Friday, May 4, 2012

Transit to Rouen

No pictures!

By 9:30 we had packed and tidied the apartment. And at 10:30 were waiting outside for our cab, which came pretty much on time. The taximeter starts at €12.20 but then goes up quite slowly, so the charge to cross the city was €25.

There were no problems catching the train to Rouen which pulled out on time and whizzed along between its several stops at a good clip, 80mph or more.

In Rouen station we had a bit of trouble locating the rental car office, but only because it was closed from 12-2 for lunch! It was just 2 when we arrived and they turned on the lights and unlocked shortly after. The young lady clerk's English was better than our French, fortunately, and we were soon equipped with the keys to a Renault Clio. So if we refer to "Clio" in coming days, it's our dark-gray four-door hatchback we mean. Clio is a diesel with a five-speed.

Now ensued something of a comedy as we attempted to reach our hotel in central Rouen from the station, 1.4 km away.

Looks pretty simple, yes? Well, no, because, (A) the names of streets are on little 18-inch square plaques on walls of the corner houses, so driving along in traffic you can't easily spot your turn, and (2) the street into which Google wants you to make a left is narrow and quickly turns into a pedestrian-only zone about by that little kink. So if we'd made the turn it wouldn't have worked, but because we didn't we were somewhat lost.

Technology to the rescue, sort of. Pulled the GPS we borrowed from Jean and Bill out of the suitcase and fired it up. Gave it the destination. Started following its directions only to get in more difficulties with one-way or transit-only streets. "Recalculating" became the watchword. Finally, "Turn Left! and your destination is on the right."

Nunh-unh, turning left brought us to a stop facing a "Voie Pietons" sign (pedestrian way), so we now were blocking a sidewalk with pietons walking around us while we tried to back out into traffic.

Parked the car in a public garage 4 blocks away (across from the "Church of St Ouen" on the above map) and walked in. It had taken 1.5 hours to cover 1.4 kilometers. But like true flaneurs we both kept our cool throughout.

The hotel had advertised itself as having parking. But turns out, the parking is in fact that same underground garage that we had by chance used. "Parking" meant, "you're welcome to use the municipal garage four blocks away." Don't mean to grump; the staff is very charming and helpful. But really.

Went out for supper on a square which was the site of the execution of Joan of Arc. Excellent meal from the prix fixe menu at €17. Rain started while we ate and we walked back on wet cobbles past blocks of half-timbered buildings. This is an old, old town that will be fun to explore over the next few days.

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