Rouen (Paris), France
The capital of upper Normandy and fifth largest port in France, picturesque and historic Rouen is renowned as a treasury of medieval architecture. With a large part of the city destroyed during World War II resulting in massive postwar reconstruction, Rouen today appears as an interesting blend of ancient and modern. Fortunately, it has kept its medieval character with still-inhabited houses dating from the 15th century, which line its narrow cobblestone streets. Among the city's most noteworthy attractions are the magnificent Cathedrale Notre-Dame built during the 13th century, and the famous Gros-Horloge, a giant Renaissance clock looming over the renowned pedestrian street of the same name. Two blocks away is the Place du Vieux Marche, or old market square, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. She is publicly commemorated at the site on the last Sunday of each May. The "City of a Hundred Spires" as Rouen is known, was an inspiration for Monet's impressionistic cathedral paintings. Rouen also makes an excellent point of departure for a visit to Paris, the "City of Light."