark chocolates.  I selected one that was made with dried fruit and nuts.  Coupled with a Diabolo Menthe, a typical French soft drink made with spring water and mint syrup served over ice, I was very very happy.

Typical Rouen Walkway

Typical Rouen Walkway

Posted in Cafes, Candy, Chocolate, Countries, Food, France, Museums, Rouen, Tea, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dairy Free Weekend in Providence Rhode Island

Dairy Free Weekend in Providence Rhode Island

Dairy Free Weekend in Providence Rhode Island

We were very thrilled to spend Veterans Day weekend in Providence, Rhode Island.  I don’t remember what originally compelled us to want to visit Providence – perhaps the fact that whenever we ride Amtrak to Boston, we go through it, and once upon a time I had some friends who lived there.  In any case, there is a Hilton “curio” hotel there, the Providence Biltmore, and months ago we reserved a room there.  And it turned out to be an awesome weekend.  Providence, a small walk-able city, for its size really packs in lots to do.

After arriving on Friday on the morning North East Regional train from New York City, we walked to the Biltmore hotel (about 10 minutes away), left our luggage (too early to check in), and walked to the Providence Arcade.

The Providence Arcade

The Providence Arcade

The Arcade is billed as the nation’s first indoor shopping mall, having been built in 1828.  Nowadays, only the bottom floor is a shopping mall – the upper levels have been turned into apartments.  We took a look around Carmen & Ginger, a crafts store, and ate some lunch at Livi’s Pockets (I had a chicken and falafel wrap, which was good but packed a bit loosely, making it messy – I got tahini sauce everywhere).

From there, we walked south on Westminster Street, passing some of the wonderful old buildings in Downcity, which is Providentians call their downtown area.  For example, we saw the Union Trust Building with its incredible lobby and famous sculpture by Daniel Chester French, who also designed the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial (there is also a very attractive restaurant called the Dorrance which occupies the street-level corner of the building, which we unfortunately did not have the chance to visit for dinner).

Daniel Chester French's Pilgrim and the Indian Sculpture, Union Trust Building

Daniel Chester French’s Pilgrim and the Indian Sculpture, Union Trust Building

We continued down the street, doing some excellent shopping at Craftland and Homestyle, two wonderful stores.  I can’t tell what we bought, since most of it was Christmas gifts and some of those being gifted might be reading!  We did a great job though, and came away with lots of goodies!

By now our room was ready, and so we checked in and dropped off our shopping bags, and figured out our next move.  Therese had come up with the idea of going to see a movie, and so we headed to Providence Place, Providence’s big modern indoor shopping mall, to visit their Cinemas 16 Theater.  Once again, this was within easy walking distance of our hotel, which we loved, since it was a cold and windy day.  We watched Arrival, a fascinating science fiction movie about the Earth being visited by aliens, with a good cast headlined by Amy Adams.

After our movie, Therese noticed a store called Torrid in the mall that had lots of great clothes for her.  While she tried some things on, I explored, and when she was done (she found some nice t-shirts and other things, a real find this store was), we walked from there to Ken’s Ramen, where we ate an awesome ramen dinner.  Therese, who has been to Japan, remarked that the style of this restaurant reminded her a lot of Japan – the efficiency and organization, I guess.  The food was really really good, and fairly inexpensive for such a filling dinner.  We were quite satisfied with our day, and surprised at pooped we were when we got back to our hotel room.

We slept in Saturday morning and got a late start – Therese went and got her nails done at a salon in Providence Place while I showered and made plans for the day.  Our first stop was the John Brown House (to get there, we took a taxi – while I had heard that taxis are not a reliable way to get around Providence, that was not our experience, as there was a queue not far from our hotel which made finding a taxi very easy).

John Brown House

John Brown House

An audio guide comes free with your ticket to the Brown house, and that’s all you need to explore in an informed manner.  I will say that with some entries, they don’t explain exactly where the thing is that they are describing.  But you can go back once you have located the item.  And there are enough intriguing items in each room that they could add many more entries; but as it is, there is enough to keep you busy for 90 minutes to two hours.

