Published: June 13th 2006June 13th 2006
The Left Side of the "Stage"
The left side of the "stage" for the shows in Provins. They use an outside section of the 13th century wall that's around the city.
Sorry it’s been so long since our last update, but it’s been impossible to find an un-locked wireless signal for awhile. We’re finally at a hotel that’s got it’s own wireless connection, so hopefully I’ll be updating with some pictures as well. - Jesse
Friday, the 9th of June
Everybody up and ready to go by 8 o’clock, no problem. Unfortunately, our cab wasn’t. The desk clerk the night before had called to arrange a cab for us at 8am, but by 8:10 he wasn’t there. We had the day clerk call another cab company, and THEY hadn’t shown up by 8:30, so Margaret headed down the street for a couple of blocks to the taxi stand there to try to find a cab big enough for the three of us and our packed bikes. She found a Peugeot station wagon & driver willing to take us, so they headed back to the hotel for Jesse & Erin. Unfortunately, he turned into our one way street too early, so Marg & Erin grabbed some of the small bags to kind of hold him, and circled back around. We then stuffed the bikes into the back, Marg and Erin’s panniers in
The Main Host for the Shows
The main host for the two shows at this stage, portraying the Duke of Champagne. If Erin wasn't already married....
the front, and Jesses’s duffle with his four panniers into our laps in the back seat. Felt a little safer this time with the duffle to act as an airbag as this cabbie gave our first some pretty good competition for Fastest Cabbie in Paris. We got to the train station intact after coming within inches of more traffic than we could count. We still gave him a good tip for the trouble. Luckily, there was an English speaking luggage porter outside with cart at the ready, so we didn’t have to lug all the bikes and panniers in. Got hooked up for the train without issues, and the porter translated that we would be departing at platform 15. What we didn’t get from either was that we would have to transfer trains at the first stop. As it happened, we got to talking with a conductor or other train employee on the platform and found out that important information. We *might* have noticed it if we looked up at the line map in time, but who knows?
We arrived in Provins with only one worried bit when the train stopped in Loungeville (IIRC) for a 10 minute wait
What's a little swordplay between friends, eh?
or so, then left going back the way we had come! We checked the route map and it indeed showed Provins several stops later than where we were. It turns out that they switched the track to a different line behind us. Very interesting! Our next shock of the trip was that there were NO taxis at the Provins train station. None. Of course our next and bigger shock was that, after talking to the one person that manned the station and having him look around, there was no hotel in town that had the name we had reservations for! After some searching and some help from one of the track workers who spoke a little English, we found that the Hôtel du Sauvage was actually 28km north. Okay, change of plans again ;) We decided to rent a car, keep the hotel room, and just shuttle back and forth to Provins for the festival we were attending. Margaret found the car rental place that the track worker had told us about, but they were out of cars. They referred us to, of all the things, the local Renault dealer just down the street. When Margaret got there, there was
The Right Side of the Stage
The other side of the stage.
a sign there that said Renault Rents. A car dealer that rents it’s cars…what a concept! She returned with a neat little near-minivan called a “Scenic” that’s quite a nice little car. Too bad Renault isn’t in the states, I think Margaret would have a new car ;) We made it to the Tourist Center with the help of the GPS & laptop that Jesse’s been carrying, and got information for the festival. This is where we got our “oh bloody hell” moment, when we found out that we HADN’T lost a day, and that is was really Thursday, not Friday like we’d thought. The desk staff was looking at us a little funny as we were barely able to contain our laughter at the irony of the situation. We rushed, had all the taxi problems, the car rental, etc, because we couldn’t get our days straight. Ah, what a grand adventure!!! LOL!! After recovering our composure, we bought our main passes for the town and fair, then it was off to La Ferté Gaucher, where our mis-placed hotel was.
Quaint little town, and apparently the hotel is somewhat of an historic landmark. Haven’t found out exactly how old
The Tithe Barn's Vaulted Ceiling
These vaulted ceilings are common in Provins, according to one of the guides we spoke to, and we saw them in at least four locations.
it is yet, but there’s a photo in the lobby that’s gotta’ be from the 1800’s. The nice things are it’s got a real shower and is bigger than our room was in Paris.
So, the REAL Friday, the 9th of June (sheesh…too funny).
