When we think of Europe, we most often think of glorious and romantic cities like that of Paris, or our minds are brought to charming little villages that leave much wonderment to behold. The everyday living in Paris is not all sunshine and romances my friends. Yes, there are beautiful parts and beautiful things in and about Paris. However, living an everyday life here is just that. It’s an everyday life. I spend more time underground, underneath the streets of the city than I do actually walking the streets of the city.
For my Toussaint break (France’s version of a Fall break), my friend Catherine and I decided to take full advantage of our Navigo Passes, our transportation passes that allow us to get anywhere in the Île-de-France region using buses, metros, trams, and commuter trains. Both of us finding ourselves in a financial bind and not being able to support large and extensive travels, we decided to go on mini day-ventures, trying to still make the most of our time here in France.
As an American, I’ve come to realize that I absolutely love Halloween and our Halloween traditions. It has only been during my times in France, when I’ve missed Halloween and all the Fall festivities, that I’ve really noticed how much I enjoy and appreciate my American traditions. Wanting to get into the Halloween spirit, Catherine and I thought visiting a small, medieval village with lots of history was suiting for our travels on All Hallow’s Eve.
The village of Provins, which is about an hour to an hour and a half from Paris, when taking one of the transilien trains (a type of commuter train) from Gare de l’Est.
This village is quite small. In fact, we only went for the afternoon and covered most of the village in about two to two and a half hours and that included walking everywhere and taking our time with each of the spots we deemed necessary to see.
By far one of the most impressive points of interest was the Tour César, which has seen many names since the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, it was about 5 euros to go up into the tower, so in the interest of saving money, we decided just to explore around the tower itself, which was just as beautiful, displaying all the remnants of a medieval tour, not to mention that it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We equally explored the l’Eglise Saint-Quiriace, the village’s medieval church, beautifully simple and open to the public.
I also found a big pile of fall leaves in the Church square calling my inner child. Kicking the leaves around, I felt myself a sense of freedom and calm. I may be 25 years old, but I still need the laughter of childish moments to remind me of the beauty of everyday life. I even tripped through the leaves and almost face-planted. An uproarious laughter from both Catherine and myself ensued, gaining us the looks of fellow tourists and locals alike. It’s fine, we’re just some loud anglophones making fools of ourselves. Nothing to see here. *sigh* It feels good to let go every now and then. I needed that laughter.
Some of other points of interest include La Grange Aux Dimes, the old merchant house during the 13th century, now a history museum of this time, and Les Soutterains de Provins, which are a series of carved out caves that have had different uses over the years since the Middle Ages. Though I’m sure both of these places would be of great interest to any history buff, especially those enchanted by the Middle Ages, in the interest of saving our euros, Catherine and I decided to skip these two things. Though, fortunately, Provins does an amazing job of having placards outside of each of the points of interest that give a brief history as well as pictures of each of the places. That was good enough for the both of us.
We also delighted ourselves by climbing up onto Les Aigles des Remparts (the wings of the ramparts), which was free and open to the public, gaining a view of the entire village. It was a peaceful and quiet moment contemplating a time when these ramparts were used as a shield to protect this tiny village. I’ve seen my extensive fair share of castles and medieval structures here in France, but they never cease to amaze me.
In exploring the side streets of this small village, we also came to discover that this little medieval town is known for growing roses and produces all sorts of products: from rose soaps and perfumes, to rose flavored syrups, liqueurs, and cookies. Who would’ve thought? It also came apparent, when we stumbled upon the Rosarie, a combined rose garden, gift shop, and salon du thé. What an impressive and beautiful little town.
My favorite part of exploring this small corner of the universe though was most definitely just walking through the small alleyways and exploring the main square, which if you didn’t know any better could’ve made you think you had been brought back to the Middle Ages themselves, if it hadn’t been for the modern Halloween decorations that is, of which I thoroughly enjoyed, getting my fill of Halloween celebrations.
Who said that you have to travel far and wide to actually travel and explore this beautiful world of ours? France has much to offer. These hidden gems are enough to keep me enchanted.