Since we had started late, when we finished at the Brown House, it was more like early dinner time than late lunch time.  So we gave in to it, and after exploring some shops catty-cornered to the Brown House on South Main Street (we spent the most time in Touched by Green, where the proprietor was very friendly), we walked west to Hemenway’s, a restaurant I had originally planned for Sunday lunch.

Since we had given in to the fact that this was going to be our dinner, rather than a hasty late lunch, we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves.  Our server, Nancy, was great in giving advice about accommodating my allergy, and giving us great insights into the menu in general.  We both ordered the same thing, what Nancy called “lazy man’s lobster” where the meat is removed from the claws and stuffed into the body of the lobster with scallops and shrimps and bread crumbs and then the whole thing is roasted in the oven.  My bread crumbs were probably a little more basic, because they usually toss them with butter and seasonings, but whatever they conjured for me worked very well.  The side I ordered, roasted cauliflower, also had bread crumbs and seasonings, once again more simply prepared for my case to avoid the butter.

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the oysters we ate as our starter before the lobsters.  They were local – I did not make note of the name – nicely sized, just a bit briny and with lots of liquor, easily some of the best oysters I have ever had.  The wine Nancy recommended we drink to go with our oysters and lobster, a Ferrari-Carano “Fume Blanc” Sauvignon Blanc, was great too – a light minerally/citrussy white wine.

That was it for us on Saturday – we walked back to our hotel through the quiet downtown, oops, sorry – Downcity, and had a relaxing evening in our hotel room.  Just what the doctor ordered.

After breakfast on Sunday, we got a bit of an earlier start, walking back to the east side of Providence to visit the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD, or to the locals, “Rizdee”) Art Museum.  While part of the museum is under renovation, there was still plenty to see – a great Impressionist exhibit, intriguing Japanese (and Japanese-style) prints, a collection of ceramics, and students works.

For our lunch, we found a cafe nearby (XO Cafe) which was right at the end of its brunch service.  Some eggs and chicken sausages later, we wandered down Benefit Street, taking in some of the historic old buildings, like the First Baptist Church.

First Baptist Church of Providence

First Baptist Church of Providence

I will warn you that as you walk west from the river, the streets go steeply upward.  We walked parallel to the river for the most part to avoid getting out of breath.  It was a more leisurely experience we were after.  At the end of our jaunt, before heading back once more to our hotel, we stopped in at the Providence Athenaeum, a historic private library that is quite beautiful.

The Providence Athenaeum

The Providence Athenaeum

Once inside, we found a nice comfy couch and Therese selected a book and read for a while.  Me?  I snoozed a bit.  You see, my sinuses were giving me trouble that day, and I had taken Benadryl, which usually works for me, but on this occasion, it mainly made me very drowsy.  Embarrassing, but luckily, I managed to enjoy the day (and the weekend) in spite of my nose problems.

And what a fantastic weekend we had!  For such a compact city, there is lots to do in Providence – we hardly scratched the surface during our weekend.  The people we ran into were all very friendly, and we ate lots of great food.  We will have to find an occasion to go back – next time, maybe during the spring or summer when it hopefully won’t be so cold.

Posted in Countries, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, Historic Homes, Lunch, Movie theaters, Museums, Providence, Restaurants, Rhode Island, Seafood, Travel, United States | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bayeux Day Trip During Three Week Rouen Residency

Bayeux Day Trip During Three Week Rouen Residency

Bayeux Day Trip During Three Week Rouen Residency

After two days in Rouen, we were already getting bored.  Just kidding.  But to change things up a bit, we planned out the first of two day trips, this one by train to Bayeux.  Wow, what a change from just a few days earlier in Bulgaria.  Remember how it was sweltering in Bulgaria?  Well, while it was pleasantly cool in Rouen (high 60s and low 70s), it was rainy and frigid in Bayeux – I don’t think it hit 60 the day were were there.

But we soldiered on, with our jackets and umbrellas.  The train station is a short walk from the historic center of the city, and in just a few minutes we stood outside our first stop of Bayeux sightseeing, the Bayeux Tapestry Museum.

