I had heard of the Monument Juif when I was making plans for our first visit to Rouen in 2014, but since it seemed inaccessible, I passed over it. This time around, I was able to get us tickets for the guided tour (which is the only way to see it). Much of the attraction for me was the thought that it would give me the chance to see some of the Palais de Justice up close.
This day, Tuesday July 5th, was another one where we had a quiet morning, reading, eating leftovers, editing photographs of what we’d seen thus far. The tour wasn’t until 3pm (btw, I had to reserve our spot on the tour a week ahead of time), so we decided to start out the afternoon exploring another small museum. The Pierre Corneille House Museum is where the 17th century playwright was born (not to be confused with the Pierre Corneille Musee, a different museum in another village several miles away).
Unfortunately, with the opening hours somewhat of a mystery, we went there thinking it would be open, but it wasn’t. Apparently, the times change as of July 1st. We were disgruntled, but we moved on.
We had some postcards to mail, and there is a post office near the Palais de Justice named (of course) after Joan of Arc, so we made a stop there.
French post offices, by the way, are more than just a place to buy stamps and such – this one had a full-service bank branch in it.
We were a bit early for the tour, but that was not such a bad idea – we visited a nearby restaurant to take a bathroom break (the Rouen tourist office has no restrooms – a big oversight in our view). Then we found our fellow tour-goers – a couple of them spoke English and filled us in.
The tour started promptly with a walk through the city to the Monument Juif, and several stops along the way to give some context. And did I mention the entire tour was in French? I caught some general ideas, and Therese filled me in on what the guide was saying when she could. Here the guide was telling us about the Jewish community in Rouen in the Middle Ages.
We arrived at the Palais de Justice security entrance, passed through, walked across the courtyard and entered a downward staircase to the basement where the remnants of this 11th century dwelling exist.
To some degree, the exhibit itself is a bit underwhelming. After all, when the Palais de Justice was built during the Renaissance, they must have leveled off the upper two stories of the house, leaving only the basement or kitchen floor. To protect it, the lighting is kept very low except for a couple of bright floodlights.
The guide did have a lot to say in trying to elucidate the details of what the dwelling would have looked like when people lived there. But eventually I got bored – Therese was doing a great job translating, but I didn’t want her to be restricted to that and have no chance to explore on her own. When we had had enough, we left, returning to the Palais de Justic courtyard.
A poster tacked onto the wall showed when the different sections of the Palais were built. The three oldest sections, from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is what we were facing, and I find the architectural details on this part of the building to be some of the most fascinating to be seen in the entire city.
After seeing the building up close for a while, we left and walked across the street. We sat down at a table at the Restaurant Les Inities – I had some fresh strawberry sorbet (which was incredible – great tart fruity flavor and creamy texture) and a soft drink (Therese had ice cream and coffee). Our table faced the Palais de Justice, so we got to mull over the experience we had just had.
After our ice cream and sorbet, we walked a block west to the Espace du Palais shopping mall. I am not usually a huge shopping mall guy, but we had already previously been to Rouen’s FNAC, a multi-media electronics store similar to our Best Buy. They were having a great deal on dvds – I think it was 5 for 25 Euros – and we enjoyed ending our days watching dvds (since there was very little in the way of English-language tv available in our apartment). We had already been there before, and watched all the movies we had bought, so we thought we would get some more.
While we were there, we also made a stop at an art supplies store called Loisirs et Creation (which means something like Leisure and Creativity). I don’t remember what Therese bought there, but I got some drawing paper and pencils so that I could make some drawings of the things we had seen during our travels.
With some shopping done, we were feeling very accomplished and ready to head back to our apartment for the night. The previous Sunday, we had gone to the Marche St-Marc and brought back some nice chicken legs and mushrooms, so I made a Norman-style dish featuring those two ingredients (I can’t find the actual recipe I used, but this one is pretty similar to what I made).