Provins, France - Travel Feature
ot one of the premier tourist destinations in France, Provins is a step back to the Middle Ages. On your next visit to Paris, take a side trip to Provins to explore one of the best preserved medieval cities, which UNESCO listed as a World Heritage site in December of 2001. You will be quite amazed to find such beauty and hospitality, as well as a great deal of French history. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Earls of Champagne made this fortified city their capital, well situated on the way to the Far East. Provins became very wealthy from the merchant activities, bankers, spice trade and the largest cloth fairs in Europe. It has also been said that Thibaud de Champagne brought back the rose flower from Damascus and introduced it here, so Provins might be a very romantic spot to boot.
There is so much to see and so much to do that you might decide to stay overnight, check the city out and visit the monuments (Caesar's Tower, the ramparts, the church of Saint-Ayoul, the Tithe Barn) and the vaulted rooms and cellars and underground passages once employed by secret societies. There is also an active art scene in Provins.
Once you have finished examining the still life, it is time to witness the re-creation of the vibrant activities of bygone days. One fun option is a very realistic production of "The Legend of the Knights," a knight's tournament with daring stuntmen and their horses. "The Eagles of the Ramparts," an outstanding bird show displaying rare species of birds of prey and their masterful training takes place on the walls of Provins and is quite spectacular. The show is narrated in French, but the period costumes, music, acting and, of course, birds provide an easy to follow and exciting story about the history of falconry. With more than 80 birds (eagles, falcons, vultures, owls...) on display, make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the birds close up after the show.
When you decide to take a break from exploring the medieval city of Provins and are looking for a nice place to eat, we recommend stopping by Quat'saisons (44, rue du Val; 01 64 08 99 44), a pleasant bistro offering straightforward fare at quite reasonable prices (menus priced at €15.50 and €21). The comfortable atmosphere is accentuated by the friendly and energetic owner, M. Courtois, who is likely to take your order, chat you up, bring your bill and do just about everything in between.