From my Field Notebook: Provins, Seine-et-Marne, France, June 2015
Just an hour and a half away from Paris by train, join me as I fall in love with the French medieval town Provins, with nothing more than my map, very little French and a willingness to get lost.
(Provins and the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church)
Today is a free day in my calendar where I am free to schedule anything I want to do. I looked up my options of towns located just an hour away from Paris where we are staying for a week. Provins, with its medieval charm, beckoned. Accompanied by my equally adventurous daughter and armed with our maps, guts and very little French, we were off to Provins via a regional train, Mobilis. After joining organised day tours for the last three days, today we are looking forward to getting lost, discovering new places and wandering the streets as far as our feet can take us. That’s the plan.
I knew that we were already far from Paris when I saw the quaint French countryside unfold outside my window. The scenery was relaxing and every now and then I would see cows and sheeps grazing in the fields.
Finally, we arrived in Provins, a commune located in the Seine-et-Marne of the northern parts of Ile-de-France. Due to its medieval charm, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
The train station of Provins is still very far from the main tourist center where we registered and asked for information to get around Provins at our own pace. Once we got off the train, we took one of the mini-buses waiting outside where we could also buy our bus ticket onboard. Once we passed through the tiny streets with its quaint medieval houses and shops, I was overwhelmed with a warm, cozy feeling just by looking at the beauty of this rustic village scene. Until now I thought places like this only existed in travel magazines and movies.
From the tourist center located in the upper part of the town, we followed the path of gravity walking along rue Saint Jean through the impressive arc of La Porte de Jouy, to get to the piazza center in Place du Chatel. I loved the quaint looking shops that lined the streets.
We walked up and down the streets wondering what we will find just beyond a curve… like this alley that looked inviting.
Every now and then we would see quaint little shops like these:
Provins is a place where I wouldn’t mind getting lost because I would find jewels like this around each corner.
When we climbed the Cesar Tower…
(The Cesar Tower)
This was the view from the top.
(View from the Cesar Tower)
Back at the town square, we found a bench to rest on and people watch. There was a gelateria at one of the shops nearby and we couldn’t resist buying a cone each to help us cool down. While we were enjoying our gelatos, we noticed some people wearing their Sunday’s best running past us and rushing towards the local church. They were all laughing, the men pulling on their coats and ties, and the women fixing the flowers on their hair. Was a wedding about to happen? What an exciting moment to witness a local event happening right in front of the piazza where we sat! So exciting that it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling all over. No wonder many people come to these quaint little towns of France just to get married. It was a very enchanting experience.
(The Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church)
Lunch was very welcome after all the walking and exploring that we did. I had salad with organic goat cheese and leg of duck with potatoes. For dessert, I had a delicious berry tart and coffee.
(Salad with organic goat cheese, and leg of duck with potatoes)
(Berry tart and coffee)
As we headed back to Paris early evening, I stared out my train window, tired and content. A train passed us and I wondered about its next destination.