Provins

Provins City Wall

Provins is a small medieval village about 90 minutes by train from Paris.

Why Visit?

The main attraction is the unspoilt nature of the many buildings as well as the city walls and Cesar Tower.  For younger visitors, there are also shows with knights and falcons.  We found this was an opportunity go see some of the French countryside, without going too far from Paris, as the train passes many small villages and farms

How to Get To Provins

The train runs from Gare de l’Est. We had a seven-day metro pass which covered this fare as well.  Without the pass, the normal price of the ticket is 11.50 Euros one way.  As the price of the seven-day pass was 30 Euro, we almost made our money back in one return trip.  Travel time was a nice relaxed 90 minutes.  The train was comfortable, clean and quiet.

At Provins railway station, there is a shuttle bus that will take you to the tourist office, or you can walk into town and explore on the way.  It was a nice day, so we chose to walk.  It didn’t take too long, but on a wet day, or if it’s too hot, take the bus.

Train Route to Provins
Train Route to Provins

What to See in Provins

The highlight of the town, is the old medieval buildings.  Walk around the old streets and admire them.  We spent some time doing this, before having a coffee near the old market square, where there a few places to get a drink and a meal.  We found that the total walk time between all of the attractions was about 40 minutes.  However, more time is needed as you back track and go to look at other interesting buildings.

Walking Around Provins
Walking Around Provins
Provins Street
Provins Street

La Tour Cesar

This 12th century castle overlooks the town and surrounding countryside.  It is very well preserved and you can access the whole complex right up to the bell tower.  The climb really is part of the adventure and is highly recommended.  The stairways can be quite narrow and steep in places, giving a great feeling for the people who had to climb up and down them when the castle was inhabited. 

Cesar Tower Provins
Cesar Tower Provins

You enter the bell tower and see the bronze bells, and the pigeons that now inhabit the roof tops.  The views out over Provins and the countryside are worth the climb.

St Quiriace Church From Cesar Tower
St Quiriace Church From Cesar Tower

The rooms within the castle are also quite small, even the Count’s, who ran the whole town. Space was at a premium and no one seems to have had a spacious bedroom or quarters.

Eglise Saint-Quiriace

This is a community church in Provins that has an active congregation.  When you enter remember that this is a place of worship, so be respectful.  It really needs renovating inside, as the ravages of the last 850 years have not been kind. This doesn’t detract from reasons to visit however but makes it more interesting.  The old interior is in such a marked contras to the large cathedrals of Paris, that it makes it more interesting and gives it a welcoming feel.

St Quiriace Church Provins
St Quiriace Church Provins

The Saint-Jean’s Gate and The Ramparts

The city gate and walls (ramparts) are what makes Provins famous.  They are remarkably intact and very impressive.  It is near the gate that the Legend of the Chevaliers and Eagles of the Ramparts shows are performed.  We did not stay to see either, but they are aimed more at children.

Provins City Wall
Provins City Wall

Provins City Wall Tower

Not far from the gate is the local tourist office.  This is a great stop if you want to find out about any new events that are on while you visit as well as being great for souvenirs.

What Did We Think?

A really great day trip out of Paris.  Provins is very well preserved and demonstrates what a medieval town was like.  There is plenty to keep you occupied and enough restaurants and cafes to provide a good variety for everyone.  Highly recommended.

 

 

 

Loire Valley Châteaux Day Trip

Château de Chambord

A great day trip south of Paris, takes you to the Loire Valley and some of its amazing châteaux.  We booked a small group tour in a mini-van.  There were six of us and the driver/guide.  The itinerary took us to three châteaux, including lunch at the second.

Château Royal d’Amboise

The drive from Paris took two and a half hours.  When we arrived in Ambroise, our first stop was a little patisserie for coffee and croissants for breakfast.  A short walk from here was Château Royal d’Amboise.  This is a 15th century castle, built overlooking the rest of the town and river.   The overall structure is quite impressive, with towers and fortifications all around the high ground.  Once you enter and are inside the walls, it looks more like a manor house, as the top is flat, so you do not see the walls.

