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A Day Outside of Paris: Stepping Back in Time


Today, we decided to take a break from Paris, and we rode a train about 60 miles SE to the medieval town of Provins.  I will not make this post a boring history lesson, but Provins was very important during the Middle Ages as a Champagne Medieval Fair town.  It was (and is) surrounded by fortified walls and was a wealthy and important commercial trading place.  You can google it all if you are interested.  For us…it was just a very quaint, SUPER old place to visit, full of charm and old architecture and we ended the day watching a spectacular falconry show (details on that later).

Gare de l”Est Train Station

French countryside

All that I can say about Provins is that it is a very photogenic place.  I took a record 459 photographs while I was there.  That is definitely a new one for me, to take that many photos in one day, in one place.  But everything was so photo-ready…everywhere you turn, it’s a post card shot!

I do not know details about most of what I took pictures of, but I do know that Provins dates back to the 11th century…and much of what you see in these pictures was built in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.   In fact, Provins is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  As an American, its hard to wrap your brain around something that old…so just enjoy the pictures,…for us it was a perfect day.

We started by having a picnic lunch on one of the ramparts…we had a view of the French Countryside on one side and the old town on the other.  I mean seriously….who can say they had lunch on a 12th century medieval wall?

You can see from Josette and Lena just how large these walls were

After our picnic lunch and strolling above and below the walls, we ventured into the town and wandered around.  As I said, it’s like stepping back in time into another world.  Warning: there was something very interesting about the doors throughout the town that I really liked, so you will see a LOT of doors! It should also be noted that Provins might look like a movie set, but it is a real, living town…people still live and work here!  It might look frozen in time, but it is still alive in 2014.

Medieval Sorbet

Ceasar Tower Selfie

In the Center of the town is Caesar’s Palace, which was built on a rocky hill in the beginning of the 12th century.  It was used as a watchtower, a prison, a bell tower, and a place of military retreat.  The tour info said that it was a  symbol of the Earl of Champagne’s power to all that saw it (in case they got any ideas to attack).  We climbed all the way to the top of the tower.  To get to the top, you had to go up very narrow, steep, dark little stairs…a bit claustrophobic but really sort of fun.  Once up there, the timber frame for the roof was amazing, and there were a set of bells that had been cast in 1511.  The 360 view of the town and surrounding countryside was really beautiful.

The imposing Cesar’s Tower
Technically, this was climbing DOWN the stairs, but you can see how narrow they were…and these were the ones with a railing and light…there were more narrow, steeper ones without lights

The doorways were super narrow…
The impressive timber framing at the tower

The view was spectacular

Next up, we walked down to the Church at St. Quiriace, which was begun in 1160 by King Henri I….but over the centuries, parts of the church were reconstructed, renovated, and it was practically destroyed in the French Revolution…but what remains is amazing.  From the outside it is quite plain, dark and dreary looking.  Apparently, the $$ to fancy up the exterior never came thru, so it was left very simple.  But once you step inside, prepare for your jaw to drop.  It was beautiful, surprisingly large.

Walking to the Church

And to end the day, we got tickets to a falconry show called “The Eagles of the Ramparts”.  They have several different Renaissance-type shows in Provins (it is a tourist town)…but we were intrigued by this one.   It was 100% in french, and we had no idea what they said the entire 45 minutes…but it was so cool!!  They had falcons, Bald Eagles, Owls, Condors,…and these birds were HUGE…and they would fly back and forth so low…they wings would graze your head (at least twice for Josette).  It was something I have never seen before.  Really interesting experience.

The stage for the show

And that was our day in the medieval town of Provins!  We hopped on the train back to Paris and enjoyed another nice dinner at home.

At the food market on Sunday we bought some fresh pesto gnocchi…delicioso!   We rested for a bit…and then headed out to see the Arc de Triomphe.  We wanted to see some sights at night, and we knew the view of the Eiffel Tower would be great.   So, after climbing up that tower in Provins earlier in the day, we climbed another 300+ stairs to the top of the Arc de Trimpohe!  No need for the gym on this trip!

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