Just over a year ago, I set off on a life changing adventure to study for four months in Rouen, France. Now, (mostly) everyone I know describes their study abroad experience as “life-changing”. So, it gets old I know! But, it reassured my passions for international affairs, traveling, and, most relevant, cuisine. When visiting Rouen, France (just a little over an hour outside of Paris), you’ll notice a number of little treasures that stand out from the rest of the city.
The Church of Saint Joan d’Arc in the city square where Joan of Arc was burned at stake in 1431
Eglise Jean d’Arc
Inside the beautiful quaint church
The fresh market in the square that opens on weekends
Hotel de Bourgtheroulde
My ‘tourist home’ for the first week I was in Rouen…until I moved into a more humble abode
La Couronne (above) is definitely one of them. In the midst of a string of restaurants, you can’t help but notice this striking building with over a dozen flags hanging on its exterior. It’s just simply beautiful. La Couronne, located at 31 Place du Vieux Marché and just across the famous Joan of Arc church, just happens to be the oldest auberge (or ‘inn’) in France. But what makes it particularly special to me is that it is the inspiration to one of America’s most famous chefs, Julia Child. Living in the city where Julia Child had also lived and developed her culinary inspiration was surreal. Now, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to dine at La Couronne (due to my extremely modest student budget). But, I definitely glad to be able to include La Couronne as I reflect back upon my time in Rouen.
After living in France, I always got asked the infamous question – “What’s it like in France?!” Well, for one thing, American culture and French culture are VERY different. There are a lot of little idiosyncrasies about the culture that could drive an American absolutely CRAZY. The good thing is that I came to realize that a lot of French natives feel this way about American culture…and in some instances, I actually agree with them.
DON’T plan to do anything productive on a Sunday (other than read or go to church) Everything shuts down on Sunday – grocery stores, banks, offices, everything. And, sometimes even Monday.
DO & ALWAYS bring a bottle of wine as a guest in someone’s home.
DON’T expect to return from a night out any earlier than 3:00am. The party culture in France, especially as a student is slightly different. There seems to be a ‘work hard, play harder’ philosophy. So, after a full week of studying, don’t be surprised if you’re night out seems a bit extended – starting with a few drinks a at bar around 8:00pm and returning home from a club at 4:00am. So if you’re not up to it, I won’t judge you for choosing re-runs of Gossip Girl and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
DO bring a jar of peanut butter with you. It’s not readily available in France Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I was already there.
DON’T forget to push the button on the metro door for the door to open. Don’t laugh, people have missed stops because they missed this concept.
DO greet the employees as you enter a store or boutique of any kind. Not acknowledging a shop owner is like walking into someone’s home and ignoring everyone.
DON’T become overwhelmed by French smoking habits. Most studies show that less than half of the population smokes – but, it will probably seem like 75% of the population smokes. If you’re a non-smoker like me, you’ll easily develop tactics for dodging second-hand smoke.