Château Royal d'Amboise
Château Royal d’Amboise

The interior of the main building contains much of the original decor and is quite interesting to walk through.  Outside, there is a small chapel.  This contains what is presumed to be the body of Leonardo da Vinci.  Also worth a quick look.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Tomb
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Tomb

The grounds contain some recreations of Leonardo’s inventions and some medieval siege weapons.

Was it worth seeing?  We though so, if only to see Leonardo’s resting place and the exterior battlements.

Château de Chenonceau

The second stop on our trip was Château de Chenonceau, a sixteenth century building.  This one is interesting as it is built on and into the Cher River, using it as a moat.

Compared to the first stop, parking and tourist facilities are more extensive, as is the security check to enter.

Externally, it looks more impressive than Château Royal d’Amboise, with its bridge into the river and beautiful gardens.  If you intend visiting here, do it before Versailles, the garden will seem more impressive then.  Everything is overshadowed by Versailles.

Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau

The guide gave an excellent history lesson on the château and then left us to explore for an hour.  We looked at all the rooms, which contain many original artifacts.  The kitchens are set up as they would have been when the chateau was in use.

The gardens and surrounding moat are very nice and we spent a while walking around them. 

Château de Chenonceau Surrounds
Château de Chenonceau Surrounds
Château de Chenonceau Gardens
Château de Chenonceau Gardens
Château de Chenonceau Gardens
Château de Chenonceau Gardens
Château de Chenonceau Moat
Château de Chenonceau Moat
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau

Lunch was at L’Orangerie on the château grounds.  A set menu, which was OK and a bottle of wine which was quite nice.

Was it worth seeing?  Again, we though so, a more impressive castle in a unique river setting, with nice gardens.

Château de Chambord

Our last stop for the day was Château de Chambord, a large Renaissance Palace an hour’s drive away.  This is a very impressive building with many fairy tale type towers.  The car park is even bigger than Chenonceau and you pass a row of gift, tourist and food shops as you enter.

The château is surrounded by a wooded park, but the gardens themselves are not as nice as we had just seen.  However, the building was the largest we saw on the day and very impressive with its many towers.

Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord

Inside however, is very disappointing.  Only a few of the rooms are furnished, most are empty.  There were some areas displaying modern art, but they clashed with the setting, and really didn’t belong there.

Château de Chambord Gardens
Château de Chambord Gardens

We spent time walking around the interior, the spiral staircases are very nice and then walked across the outside upper area for a close-up of the towers.

Despite its impressive exterior this was our least favorite stop of the day.  Apart from the dual spiral staircase, everything of interest can be seen from outside.  We though the interior was a waste of time.

Drive time back to Paris was two hours.

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Retro Sidecar Tour of Paris

This was easily the highlight of our time in Paris.  A 90 minute Retro Sidecar ride around the streets of Paris. 

Remi picked us up outside our hotel, so there was no problem getting to a meeting point.  He showed us a suggested route and asked if there was anything we wanted to see or places we wanted to go.  

The Retro Sidecar
The Retro Sidecar

I sat pillion, and the wife sat in the sidecar.

I can’t remember everywhere we went, but we had so much fun the 90 minutes flashed by.  We stopped at the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre for the fantastic views, drove around the Arc de Triomphe with its insane 8 lanes of traffic and through many back streets.  Remi took photos at all of the stops for us and gave a running commentary as we drove.  Last stop was the Eiffel Tower.

Remi would have dropped us anywhere we wanted, but we chose our hotel where we started.  We always felt safe and it was fun to have other people taking photos of us as we went by.

The tour was booked online before we arrived.  We used Tripadvisor/Viator.  This tour is very popular so is is highly recommended that you book ahead, to ensure you get the time and date you really want.