About Rouen and the Seine Valley
Napoleon once described the Seine as the ‘main street’ between Le Havre and Paris, and for thousands of years the river’s rôle as a transport and communications link has generated a flurry of activity along its banks. Cornish tin found its way up the river during the Bronze Age, Christianity in the 6th-7thC, and in the 9thC it was the means for the devastating Norse invasions. When the Vikings made peace with the Franks, they converted to Christianity, and turned their energies to more constructive pursuits, such as endowing the historic monasteries whose sites line the 110-km Route des Abbayes between Le Havre and Rouen.
Rouen’s picturesque medieval town centre is a triumph of restoration work after its virtual destruction during the Second World War, and contains dozens of half-timbered houses, several magnificent Gothic churches and a clutch of museums. South of Rouen, Richard the Lionheart built a cliff-top castle at Les Andelys, which may have failed to prevent the French from taking Rouen, but occupies one of the finest sites on the river. Just beyond Vernon, Claude Monet’s glorious garden at Giverny could leave you romantically plotting a lily pond chez vous.
As a rough guide to how long you need to cover the best places to visit, the Route des Abbayes is a day or a morning’s work, depending on how often you want to stop, and the same for the highlights of Vieux Rouen. Make an early start for Giverny (Les Andelys is a good place to stay the night). Walking or bicycling the route are popular options.
Several daily Le Havre-Paris trains stop at Rouen and Vernon (for Giverny); you can hire bicycles at both stations. Buses from Le Havre stop at Caudebec-en-Caux, St-Wandrille and Jumièges en route to Rouen, where there are connections to Evreux From Evreux, there are eastbound services for Vernon and Les Andelys, and a northbound link via Brionne and le Bec-Hellouin to Pont-Audemer (connections to Le Havre) and Honfleur.