If you don’t know what the Bayeux Tapestry is, remember that this part of the world, 950-some years ago, was the scene to one of the seminal events in history, the Battle of Hastings.  The leader who would be the winner of that battle, hereafter known to history as William the Conqueror, was the Duke of Normandy, and the events leading up to him crossing the English Channel and taking on the English took place in Normandy.  All of that, plus the battle of course, are woven into a long cloth picture book, the Tapestry.

To view the tapestry nowadays, you walk through a curved room, and it is displayed laid out on the inside wall.  There is an audio guide with period music that describes what is happening in the scenes on the tapestry, which is numbered for easy reference.  What surprised me is how brutal and bloody the whole thing is.  There are parts where chopped up bodies are in the margins.  The tapestry and the museum are marketed, it appears to me, as student-friendly – and while the average person nowadays sees people murdered and even chopped up on television all the time, this tapestry is not for young eyes.

Be that as it may, beyond the tapestry in its curved room, there is another floor with displays giving it some context.  Included in that are some suppositions about how it was created, and how people originally saw it. There is an illustration showing it hung in the cathedral on feast days.  I hope they gave up on that pretty quickly, since, again, would you want to bring your small child to church to see images of people being butchered?  Plus, it doesn’t give the impression that it’s terribly durable – it is made out of cloth after all – and exposing it to the air, even one day a year, over the centuries, would’ve doomed it.

After that great start to our day, we were feeling hungry.  Unfortunately, our long train ride coupled with our museum visit left us just a bit beyond the lunch service time.  Most restaurants were closing to prepare for dinner or only offering beverages, so we had to hunt for someone who might be still serving lunch.  We thought a hotel might be a good bet, and walking along the street behind the cathedral, we found Le Garde Manger, a hotel restaurant that was open.

Not only was this open, but they served very good food.  The club sandwich I ordered, with hard boiled egg, bacon, slices of chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on white toast, was great (mmmm, I could go for one of those right now).

After lunch, the next thing I had in mind was visiting the Cathedral.  But Therese had found another place for us to visit, which was not far from there.  Maison Lecornu has a great reputation for making some of the best cider and Calvados in a region that is already well-known for those things (after all, this region gave its name to the famous apple brandy).

We did tastings of pretty much everything they offered – they were very nice to show us pretty much their whole line of cider and brandies – and wow, we loved it.  If there had been a way, we would’ve bought many bottles of everything.  As it was, we bought a bottle of Calvados Hors d’Age, or 6 year old brandy.  We also bought two small bottles of the same, thinking we could put these in our checked luggage where we could best protect them.  Then we bought some cider and apple juice (the most delicate dry but flavorful apple juice I have ever tasted), which we planned to drink while we were in France.

Bayeux Cathedral

Bayeux Cathedral

Then it was off to the Cathedral!  I was so thrilled to see this cathedral, since it includes a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles in its design.  Oh sure, like most cathedrals and churches, as the centuries passed, and things started to show wear, the repairs and additions were done in succeeding styles (Renaissance, Baroque, etc.).  But the bones of this cathedral are so obviously Romanesque in the west end and nave and then Gothic in the choir and east end.  So cool to see that transition from one to the other.

I also enjoyed seeing the crypt.  Sometimes crypts are just stone pillars and capitals, but this one has a painted ceiling and painted decorations above several of the capitals.  And I always love seeing Medieval depictions of musicians.

My favorite part of the Cathedral was the Romanesque decorations in the creases above the archways on both sides of the nave.  The faces and creatures carved in stone there, and the various Romanesque ornaments, are just wonderful.  I could spend days there with binoculars and a sketch pad trying to draw all these extraordinary figures.

Leaving the Cathedral, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do next.  We hadn’t really seen that much of the town as of yet, and we had read about a walking tour that left from in front of the Tourist Information Office, so we started walking in that direction.  However, when we arrived, we found out the tour costs, I think it was 20 Euros a person, and took a couple of hours.

So we thought we would conclude the afternoon instead by going to have some refreshment in a cafe, and Patisserie Ordioni was not far, so we stopped in there, found a table, and had a sit.  As is often the case with bakeries, there weren’t any pastries that were dairy free – but they did have dairy free dark chocolate available, so I bought one of those bars to go with my cold drink, and it was scrumptious.

