Provins

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Provins

Half timbered houses punctuated by pretty water ways, well preserved architecture from the middle ages, including a fortified wall, a labyrinth of 800 year old tunnels and a lively market that swings into action twice a week.

Welcome to the former medieval fair town of Provins.

france medieval architecture Provins

 

Provins is divided into two parts; the High Town where you will find the outstanding and well preserved fortified gates and ramparts, the Tithe Barn, Caesar’s Tower and Les Souterrains; the vast vaulted underground network that lies deep beneath the city.

provins river

 

Narrow cobbled lanes, brightly painted medieval architecture and waterways slicing between stone cottages decorated with pretty flower boxes, colourful shutters and delicate lace curtains is just some of the delights to be found in the Val, the Lower Town.

Provins is easily accessible from Paris.  An hour and a half journey on a direct train route makes for a pleasant way to spend a day trip out of Paris but if you decide to stay, I know of the most gorgeous and quirky mansion where you can rest for the evening.

fortified wall provins
paris to provins

Although a day trip to the UNESCO Heritage Listed town of Provins is achievable, I spent two days, arriving around 10am and leaving around 5pm the following day, allowing me to leisurely explore and photograph the city without time restraints.

provins cottage
provins where to shop
medieval building provins france

Provins is pronounced pro-va, pronouncing the a, as if you were to say van but let that ‘n’ be swallowed back down your throat.  I tell you this because everyone thought I was going to Provence instead of Provins.

Getting from Paris to Provins is simple and efficient, the Tourist Office is another matter and by the time you reach it, you probably won’t need it apart from picking up pre-booked tickets to the sites. It is a 2km slog from the train station in the lower part of the city to the office in the high part of the city.

My research told me that not far from the train station I would cross a small pedestrian bridge over a water way.

And this is where my adventure and exploration of the city began.

There are three rivers in Provins; the Durteint, the Voulzie which I believe is a source of drinking water for Paris and the false river, which was part of the moat.

I was never quite sure which one it was that I encountered throughout my journey of Provins,  but each water-way was certainly a highlight for me.

In fact, I was so excited exploring the very narrow cobbled ‘Ruelles’ (I love this word) a very tiny street and photographing cottages, ducks, waterways and what ever I laid my eyes on that I abandoned my original plan to drop off my things at my lodgings for the night and got lost in the heady beautiful moment and I may have got geographically lost too, but I didn’t care! There are worst places to be lost in.

Please click on the images for a better view
Please click on the images for a better view

And that was only the lower part of town. Once I got my bearings, at least 100 photos and calmed my senses down, I dropped my bags off at the magnificent coral pink mansion, of Maison Stella Cadente.

Set back from the street, behind a wall and iron gates and situated in a lush green garden, Maison Stella Cadente was one of the reasons for my over night stay in Provins. Decadent, luxurious, quirky and well situated. See the link at the end of this post for more details.

The Upper Town of Provins is equally gorgeous.  Chocolate box gorgeous, with winding cobbled streets, medieval half timbered architecture, crêperies galore and the UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites.

Please click on the images for a better view

To find my way around, I armed myself with my dog eared copy of a book that I highly recommend; An Hour From Paris by Annabel Simms.

It guided me around and inside the ramparts, along a dry moat that saw me dwarfed by the ancient defensive wall.

tour cesar provins caesar tower

Provins once had 5kms of fortified walls that enclosed the city but the remaining 1200 metres that tower over 25 metres tall and built in the 12th century to protect what was then a very large and bustling city, is very impressive.

Over 80,00 people lived here and it was a very lively place.  Twice a year they held their world famous Champagne Fairs within the safety of the city walls.

This did not mean that people gathered around to swill Champagne, although it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. The Champagne Fairs were, what we would call today a trade fair, they were integral in keeping the medieval European economy alive.  People would come from far and wide to trade their wares, silk, fur, textiles, spices, leather and all under the protection of The Counts of Champagne.

When Provins holds its annual medieval fairs these days, people flock from all around and the place is pumping with people dressed up in chain mail, troubadours serenading the town folk and it is a very different place, personally, I preferred the serenity of the winter, with barely a tourist in sight, just the odd local walking her dog.

Despite the trees being bare, the surrounding forest and valley is like a giant, soft green Flokati rug and every now and then there is an arch or some kind of opening for an outside view.

Peek-a-boo. A slither of green outside through the oillet.

Yes, I learned this term, the tiny opening you see in the centre image is an oillet,  a medieval bloke could poke his arrow through the hole if anyone threatened their well being.

But look at that stone work. It has been standing there for over 800 years! Please click on the images for a larger view.

Leaving the fortified wall behind me and continuing on a downward slope beside the wall, a couple of dog legs and over some waterways and I arrived here.

