Saturday 12 October 2013

Paris, France II: back to the medieval times

Hi everyone, welcome to my castle. I'm secretly a princess and this is my home. These are my people outside the castle gate, waiting to catch a glimpse of the royal family. Bonne journée à tous~! *princessy wave*

As I walked down the charming streets, I feel like bursting out into song 'Little town~ It's a quiet village.. Everyday, like the one before~~ Little town, full of little people... Waking up to say: Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour bonjour bonjour!' This is exactly the kind of little town I imagine Belle to live in. I didn't spot any bookshops but I did see bakers! And I wanted to prance around in a frilly dress.

Ok, this gorgeous place is called Provins. (Not to be confused with Provence where I will definitely go on my next trip. Provins is read as PRO-VA-EN while Provence is read as PRO-VON-S or something like that). On the ancient lands of the Earls of Champagne, from the Year 1000, Provins is located on the crossroads of the European trade roads. Gradually, the town becomes a very significant trade market. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Provins is at the height of its fame thanks to the famous Trade Fairs of Champagne. The impressive fortified wall was built during the 13th century and extended for 5 km (today 2 km), and it offers a catalogue of military architecture. Those ramparts protected the inhabitants and the tradespeople, and showed off the power of the Earls of Champagne. Provins is a real showcase of medieval architecture (military, religious and civil) and it is one of the few towns in France that can boast of over fifty listed Monuments with historical value. Thus, Provins has been on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2001 (Provins website).

I was really looking forward to visiting Provins (more than Versailles) and it didn't disappoint. I love this place so much! And the weather was just gorgeous, lovely clear blue sky with birds chirping and flowers blooming. It's a fantastic getaway from the city, though I just arrived a day ago. I'm glad I went away to Provins for a day trip because two/three consecutive days in Paris might get a little tiresome? I don't know, I still gasp in awe "I'm in Paris!" every time I looked out of the window in my room.

Oh look! That's my the castle or Caesar Tower (entrance fee is EUR4.50), looking all tall and mighty and err a little run-down. There's nothing much inside the castle, empty rooms and extremely narrow staircases. Everything was made out of stone. Oh they do have these short stories about Provins/the castle shown on the walls and it was pretty interesting! You can look down on the town from on top and it's breath-taking. You get a good view of the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church (free entry) which is just below the castle. I went there after touring my the castle.

Because I arrived pretty late, at around 3pm, after visiting the castle and the church, it was already around 4+/5pm and most of the attractions were closing/closed. But the town is beautiful enough for me to just walk around and soak up in the atmosphere. I had a delightful time walking around and losing myself and greeting randomly people who said 'Bonjour' to me. An old couple walked past my camera propped up on the erm dustbin when I was embarrassingly taking a self-shot and it captured the old lady's behind. Her husband realised I was taking a photo and stopped in time while calling out 'Attention! Attention!' in an attempt to stop his wife hehe. But it was too late, he apologised on her behalf and spoke to me in a bunch of French, which I interpreted as him wanting to see the photo so I showed him. He then spoke even more French and then they waved goodbye as they carried on their way.

How to get there?
I took a SNCF train from Paris Gare de l'Est which took about 1.5 hours, passing by absolutely picturesque scenery. I went there on a weekend so I could get the weekend unlimited zone 1-5 pass (EUR7.85). After reaching the station, you'll be in the new town of Provins where you'll see gorgeous bungalows. To get to the old town, I took the Provins’ tourist line (day pass for EUR4 or one way pass for EUR2.50), a minibus service which matches the arrival and departure of the trains coming from Paris. So once you arrive, there'll be a minibus waiting for you to take you to the Tourist Office. However, this service, which links the different tourist attractions, is only operational during high season, from 30 March to 31 October, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. If you're there on a weekday or low season, I think you can take the Probus network, an interurban shuttle which take visitors from the SNCF Provins station to the Tourist Office all year long (more information here). The Tourist Office is located some 15 minutes from the train station by car right outside the entrance to the old town, it's where you can get maps of the town and other information. It closes at 6pm and the last Provins' tourist line minbus is also around 6pm I think.

I missed the last minibus down to the train station so I had to find my way back allllll by myselffff. It was quite exciting but a little nerve wrecking because I had to catch the last train back to Paris at 9! I started making my way down at around 7 to catch the second last train at 8pm. I didn't want to risk it by catching the last train. I was a little lost but I managed to find a bus stop with a map. MAPS ARE MY BEST FRIEND *hugs tightly*. Seriously, every time I get a map, I feel so happy because I know that I won't be lost. So I took a photo of the map and navigated myself to the train station. When I saw the tracks, I was overjoyed. The sign which said train station (GARE), had an arrow pointed RIGHT. So naturally, I walked towards the right. But after a few minutes, it felt strange because the tracks sort of disappeared? So I asked this lady smoking in the car where the train station was. At first she looked rather hostile but she was really nice! She told me it's on the way I came from and if I wanted, she could drive me there but I had to wait for a few minutes. So I took up the offer and sat in her car. She asked me where I'm from and chatted with me in simple English while we waited. Then her boyfriend came (I didn't know what we were waiting for actually) and he had this bewildered look when he saw me. HAHA. He was like 'I went away for a while and suddenly there's a Chinese sitting in my car?', the girlfriend laughed and told him that I wanted to go to the train station. Then he went 'Ni Hao!' The two were really cute, they tried to tell me that there would be a Medieval party the following weekend (would have been so fun!!) but they forgot how to say party in English so they had to google. And the boyfriend somehow knew that I ended up there due to that arrow because when he drove past the sign, he pointed to it and said 'BAD!' HAHAHA. So I arrived at the train station safe and sound with their help, the drive was only 5+minutes though. :p

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