“O Rouen, art thou then to be my final abode!" was the agonized cry of Joan of Arc as the English dragged her out to be burned alive in the market square on May 30, 1431. The exact location of her pyre is marked by a concrete-and-metal cross in front of the modern Église Jeanne-d'Arc—and that eye-catching, flame-evoking church is just one of the many landmarks that make this sizable port city so fascinating. Once the capital of the duchy of Normandy, it was hit hard during World War II, but a wealth of medieval half-timber houses still line the tiny cobblestone streets of Vieux Rouen. The most famous of those streets—Rue du Gros-Horloge, between Place du Vieux-Marché (where Joan burned) and Cathédrale Notre-Dame—is suitably embellished halfway along with a massive and much photographed 14th-century horloge (clock). Of course, the glorious cathedral itself is nothing to scoff at: Claude Monet immortalized it in a memorable series of paintings.
Not everyone has the courage to explore these macabre destinations. Do you?More