Last week, we were feeling spontaneous and decided to take a day trip. Anyone who has been here knows that there are endless day-trip options from Paris. We have already been to Versailles and Giverny and were looking for something different. A quick Google search led us to Provins.
Provins is a quaint medieval town that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Plus, it’s a short hour and 15-minute train ride from Paris’ Gare de l’Est.
According to the town’s website, Provins was founded sometime toward the beginning of the Middle Ages. It became a big deal when Charlemagne sent his missi dominici there in 802. Eventually, Provins became a major trading town and host to the Trade Fairs of Champagne. It’s also known for rose products (perfumes, soaps, liqueur, etc). At one point, it was the third largest city in France.
Today, however, it is not so bustling with a population of about 12,000. Medieval buildings with wooden beams line the narrow streets, and some major achievements in medieval architecture are still standing and accessible, including a watchtower, an indoor market, and ramparts and fortified gates that once kept out unwanted visitors. After grabbing some lunch, we got ourselves a 7.50-euro pass to see all of it and spent the next three hours exploring.
In addition to offering access to the historical sites, the town has taken full advantage of its heritage by putting on four different medieval-themed shows that you can attend for 12 euros, including The Legend of the Knights (which I’m pretty sure I saw in Vegas a few years ago). Additionally, most of the shops sell either medieval garb, rose products or knight figurines.
Although we skipped the shows, we did manage to find ourselves a Christmas ornament (the only souvenir we tend to buy from places we visit) and discovered that rose-flavored ice cream isn’t that good. Andy also ate some display potpourri, thinking it was candy (a highlight of the trip). I spent the next 15 minutes laughing uncontrollably.
After about five hours of wandering around, we caught the train back to Paris feeling like we had both scratched our itch to explore and learned something new about the history of the town and the Champagne region. I have a feeling we’ll be taking full advantage of France’s excellent railway system by going on more short trips like this one. If you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them.