Used to make a couple of work trips to Le Havre many years ago and each trip was about 2 weeks.
I visited Honfleur during one of the trips, about 17 years ago. Though it was a weekend day trip, it left a good impression of the Normandy region.
So for this holiday, I decided to introduce Normandy to my travel partner amid our visit to Paris😄 And yes, he gladly agreed to the idea of exploring another French city, besides Paris and Lyon. Planned to make a day trip to Rouen, which is the capital of Normandy and only 1h10min from Paris by train.
However on our second day in Paris (3 Dec), we got a text message from Am. (our Paris friend) in the evening, informing us that the 5 Dec strike would most likely start on 4 Dec at 7pm.
And our day trip to Rouen was planned for 4 Dec, leaving Paris at 7.50am and taking the 8.12pm train back to Paris. Outbound was not a problem but it would definitely affect our return.
We went to our hotel front desk, they were helpful but, like any others, they did not have an idea what would happen the next day (4 Dec). Due to the uncertainties, they encouraged us to cancel our trip which we were very reluctant to do so.
After discussing with hubz, we decided to go to the train station (Gare Saint-Lazare) as planned to find out more details about our returning ride. We would expect a long Q at the SNCF ticketing office but no, it was very calm and there were only 2 people in front of us. The lady was helpful and advised that the safest Paris-bound train timing would be 4pm. She explained that the strike would officially begin at 7pm but it might start even earlier but they were not sure at all. So we changed to the 4pm train. Actually we were not allowed any changes on day of departure but guess they tried to be flexible as well so we were thankful.
Well that would mean we would have about 7 hours in Rouen, 4 hours lesser than originally planned but definitely better than cancelling the whole trip.
Arrived at Rouen just before 9am. When we stepped out of the station, Rouen-Rive-Droite, we were surpriised by the coldness. Based on the frequent temperature checks done before the trip (an average of 7.5°C for the last 7 days, with the warmest being 12°C), we did not expect a 0°C morning haha. But we were happy as the weather was very good, with no rain.
We spent about an hour in this home decor store. It was a pity that we could not buy more due to the unknowns of our next flight.
Enjoyed just walking around before lunch 😍
Reserved lunch at this 2 Michelin star restaurant – Gill.
We went for their 3-course Business Set Lunch at €45. Truly worth it.
A very pleasant dining experience.
The restaurant was full and we saw that everyone was having their business set lunch. But the restaurant manager and her service team definitely did not compromise on their service. And the food was very good.
After a very fulfilling lunch, we needed to burn some fats and the best way would be to continue exploring beautiful Rouen by foot. And the Christmas Market was of course the highlight.
Christmas Market in Rouen
Place de la Cathédrale
Tea break at this pretty café, Dame Cakes.
On our way back to the train station, we managed to get some boxes of caramels. It was something I had planned to buy but somehow forgotten all about it because there were just too many things to see and too many places to go within the 5 hours (excluding the 2-hour lunch).
Thank God that we were still in time to catch a train back to hotel when we reached Gare Saint-Lazare past 5pm.
The metro station was packed with fast moving crowds in all directions due to the evening rush hour plus every one of us was trying to get to our destinations before the train / metro stoppages. It was quite an experience.