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On Joan of Arc's trail in medieval Rouen; it's an easy day trip by train northwest of Paris.

Medieval houses, the tower from a castle keep, a cathedral that inspired great canvases by Claude Monet, the square where Joan of ARc met her fiery fate--a stroll through the cathedral twon of Rouen, in northeast Normandy, is an adventure in French history. The most history-laden quarter of the city, near the Seine, was heavily damaged in World War II. But restoration of many old buildings is now nearly complete, and you might want to plan a side trip from Paris of a day or longer to see what's been accomplished. With quaint inns, antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants where you can sample the creamy specialties of Normandy, Rouen is well worth an overnight stay. But if your itinerary is tight, it can be an easy day trip northwest from Paris by train. keep lunch simple, nd you can see Rouen's highlights and be back in Paris in time for dinner.

Arriving on the early train. The 9:15 A.M. train from the Gare St. lazare in Paris (about $18 for a second-class round trip) arrives in Rouen at 10:27, about the time that shops begin to open.

From the station entrance, walk a block down Rue Jeanne d'Arc, cross the wide Boulevard de la Marne, and then duck down tiny Rue du Donjon for a quick look in the Tour du Donjon, a round stone tower that is the sole remnant of the 1204 Chateau de Rouen. A 104-step staircase spirals to the top.

Follow the narrow side streets shown on our map to see different periods of French residential architecture. Along Rue Moulinet, most buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries, but several with carriage-wide double gates to their courtyards date from the 1600s. On narrow Rue Dinanderie, 16th-century timbered houses lean precariously over the street (medieval pedestrians walked close to walls to avoid slop thrown into the street from second-story windows).

On the trail of Joan of Arc. The open square of the Place du Vieux Marche supports a lively market from 9 to noon daily except Mondays. You'll find good picnic fixings here, with an emphasis on Normandy cheeses. Next to the market, a modern church with a wall of dramatic stained-glass windows celebrates Joan of ARc, the firebrand who helped lead French armies to victories over the English in the early 1400s. For her efforts, the English burned her alive here in 1431; a soaring cross now marks the spot.

France's first pedestrian mall (1969) was the narrow Rue du Gros Horloge--"street of the big clock"--lined with shops and cafes. The mall's focal point is the old clock's sunburst face (clocks of its period had only hour hands) on a three-story house arching over the street.

The cathedral. At the end of the Rue du Gros Horloge, you see the great Gothic spires of Rouen Cathedral, famous for its light, airy interior and for rare blue stained-glass panels from the early 13th century. Its front towers and portal were painted in different lights by the Impressionist master Claude Monet; some of his paintings of Rouen Cathedral are at the Jeu de Paume in Paris.

Across the square from the cathedral entrance is the Office de Tourisme; here you can get a detailed town map, information on lodging and restaurants, and local guidebooks in English. Hours in spring are 9 to noon and 2 to 7 daily; telephone is (35) 71 41 77.

More churches, restorations. Walk around the cathedral along its north side. Joan of Arc may have passed some of the timbered houses on the Rue St. Romain on her way to the church of St. Maclou, magnificent in its flamboyant Gothic lines that sweep from earth to heaven in one grand ascent.

A few steps down Rue Martainville and you're at the Aitre St. Maclou, a 16th-century charnel house whose courtyard is a pleasant counterpoint to macabre carvings on a few remaining cloister pillars.

Many old timbered houses in the St. Maclou area have been restored over the past 15 years and now house antique shops and art galleries that deserve leisurely browsing. If time is short, poke around in the shops on Rue Damiette, then head straight up the street to the 14th-century abbey church of St. Ouen, most interesting from the gardens, where you get a good view of its pinnacles and flying buttresses. The Hotel de Ville, next door, still has its original 17th-century facade.

From here, it's a 15-minute walk back to the station via Rue Thiers and Rue Jeanne d'Arc. The 4:51 or 5:59 trains will get you back to Paris in time for dinner.

Travel planning. for advice on where to stay in Rouen, write to the French Government Tourist Office, 610 Fifth Ave., New York 10020.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1986
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