We originally had bought a rather late return ticket that left around 8pm, transferred through Paris, and wouldn’t get us back to Rouen until around midnight.  But we felt like we had already had our fill of Bayeux, so we walked back to the train station and exchanged our tickets for a train leaving around 6.  That one transferred at Caen, just as the one to Bayeux had done, and returned us to Rouen at a decent time.  That sounded like a good deal to us.  Just a couple hours later, we were warm and cozy in our apartment back in Rouen.  All in all, a very successful and enjoyable day in Bayeux.

Posted in Bayeux, Churches, Countries, Dairy Free, Food, France, Lunch, Museums, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rouen Antiquities Museum and Ho Lamian Noodles

Rouen Antiquities Museum and Ho Lamian Noodles

Rouen Antiquities Museum and Ho Lamian Noodles

Tuesday of our first week in Rouen I had planned to see the Historial Jeanne d’Arc, a new exhibit set up in Rouen’s Archbishop’s palace that we had not seen in 2014.  We also got to visit the city’s Museum of Antiquities that day, and eat at a couple of new restaurants, La P’tite Jeanne and Ho Lamian.

We would visit Historial Jeanne d’Arc twice, and if you want to hear a complete description of it, check out when we went there with our friend Faith.  For now, I will treat you to some photos of things to be seen at the exhibit, especially some of the sculptures and paintings that have been made of Joan of Arc down through time.

One thing we got to see on this first visit that I particularly enjoyed was the Chapelle d’Aubigne.  From the eighteenth century, it is actually the newest part of the palace.  Its gold on white decoration is quite elegant and lovely.

After our visit to the Historial, we went for lunch at a cafe across from the cathedral (just next door to Brasserie Paul, and near the Tourist Information Office as well), La P’tite Jeanne.

It was not an incredible lunch experience, but the noodles I had with chicken and an Asian-style sauce (soy sauce, ginger) were quite enjoyable.  The thing I find most interesting about this restaurant is that currently they have no Internet presence at all – no website, no Facebook page, nothing (it’s not even on Google Maps!).  I tried to open a page for them on TripAdvisor to get them started, but of course, without anything to go on other than my photos, they rejected my request.

Purchases from Natural Food Store - Almond Milk and Soy Chocolate Pudding

Purchases from Natural Food Store – Almond Milk and Soy Chocolate Pudding

While we were in the neighborhood, we made a stop at the Natural food store, where I picked up some almond milk and soy chocolate pudding.  I enjoyed the latter for the odd snack, and the milk got used with breakfast and also for cooking.

At this point we were somewhat at a loss of how to fill in the rest of our afternoon.  So we asked at the Tourist Information Office (just opposite the Cathedral, again), and the fellow there suggested the Museum of Antiquities, which is part of the Museum of Rouen (and thus, has free admission).

We made a wrong turn or two, which meant that it turned out to be a long walk up Rue Beauvoisine to the museum (we would later learn that one of the buses that stopped near our apartment has a stop on Rue Beauvoisine).  But along the way, Therese saw a beautiful print of a typical Rouen scene in an antique store window (we would go back later and buy it), so the walk was not completely fruitless.

Then we arrived at the museum.  Once again, for a small museum – one floor and maybe a dozen galleries – this turned out to be full of delights.  My favorite was the Medieval and Renaissance part of the collection, with numerous stained glass examples, carved ivories and carved stone capitals.  And of course the Deruta plates were magnificent as well.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the museum’s collection and absolutely loving it.  And we were pretty much the only people in the museum – I guess it is far enough off the beaten path that most tourists don’t go there.  But I am very glad we did.

When we had finished with the Antiquities Museum, we were thirsty.  So we made a slight detour on our way back home to the In Situ Cafe, which sits right across the street from the Beaux-arts Museum.  We enjoyed some beverages, and the decorative ceiling of the cafe.

