Sunday, May 18, 2008

One Day Trip to Provins

I was in search of visiting a village around Paris & I came across this medieval town called Provins (Actually people in France pronounce it as Provans), which is the far end at zone 6 in Paris. So, I started my journey early in the morning and I was eager to catch the train that leaves from Gare De Nord. But I was misguided to take train to Gretz Armainvilliers from Meganta station. So I took it, but I didn’t know that I was going to be stuck down there without train for 1 hour 15 minutes. So, when I arrived there that’s what happened.

I just took a walk to the nearby town entrance and came back an hour was gone. Train was waiting to go to Provins. So, I got in after confirming that it is going to Provins. The more closely train came to Provins, I was bit worried because of the brief showers on the way through out the station. I was hoping to see bright sky, if it rains sure to waste such a nice visit to this medieval town.

It was raining when the train reached Provins and I didn’t lose my hope, I jumped into the local bus to reach the local tourist information centre (Office de tourism) hoping that the rain will stop soon. Luckily it is so happened that the rain stopped by the time I reached there. I just bought the Provins pass that gives free entry to four main attractions such as Tour César, La Grange aux Dîmes, Les souterrains and to museum. I was told that there are some shows happening at different timings so I just wanted to try out one show due to shortage of time and got my ticket for The Legend Of The Knights at 3.00 PM. Also I was given with the local map and started to walk towards the historical places inside the town.

First thing I noticed was the big wall built around the town and it was also under maintenance for restoration. Later I learnt the fact that this was built around the entire town to stop people from entering into the town since around the wall there was a big canal filled with water (may be those days no swimming & wall claiming expert to come across?)

So, when I just entered from the entrance I could feel that I am walking into the place that exists beyond many centuries because the houses were literally that old that is clearly understood because of its built. I first visited the Tithe Barn that was the nearest from tourism office. They had samples of wax humans that symbolized the trading that happened in that underground house during those days. Looks like the town was popular for weaving and there were other trading as well. I happened to see the entrance to the underground route and just at that entrance they put a wax statue looked like a quarry worker. I thought that they were digging something out of it. So, I left it at that.

Since I was running out of time for the show I quickly hurried myself up to the Cesar tower and its architecture was so amazing that it served many purposes like place of refuge, watchtower of the surrounding and a prison. You can go up all the way till the top of the tower, some of the paths were not meant for people in heavy size as it was very narrow. I went up all the way till top and saw a bell weighing 500KG? I still wonder during those days how they managed to bring it all the way to the top. From the top the entire surrounding is clearly visible and I am sure with a telescope you can easily find out who is approaching town from far. After that I quickly moved back to the place near the entrance as the show was organized right behind the walls of the town.

I got myself in by showing the ticket at the entrance on the way I quite surprised to see the war weapons that was used centuries back that I have seen only in Hollywood movies like The Patriot and the most exciting part of it was they have used one of it during the show (just that instead of triggering fireball they used water ball). The show took me back to the time of the knights and was enjoyable with a good theme of chivalry. The stunt shows reminded me of few Hollywood movies where there was lots of sword fighting by riding on the horses and on the lands. The climax was nice with the concept of winning anything by LOVE. Actually the show was done in French language but you don’t really need a language to understand what was happening with their actions.

After that nice show I headed towards the museum and as I wrote before this isn’t much of my interest compared to Louvre. As usual there were few paintings, objects belonging to this territory that existed during11th to 18th century, few sculptures and few coins were what was seen in this 3 story museum. Then I just walked around the churches nearby for a while.

When I came out on search of underground gallery as per the map I was lost a bit and by enquiring few locals I managed to reach there on time before they close as everything is closed by evening 5-6pm. I didn’t know that I had big surprise waiting there for me. I thought I will just go alone without any guide into that underground gallery and come out quickly but to my surprise I was wrong.

The receptionist asked me to join with a guide who was just ahead of me. Lucky I joined her and guess why I call myself lucky? Because the underground that was built centuries back is that huge and very long that connects the entire town across. After I entered in I had no idea of where I am going into as it was pitch dark and the only torch that the guide was holding was the only light that was giving bit of luminous. She explained in French about how this was built and what was the purpose of it things like that.

On the way through the underground she showed some strange animal pictures and names and years dated 17th and 18th centuries written down. She also explained something about the soil layer formation by torching above the head as it was in French I could not understand but I think she gave explanation about how strong the ceiling was as she has also shown about leakage of water from the ground level at one underground hall and the different type of ceiling. The underground was like a real maze to me coz anywhere you go there were many branches out don’t know where it leads to... On the way she also showed us some ventilation holes for lighting and air flow purpose.

Finally we came out from the underground just opposite to the place where we started our exploration. It made me felt like walked at least 1km distance in round. I was just thinking about similar type of existence in Ho Chi Min city in Vietnam that the underground city was built during Vietnam War. I really loved this kind of unique experience that I had under this ground and I wanted to go for another round poor me I was already running out of time and I don’t know what time is the next train to get back to Paris without getting stuck in Provins.

Still I didn’t want to go back to train station as I felt like walking some more and explore the entire town so I started walking back towards the old town towards north and on the way happened to see the place of a very old hospital building then reached back the entrance of the town by that direction. I walked down to the tourism office by the side of the walls around the town and was hoping to get a bus from there to the train station. On the way I witnessed wonderful canola farm fields that were filled with greeneries also a very old cemetery.

At last arrived at the place where I started my visit but the bad news from the bus time table was that the bus service would stop by 6 and it was already 6 plus. So, I had no choice but to take a long walk back to train station. My legs were refusing to move as I was dead tired and I really pushed myself way towards the station halfway through the rain also started bit heavily. Pushed myself real hard again and reached the station lucky I had to wait only 45 mins for the train to start back to Paris. I reached back apart hotel and feel asleep with my legs paining because of the enthusiastic round I made the whole day.

Next day when I told about this place to my office colleagues, who are locals and staying in Paris since they are born, they didn’t even know that there is such a place exists in Paris region. I tell to myself that there are lots more to be seen then.

To me this town is a must visit place in the outskirts of Paris.


Steve Ballmer said...

I love your pictures, good blog!

Saravanan said...

Thanks for your feedback Mr. Steve. Nice to see your comment here.

Shalini Gowrisankar said...

Was an interesting read :)

Saravanan said...


Glad that you liked it. Please stay tuned for the next post on trip to Beaune - Wine Village in France