Provins is a truly magical place, with so much to explore and discover.

We can easily image what these scenes would look like in Spring, Autumn or Summer, the trees heavy under the weight of leaves, shaded paths and probably alive with locals enjoying the weather, although I was more than content in the Winter.

This dainty chateau and estate was donated to the city by its owner, Victor Garnier and is now a sprawling public park and library containing ancient manuscripts.

Around the back is a pond with swans and ducks. Very pleasant.

***

But that is what is above ground, then there is Les Souterrains.  The ancient underground passages, the belly of Provins, that lies deep below the city.

It is important that you book the tour ahead, they only allow small groups at a time by way of an organised tour. The tours are only in French but it is the only way to gain access.

The long introduction was no doubt informative but I could only understand a couple of words.

I heard champagne, brie and then a lot I didn’t understand and then … ooohh! from the group. They had been told something that really surprised them, and I let out an almost silent urgh as my shoulders dropped.

The guide pointed to a niche and I notice black stains above. This must be where they put candles to light up the tunnels. I then understood ‘constant temperature’.

But a bit of common sense and research I can tell you that the tunnels is where wine, champagne and cheese were kept well because of the constant temperature.

The graffiti shows where some merchants stored their wine and kept a ledger upon the walls.

So, ok, I didn’t learn much but I did get a chance to walk through the 800 year old tunnels, or was that 8,000 year old tunnels, just kidding and overall, it was a good experience.

Provins is a wonderful city, full of history, well kept ancient sites, charming medieval half timbered homes, pretty flower boxes, small cobbled streets,  lush green expansive country side and of course many delicious water-ways, all waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

I enjoyed my time in Provins immensely and hope you now feel encouraged to visit too.

The above information is my own findings through hard earned research. I have no affiliation with any of the places I recommend and paid my own way.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Provins is easily accessible from Paris. Below is some tips for a seamless journey.

Depending on how much time you have to explore the city of Provins, you could spend an entire day there or stay overnight.

  • You will need to take the train SNCF Transilien from Paris Gare de l’Est to Provins.
  • Trains leave every hour and it is a 1.30 hour journey.
  • If you have a Navigo Découverte which covers zone 5. That is all you will need. Same goes if you have a Paris Visite card Zone 5, that will also do.
  • Or you can buy a ticket at the ticket office from Paris Gare de l’Est on the day or from the GREEN ticket machines at the station.
  • Ensure that you validate your ticket on the platform.
  • You will see a machine where you put your ticket in the slot. Please keep your tickets safe as ticket inspectors will want to see it.
  • From Provins Train Station it is short walk to the low part of town and a 2km walk to the tourist office.

Please see below for the link to the delightful Maison Stella Cadente bed and breakfast.

If you have found this information interesting or useful, please leave a comment or follow me on facebook for daily tips, photos and anecdotes, your feedback encourages me to keep this site up to date.  Merci!

Paris Adéle’s Information Necessaire :

 

Provins – Official Tourist Website in English

Tourist Office Located in the high part of town 2km from Provins Station – MAP

Pronounced – Pro-van (finish before you reach the ‘n’)

Nearest Train Station – Provins

Paris to Provins – Train Timetable

Market Day – Saturdays

Equestrian & Falconry show – Check Tourist Website in English for dates.

Medieval Festivals – Check Tourist Website in English for dates.

 

Provins Accommodation :

  • Maison d’hotes Stella Cadente
    Maison d’hotes Stella Cadente
    Quirky, luxurious and attention to detail, the perfect place to rest your weary body after a day of exploring the delightful UNESCO listed medieval village of Provins.

Read About My Two Day Adventure in Provins :

The Treacherous Path of Provins

    Working, skimping and saving, wishing a whole year away only to arrive in Paris, to leave it a few days later seems like an oxymoron but that is what I have tended to do over the past three years or so. A couple of days spent settling in and then I am off to a …

Reine des Neiges

  After my long treacherous walk yesterday, I arrived back at my accommodation exhausted with tired feet and muddy boots looking like a hobo. Not quite the look to be staying in such an establishment and especially when I had chosen the completely white room to spend the night in. Michel the manager and his …

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    Oozing style and charm with an attention to detail, Côte Jardin is everything you ever dreamed about a French country Bed and Breakfast, located in the delightful village on Senlis.
  • Maison d’hotes Stella Cadente
    Maison d’hotes Stella Cadente
    Quirky, luxurious and attention to detail, the perfect place to rest your weary body after a day of exploring the delightful UNESCO listed medieval village of Provins.
  • Provins
    Provins
    Medieval town oozing charm, with half timbered houses punctuated by pretty water ways and well preserved ramparts and architecture from the middle ages.
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parisadele

You can take the girl out of Paris ... but ... you can't take Paris out of the girl!

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