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Today was the first of our two days in Rouen. We were intending to do our own thing – just go ashore and explore the town. There were some excursions, including an all day trip to Paris, but none of them attracted us.

Black Watch was docked at the ‘Terminal Croisieres Maritime’, just downstream of the Pont Gustave Flaubert. The latter looks like a new(ish) motorway bridge, and although it’s high enough to allow barge traffic it prevents ships the size of Black Watch from proceeding any further upstream. It is possible to walk into town but it’s about 2.5 kilometres. Fred Olsen laid on a shuttle bus, at a cost of £5 per person, allowing unlimited use during the day.

We went into town at about 10:30, and the bus took 10 or 15 minutes to make the trip – the route into town is busy. We were dropped off just south of the cathedral, and the drop-off point was the pick-up point also. The weather was cold and windy with frequent heavy rain showers, and it was raining when we reached town so we went straight into the cathedral. This was spectacular – very high, in the manner of continental gothic – but was very cold and quite grey and grim inside. Spectacular rather than beautiful. Then we wandered around the old city for a while, taking advantage of a break in the rain. We saw the Grand Horlage, before making our way towards the Muse des Beaux Arts (and getting lost in the process). Here we spent about 90 minutes – there is only so much religious art one can take. The occasional Dutch landscape, still life or portrait were refreshing changes, and it was good to see some Corot landscapes for real.

Then lunch in a bistro – average Quiche Lorraine with frites and salad, and a bottle of Heineken to wash it down. Not exactly Haute Cuisine, but actually just what was needed on a cold day. Finally we walk up to the Saint-Ouen abbey church, which was actually the best find of the day. Not as big as the cathedral, but big enough and (we felt) definitely more beautiful. Then back to the shuttle bus at just after 3 o’clock where we sat for about fifteen minutes, so we were back on the ship at about 3:30. Since then we’ve been relaxing with our e-book readers, drinking cups of tea and enjoying a glass of wine in the Observatory.

Tonight is formal night, preceded by a Captain’s cocktail party (aren’t they always?) We pre-ordered our wine for dinner, and we were pleased to discover that some of the wines on the list can be ordered in 175ml, 250ml, 300ml and 500ml carafes as well as by the bottle. We’ll see what turns up.

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