Then we walked back to Au P’tit Robec, our apartment in Rouen.  I offered to pick us up some take out for dinner, and so later on, I walked over to Ho Lamian (about a block away) to get some Chinese food for us.  The restaurant specializes in dishes with hand-pulled noodles, and every time we walk past there in the late afternoon, I would see the chef pounding the noodles on the counter, preparing for the evening’s meals.  As you know, Asian food is usually safe territory for us dairy free folks, so I thought, for a change, it would be nice to not have to cook OR worry about where the butter might be hiding in restaurant offerings.

Anyway, we were happy with what we brought away from Ho Lamian.  The noodles had a good bit of chew to them, the sauce had that “umami” thing going on, and it turned out to be more than we could finish in one setting (yay, leftovers!).  And it was a nice relaxed ending to a full and fun day in Rouen.

Posted in Cafes, Countries, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, France, Lunch, Museums, Rouen | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Musee Le Secq des Tournelles Visits Frame Rouen Residency

Musee Le Secq Des Tournelles Visits Frame Rouen Residency

Musee Le Secq Des Tournelles Visits Frame Rouen Residency

It was strictly a coincidence that we ended up visiting Rouen‘s Musee Le Secq Des Tournelles on our first and last days in the city, but in my view, it was entirely appropriate that we did.  After seeing the museum for the first time, Therese and I agreed that it was so delightful, and there was enough to see in their permanent collection to definitely warrant a second visit.  And as the last day in Rouen approached and the question of what we should do on that day, the idea of seeing the museum again came up, and without hesitation we knew that would be the best way to finish up our exploration of the city with a bang.

Why do we love this museum so much?  I’m sure you could trace our burgeoning fascination with wrought iron and cast iron to our trips to Charleston, South Carolina over the last few years.  We have spent quite a bit of time enjoying the many wrought iron gates and fences there (and cast iron pieces as well).  So while we skipped this museum of cast and wrought iron art the first time we visited Rouen in 2014, for this time it was at the top of my list.  And sure enough, as I said, from the moment we walked in, we were thrilled.

On that first day, we had had a rather busy introductory day in Rouen.  We had spent a good deal of the day stocking our kitchen, buying not just food (and spices) but also some utensils (and napkins), and getting some things for the apartment as a whole as well (like plastic clothes hangers).  So the afternoon was already on the wane when we decided to salvage the day sightseeing-wise with a quick bus ride over to Musee Le Secq Des Tournelles.

The museum’s collection of cast and wrought iron was the personal collection of one of France’s pioneering photographers, Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Des Tournelles (1818-1882).  His son, Henri-Jean Le Secq Des Tournelles (1854-1925), continued the collection, and ultimately donated it to the city of Rouen (in 1921) to serve as a museum collection.  The museum is contained within the fifteenth century former Church of Saint-Laurent.  The church had fallen into disrepair, but was renovated in the early 20th century and is now the permanent home to the museum.  Admission to the museum is free, as it is one of several “small” collections/museums that make up the Museum of Rouen.

The collection includes numerous categories of articles.  Some of the obvious things we would expect to find in wrought iron and cast iron, like gates and signs, are very much in evidence.  And many other practical items such as keys and locks are to be found in abundance as well.  There are also cases filled with household items made out of iron as well, such as scissors, cutlery and incense holders.

That first day we were like kids in a candy store, trying to cover every part of the collection and taking photos of many of our favorite things.  But if we had stopped to read the identifying cards for each item, we would’ve been there long after the museum’s closing time.  So having seen a lot, and promising ourselves that we would be back, we left just before closing.

On our last day, having visited so many of Rouen’s delights – the Cathedral, the Gros-Horloge, many other branches of the Museum of Rouen such as the Ceramics Museum – the one thing we had not done that we had meant to, was go back to Le Secq des Tournelles.  Our friend Faith who was visiting us at that point was amenable to whatever we planned for that last day, but I think she had a fabulous time seeing it as well.  We got a chance to revisit some things we had loved on our first time there, and to get a closer look at things we had had to skip over previously.  And with more time, we were able to take our time and really drink it all in.

This is really a splendid museum, and I am so glad we had a chance to see it twice!  Whenever we get back to Rouen, I’m sure that is one of the first places we will want to see again!

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