The area which is now France was known as Gaul to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Gaul was conquered by the Roman forces led by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC and increasingly integrated into the Roman Empire. In the 5th century, the Germanic tribes invading Gaul from the east conquered Gaul and established their kingdoms. After the collapse of Western Roman Empire in 476, Merovingian Franks became powerful and the Frankish king Clovis united most of Gaul. Under the Merovingian dynasty, Franks converted to Catholic Christianity. Frankish power reached its fullest extent under Charlemagne. After the death of Charlemagne, Charlemagne Empire was divided into three, East Francia, West Francia or the Western Frankish Kingdom and Middle Francia, forming the basis of modern Germany, France, and Italy. When the Western Frankish Kingdom went extinct in 987, Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France and established the Capetian dynasty. His descendents, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country through a series of wars and dynastic inheritance. France and England fought wars during 1337 to 1453 known as The Hundred Years' War. In the end, France expelled England from the majority of France territory, during which the monarchyís power was strengthened. In the 16th century, the French War of Religion was fought between French Catholics and Protestants. The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIV. At this time France had enormous influence over European politics, economy and culture. Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the monarchy and the aristocracy. After the political turmoil, Napoleon Bonaparte held power in 1799 and declared the French Empire in 1804. Through the series of wars called Napoleonic Wars, Napoleonís armies conquered much of continental Europe and family members of Napoleon Bonaparte were appointed as monarchs of newly established kingdoms. After the Napoleonís defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, France experienced several regime changes, from monarchy, the Second republic, the Second Empire to the Third Republic which lasted until 1940. The mainland France became major battlefield during World War I and World War II. The Fourth Republic was established after World War II but soon faced the predicament. It could not stop the trend of decolonization, losing French Indochina in 1954 after the defeat in the First Indochina War and soon getting involved in the harsh conflict in Algeria. In 1958, the Fifth Republic was introduced and Charles de Gaulle was elected as President of France. Under the strengthened presidency, he ended the Algerian War and sought independence from U.S. and British influence. France, together with Germany, has been playing an important role in the European Union which has sought the regional integration in economy and politics.
I made a plan to visit Rouen. Rouen is about one hour away from Le Havre by train and renowned as the city where Joan of Arc was executed.
I heard that they had less good weather here in Normandy, but luckily, the weather was very nice today. The scenery out of a train window was very beautiful with blue sky and endless green plateau. Normandy has few mountains and is called as the food storage of France. There spread the beautiful meadow and dairy land as far as I could see.
*DMC-ZS10/TZ20 records images in max.14-megapixel and DMC-ZS7/TZ10 in max.12-megapixel.
The scenery of Rouen was totally different from that of blue sky and green fields I saw on the way to Rouen. Rouen was an urbanized city with large buildings, many people and cars. I felt it nice that the nostalgic atmosphere still remained in the urbanized city.
When I walked into a side way, there were traditional timber-framed buildings lining along the street. Looking them carefully, I was surprised to notice that these buildings did not stand straight. Some were tilted to right or left, some tilted backward or forward! Some buildings were made out to be timber-framed buildings. In fact, the patterns of timber frames were painted on the surface of such buildings. Birds nested in a small dent around the timber frames. I enjoyed observing the buildings in detail. After having a light lunch of bread and drink, drink was of course a cider, I visited Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral is famous as the subject of a series of paintings produced by Monet. Unfortunately, part of its façade was under repair work, but it was wonderful.
How spacious the inside of the Cathedral was! I was always amazed with the scale and the beautiful decorations of churches in Europe. I was particularly impressed by the stained glass windows all over the church. Inside the church, it was very bright with the light coming through a plenty of the stained glass windows, which seemed to emphasize the expansiveness of the space.
A lot of sculptures were placed here. Were they removed from the facade where the repair work was done? The sculptures decorating the facades seemed to retain details when seen from a distance, but the faces of the sculptures placed here were somewhat flat.
I also looked around Gothic Church of Saint Maclou, Place Saint-Marc and a big astronomical clock while going window shopping. There were many sweets shops and everything displayed appeared so delicious. Sundry goods and furniture were very cute.
Then, I visited the church of Saint Joan of Arc. It was built in the place which was the alleged site where Joan of Arc was executed. Its modern silhouette was very impressive. The space inside the church had the same shape as that of the church building. Stained glass windows formed a glass wall. I heard the stained glass was moved from the old church. The glass wall was so beautiful with gentle light coming through the stained glass windows.
I went back to Le Havre in the evening and had dinner. To be exact, I arrived at Le Havre at about seven and a half o’clock but it was still light outside. I realized I was already up north. Today, the sun set around 10 p.m. Days were long and I could enjoy the day longer. While strolling around the city of Le Havre, I looked for a restaurant.
The city of Le Havre was devastated by World War II and was rebuilt by the architect Auguste Perret. His urban planning was highly evaluated and the city as a whole was registered as World Heritage.
Looking at each apartment carefully, I noticed that the façade of each building was nicely designed and a monument was arranged. I would have enjoyed sauntering if I had had more time. Though it was still light outside, museums and churches were closed at 8 p.m. I wished I could look around inside them. I enjoyed sea food and cider for dinner and was especially satisfied with sea food dishes only a port city could offer.