Roadtrip to Rouen and Normandy, France

What do you do when it’s a Tuesday, but your flight out of Paris isn’t until Friday, and your hotel has no more space? Drive up north! We rented a car and drove from Paris to Rouen. It was absolutely terrifying driving in the city, but we made it out alive. Rouen is only an hour and a half drive from Paris, and it’s the most enchanting little town.

cathedral

We spent the first night wandering around. Somehow, we always end up staying in the sketchiest part of town. Another thing that sucks about travelling mid November is that they start decorating for Christmas and setting up the markets, but they’re not actually open yet.

cathedral

this town has an abundance of fancy churches

The streets were beautiful with wood houses, cute bakeries, and tons of boutiques with nice clothes and jewelry.

I think I could live here. It’s not a far drive from Paris, and has everything you could need. It’s not too busy but also not a ghost town. It looks like the type of town fairytales were written about. We weren’t sure if it was worth the hassle of renting a car to come here, but I’m so glad we did. The vanilla tart pictured above is also one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. On our last day we went back in search of the tart but the bakery was already closed. Sad was an understatement.

On the second day, we drove up to the beaches of Normandy, and that was one of the most eye opening days I’ve experienced. These beautiful beaches are where the Allies finally gained foothold in France on June 6th, 1944. The beaches are littered with museums, monuments, cemeteries, and battle remains from D-Day. This area of France is absolutely gorgeous. The beaches go on forever; these little towns surrounding them look like they thrive in the summer with carousels and ice cream stands, but nearly 20,000 people died on these beaches.

We got off to an early start and drove to Sword beach first. This was probably the shortest stop of the day.

Juno beach was next. Taking Juno was the responsibility of the Canadian Army- their WWII museum is here.

Juno Beach

Gold beach still has the remains of the artificial dock they built after taking the beach.

We kept driving and reached Omaha Beach. This is where the US memorial and cemetery is; we spent quite a bit of time here.

Omaha BeachOmaha BeachOmaha BeachUS CemeteryUS Cemetery

Between Omaha and Utah is Pointe du Hoc. It’s the highest point between the two beaches. Here, there are craters in the ground from bombs, bunkers, and the Ranger Monument. US Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops at Omaha and Utah beaches.

Pointe du Hoc

The most eye opening part of this day for me was the US cemetery. All of these white crosses seemed to go on forever- and they were only US men, killed only on D-Day and the days following.

If you have extra time in Paris, you should definitely consider going here. Normandy is more than WWII history. It’s rich in French culture, art, and the region has over 30 Michelin-starred chefs. There are lots of other things to see, but exploring this area filled with history was both powerful and heartbreaking.

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rouen

(More) Things to do in Oslo, Norway

I can now say that I have done pretty much every tourist activity in this city. I’m lucky it’s been really sunny the past few days or else these activities would have sucked.

The Vigeland Park, is the world’s largest sculpture park made by one artist, Gustav Vigeland. There are more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron, and I couldn’t even count how many dogs I saw here. It was magical, and also free. I will not lie, these sculptures made me a bit uncomfortable. Art is weird, but this park was a nice place to waste an afternoon.

After that, we got a pastry so I could stuff my face with while waiting for the ferry. Very typical.

pastry

Skoleboller

We went to Hovedøya Island, a short ferry ride from Aker Brygge. We got off the ferry and realized we had no idea what was on this island, and I was yet again wearing impractical footwear. Looking around at everyone getting off the boat, they were all wearing hiking boots or runners. I couldn’t help but feel judged for my (really cute) wedge boots. This island has forests, two beaches, and ruins of a Cistercian Monastery from 1147. There are two cannon batteries from 1808 and two gunpowder depots from when the island belonged to the Norwegian army. History is fun!!

Ruins

This would be a nice spot to go for a run, except for the ferry you have to take to get there. It’s too bad there wasn’t somewhere you could get a coffee on this island, because a girl can only walk around on uneven trails for so long in heels. We left after a half an hour or so.

And then onto the museums…

We went to the Viking Ship Museum first, and the tickets to that give you free entry to the Historical Museum within 48 hours. Score!! I liked the Viking Museum a lot, I went to a viking settlement in Newfoundland a few years ago and this was quite different, but pretty interesting. They were just really good at carving things out of wood.

After that, we went to the Armed Forces Museum, which was free. This museum is awesome and massive. I had a hard time getting my history nerd boyfriend out of here.

The Historical Museum had something for everyone. There were mummies, cool rocks, everything! There were even some Native American things from Vancouver. If you go to the Vikings, you may as well go to this one too.

We went to the National Art Gallery and saw the Scream painting… Go through this gallery in order, we went through it backwards, then realized we missed the Scream, and had to go hunt for it.

the scream

Scream

And last was City Hall, not really a museum, but I was blown away by the inside of this building.

IMG_0441

We went to an antique store to find cool things, but didn’t have much luck. There’s tons of museums in this city we haven’t made it to yet, but I think I’ve had enough museums for the next little while, I didn’t realize how exhausting they were.

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things to do in oslo