David and I had our first couple of hours alone in 3 weeks yesterday. We went walking (what else?) around town and made some nice discoveries. We had heard about the Christmas marché, so we decided to check that out first. Throughout the downtown area, from December 5 to January 3, there are all kinds of holiday festivities particularly focused on children. In the square by Notre Dame de Rouen they've installed a mini ice rink (3 Euros for adults, free for kinds under 6), and a beautiful, double-decker carousel (2 Euros for the kid, the accompanying parent is free).
(Side note: another major cultural difference here: kids are free in many of the museums in France up to age 18! Also, it is actually quite a bit chaper for us to ride the train with Anna than without her. They give us a substantial discount on our tickets, and she rides free.)
In other areas there are more (smaller) carousels, animatronic characters, a luge slide, and there are stands selling vin chaud, crepes, cakes, and all sorts of goodies everywhere.
We walked and walked and eventually found ourselves at the eglise (church) Jeanne d'Arc. In case you didn't know, Rouen is where she was burned at the stake. There are many monuments, streets, etc. for her here. David pointed out that the church looks like a giant witch's hat! Quite amusing. Look for some pics on his blog in the coming weeks.
After that we were freezing, so we decided to look for a nice, warm spot for lunch. I opted for the default, the nice restaurant in the fancy department store. This worked out really well, especially since they gave us much needed bathroom coupons! (Okay, another cultural sidenote: you pay to use the restroom anywhere in France—in the train station, in department stores, sometimes even in restaurants, although they'll often give you a ticket for free admission!) I can see both sides of this approach. OTOH, the bathrooms are clean and there is toilet paper. OTOH, having to pay when I'm already a paying customer seems a bit extreme. FYI, the average seems to be .50 Euros (about 65 cents).
Today we brought Anna down to see some of the marché. David took her for a ride on the carousel, but her poor hands were so cold she just wanted to get off. We went into Notre Dame de Rouen (more princesses), and had lunch at the only "bio" (organic) restaurant I've found. It was quite lovely—small but with fresh, familiar foods like salad, quinoa, and tempeh. I recommend it highly (Le Chenevis on rue aux Ours).
Tomorrow our plan is to lay low since we head back to Paris again Wednesday. David is going to attend the local Perl Mongers meeting (there are geeks everywhere) and I'm going to try to get some more museum time. Tomorrow night we're getting our first date night. We're planning to head to a popular local restaurant known for it's traditional Rouennais cuisine. I'm guessing they won't have tempeh.