This Provincial Life

In the dead of winter a couple of years ago, a friend and I took a day trip to Provins, a medieval village about an hour and a half from Paris by train. It was very cold, and there were no other tourists in town.

It was charming.

There were stone buildings on the quiet roads that sometimes ascended and descended.

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Doors about five feet high were everywhere. Why?

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We walked to the northern edge of the town, where the ramparts are. After passing under an archway to the other side, I was amazed. Before us were fields. Vast fields. The landscape was like a beautiful painting.

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It was very cold. But I said that already. We climbed a staircase up the ramparts and walked along the edge.

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Through another gate of the fort, we found a path leading to the tourist office. An odd location I thought, rather than near the train station or the main square Place du Chatel, which was our next stop.

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On a covered heated terrace of a resto, we ordered galettes (buckwheat crepes) and were given red blankets to warm our laps. The cream to accompany my smoked salmon and spinach galette perched on a curved spoon.

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Provins is a walking town. We reached the Tour César easily from the square. Atop a hill, it reminded me of the tower in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” I pretended to ride an invisible horse with coconuts knocking for the hooves. I suppose saying ‘pretend’ is redundant since the horse was invisible.

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We climbed the twelfth century tower and paused for a view of the village.

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For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered and visited a park and a couple of churches, including the Eglise Saint-Ayoul, which had beautiful stained glass windows in a low ceilinged wing of white arches. There was one window of yellow stained glass, and others with red or orange or purple glass.

The stained glass I love is light. It creates light, filters it, plays with it through color. A photo never captures it but makes me remember how it felt to stand in its light.

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By a quarter to five, we were back to the train to Paris’s Gare de L’Est. It was not the first day trip I had taken to medieval times, though it was probably more authentic than the dinner theatre of the same name in New Jersey.

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4 thoughts on “This Provincial Life

    • I think so! I’d say that more than half of the Paris residents I’ve spoken to about Provins have heard of it, even if they haven’t been there, and to the rest I learned to say, “Provins, a medieval village…” so they wouldn’t think I was telling them that I went to the “province,” which is a pretty vague statement.

    • There are definitely more visitors when it’s warmer– apparently Provins is known for having an eagle show. It hosts a medieval fair too. I don’t know if it gets crowded at certain times of year, but it is not always as deserted as when my friend and I went. Sometimes I wonder why I traveled to these places when it was so cold, but I guess it’s because I wanted to see France via day trips and figured “now” was better than waiting.

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