Rouen, France: Pianos and reveries

imageimage image

After Prague, I returned to Paris for a couple of days. Although Paris was the city I liked the least, ironically, it was also the city where I had spent most of my time — too much time many people would add, and to which I’d nod in agreement. Nevertheless, I was excited to return to Paris for the simple reason that I knew I’d be leaving the city and heading elsewhere, with one such place being Rouen.

Paris. I woke up early to get a head start to my day, but when I arrived at Gare Saint-Lazare to buy my train tickets to Rouen, I couldn’t find the ticket office (I wasn’t aware it was on 7th heaven) so I went to Gare de l’Est to buy them, only to return to Gare Saint-Lazare again to board my train.

Once I arrived at the platform at Gare Saint-Lazare, I realized that I could make the earlier train but then I learned that it would cost me 13€ just to change the time on my ticket. “Alas, I might as well order a coffee and sit back and relax while I wait for the next train,” I thought to myself happily.

I felt worn out that morning from running to and fro — so much so that I lost my wits and mistakenly threw away my train ticket in the garbage along with my coffee cup. The only way to retrieve it was to dig my hand through the garbage, which I did, and which prompted a passerby to gasp in horror. (Luckily, it was a relatively new garbage bag and I saw my ticket sitting upright.)

As bizarre of a start my morning might’ve adopted, to me it was a comical twist in my travel adventures, and after having settled the minor details, I enjoyed unwinding at the train station and people-watching, and losing myself in the recesses of my own thoughts and emotions as I usually do — that is, until, scanning the horizons with my eyes, I spotted a piano with a sign over it that read in French, “For you to play.”

In the midst of all the commotion at the train station, the piano stood motionless — seemingly lonely and lifeless at first glance. I watched as people went about their daily lives, bodies moving swiftly to and fro. There was motion all around me, yet all I saw was a blur. Many of us were going, and going nowhere at such an intense speed. The only sure sign of life was that piano.

I wanted to touch the keys and undress myself into nakedness — into all my musical, soulful elements. But I couldn’t. So I waited patiently for someone else to come by and breathe colour and passion into the insipid air that enrobed many of our lives — until someone did come along and play.

Once again, time had stopped for me, just like it had in Prague when someone was playing Yiruma underneath the Charles Bridge — only this time this anonymous individual was playing Yann Tiersen. The keys, the notes, the emotion — I felt my throat constrict and eyes water.

Few things in life moved me and elicited a powerful emotional response in me as much as the sound of piano keys, a musical piece with emotion and reverie. Again, I observed passersby, innocent souls going about their days, and I pictured Paris in its recent heartbreaking events. How fragile life was. And that piano, at that moment in time, was the only symbol of light and hope in the face of destruction and death.

Gros Horloge

Gros Horloge

Gros Horloge

Gros Horloge

Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Rouen. Seen in some of Claude Monet's paintings.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Rouen. Seen in some of Claude Monet’s paintings.


Rouen. Most of my post centres around my adventures getting to Rouen, not so much on Rouen itself. But I think the photos speak for themselves, for I myself feel crippled in my efforts to find the right words to describe my experience there.

Rouen was one of my favourite places I had visited. It was there that I felt transported back in time. It was also the only city where I experienced bittersweet nostalgia and a vague familiarity for the unknown — as if I’ve known this place from another existence and my being there this time was simply a second greeting.

Auzou Le Chocolatier Normand @ 163 Rue du Gros Horloge, 76000 Rouen, France

Auzou Le Chocolatier Normand @ 163 Rue du Gros Horloge, 76000 Rouen, France

image image image

The first chocolates I tried in France weren’t from Paris; they were from Rouen. I was fascinated by the quaint exterior of Auzou, a classic chocolaterie, and when I walked in, golly gee, was I ever greeted by an entire universe of sweet treats, especially chocolates!

Even though I’m not a big fan of chocolates, I knew I still had to try chocolates while in France, otherwise I’d be committing a sin against the gods of glutton. So I asked the helpful lady for a bag of 100g of chocolates, and being an adventurous eater, I also asked her to recommend me some unique flavours, the first one I tried on the spot being fig.

I’m quite ashamed to admit it, but I ate the whole bag in a day because they were so divine — and indescribably so! “Save some for later? Forget it,” I rationalized. “Tomorrow’s a new day, which means new eats.” Though, while savouring these fine creatures, I wished I had loved ones to share them with.

(Fret not, I did purchase chocolates from Pierre Hermé and À la Mère de Famille when I was in Paris, as well as chocolates from Neuhaus when I was in Brussels, to bring home as a gift for my dad, who’s a big chocoholic.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s