October 21, 2013

A Picture of Provins

We have been blessed with much better weather and health this fall - and today we used that to our advantage!

Caesar's Tower and Saint Quiriace Church viewed from the bus.
The "Toussaint" vacation (All Saints) has just begun, and Marc and I have decided to make the most of our 5-zone Navigo transport passes during this holiday instead of flying off somewhere. It's much more cost-effective, and there are still thousands of things to see within the Île-de-France region. Marc was scanning the map and pointed out that we could try getting to a small medieval town that we had heard about for a couple of years, called Provins. It's also one of the many medieval European cities featured in our favorite adventure novel by Louis L'Amour, The Walking Drum. [Available for free PDF download, click here!]

It is actually a lot closer to our old city of Melun, but we never made the time to go when we lived there, so today was the day! We barely made our morning trains and thought for sure we were going to miss the hourly connection from Gare de L'Est, but we made it with 5 minutes to spare. We actually ran into one of the other coaches from Marc's club, and one of the pastors from our church on the way through the metro stations: we love that Paris feels like a small town!

Thank you, Counts of Champagne, for your medieval apple trees!
We took the RER P line from Gare de L'Est for an hour and a half to the far east of the Seine-et-Marne department to arrive in Provins around lunch time. We were so hungry, but most of the streets on the way into town were quiet, so we started the uphill climb to the fortified medieval center. Coming around the curve, Caesar's Tower and the old unfinished cathedral (both built in the 12th century) stood proudly on the top of the hill. Marc spotted some apple trees, and our hunger soon subsided...!

We had a great meal at a restaurant in the main square, Le Thibault de Champagne. Our entree was salted ham skewered with honey melon slices; meal of pork, potatoes, and salad; and dessert of strawberries, speculoos, and whipped cream.

Some Cool Stuff:

1) Provins is an UNESCO World Heritage site, but you don't feel overwhelmed by tourism. We didn't see a single souvenir shop. The only give away was that everyone spoke English to us.

The front that should have been the middle.
2) The very narrow cobblestone sidewalks sometimes just disappear into the roads. It was also a little bit hectic, but very authentic for a medieval center. It was more like walking an obstacle course than a normal sidewalk.

A missing "rose window."
3) The cathedral literally was never finished. The placard outside tells how the nave was actually supposed to keep going another 50 feet. There are clear markings along the outside where we would expect to see a stained glass window, but instead it was filled in with bricks because the Counts of Champagne just lost interest in and money for the project. (I would lose interest and money after 200 years, too.)

4) The most beautiful thing throughout the city: the canals! They were shockingly clean, with healthy vegetation, funny ducks, and we could see the sandy bottom everywhere we went.

There were great signs with directions to everywhere, we didn't ever need a map.
Provins displays its heritage so gracefully that we couldn't help but fall in love with the atmosphere. It's not a destination for everyone, but for a stroll through a historic medieval fair town, Provins is perfect!

And remember how I said Paris feels like a small town? We took a different return route from Provins, on a bus through Melun. We only had a few minutes to race up to the platform to make the Paris train, and as soon as we got up there, we heard, "Hey! Christy!" Of course, there was Amy, our American buddy who is playing at La Rochette this year! Two trains an hour all day long, and we ended up on the same one: it was the best way to end a great day!

Wander Mum