Historic Provins is quite amazing. It’s tourist attraction and living town inside of the 13th century walled city that was medieval Provins. US based Rennaisance Fairs would go insane with jealousy. There are several shows that run during specific days of the week during specific months, and on certain public holidays. Since we were a day early, we took advantage of that fact and hit all the three shows before the crowds REALLY arrive on Saturday. I’ll tell ya’ what, the producers of these shows really know how to lay it on! The first thing is the backdrop. It’s a portion of the 13th century outside wall of the town. The first show, called The Battle of the Ramparts, was really more of a basic introduction to the local medieval times, chivalry, and the weapons of war and siege-craft. That’s what we got out of it, anyways, since everything was in French of course. One
The Italian Merchant
The first of the 11 audio guide stops portrays an Italian merchants booth as it might have appeared during the Provins fairs centuries ago.
of the more amazing aspects of the show was that they actually fired three different kinds of trebuchets across the front of the audience! A trebuchet is a type of catapult used during medieval times to launch projectiles at a castle or walled town that was under siege. And here they were, launching something like a white, water filled basketball, left to right across the front the audience. Can you imagine the insurance companies and lawyers in the litigation-happy United States? They’d have a field day! Still it was definitely cool to see them live and in action, even if they were powered down somewhat from those used in actual sieges. The second show was called The Legend of the Knights and was quite the drama, with action happening all the way across the ~100 yards of stage area. They varied a little from the strict historical base, with some orc-ish type enemy characters, but it was still a fun show. The third show was called The Eagles of the Ramparts, and was hands-down the best bird show that any of us have ever seen. There was a pretty small audience so they really played to the crowd. They had
Margaret Making Friends
Margaret making friends with some of the schoolchildren during one of the shows. Marie, Marc, and their friends were intrigued with the funny Americans. Their teacher was not as intrigued as she had to calm them down once or twice ;)
kestrels hopping onto peoples heads, showed the kestrels and a falcon hunting, and had the eagles, owls, and vultures doing low level fly-overs. Erin told Jesse to “SIT DOWN!!!” on one eagle pass because she thought he’d get clocked by the bald eagle (he didn’t, and he didn’t, if you catch my drift). Truly an amazing show! In the display area, a unique feature was that a lot of the birds were out in the open, perching on posts in front of little hutches, out in the open. They had tethers, of course, but it was still quite unique to have a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a perch in the open air a few feet away from you. We also toured one of the many historic attractions that are open. This one was called the Tithe Barn, and was used as a rental to the merchants of Toulouse when they came to town for the Champagne Fairs, which were one of a series of traveling wholesale (not retail) fairs that traveled through-out Europe at the time. The vaulted ceilings in this cellar are typical of the region. We also realized today that the bars around here close at 7:00pm. What
One of the Streets...
Inside the old walled portion of Provins is littered with historic buildings that are older than our country. Americans just don't have the same depth and richness of history!
Saturday, the 10th of June
Festival Day! The Provins Medieval Festival is like a Rennaisance Fair on steroids. Tons of arts and crafts to see and street performers to watch. Medieval music was at every turn, with replica instruments being played everywhere. There was a craftsman forging bronze molds, blacksmiths, wood-turners and carvers, bowyers and fletchers, lace-makers, weavers, and the list goes on and on. We also went through the other main attractions today. We started with the general hospital and the underground galleries that lace the area. The hospital was in another of the vaulted cellars of the area, and also leads into the galleries. Originally these galleries were used as a quarry for extracting chalk and fuller’s earth for degreasing wool cloth. Later the cavities became hiding places, storerooms, and meeting places for various gatherings, some of them Freemasons from the Masonic inscriptions among the graffiti in some sections of the tunnels. There were inscriptions visible as early as the middle 1700’s, proving graffiti is not a development of recent times. Later in the afternoon we visited the so-called Caesar’s Tower, which was a keep built on the edge of a rocky spur at the
One of several species of eagle (not sure what this one is) that were at the show.
beginning of the 12th century, and protected the former Earl’s palace and dominates the valley. While in the Tower we noticed that the doors to the Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church. After descending the shoulder-width and very steep stairs in the tower and out through the entrance, we went over to the church. Incredibly beautiful inside, it amazed us how it ever could have been built back then, but this church is still a pip-squeak compared to Notre Dame. We stayed inside the cool interior for awhile, waiting for a Medieval quintet to start playing. We stayed for a few sets, then moved on. Our final stop of the day was the Provins & Provins Area Museum, which is housed in Provins oldest stone building. It dates from the 12th century and is referred to as “the Romanesque House”. The museum housed many local works of art belonging to Provins and it’s neighborhood from Neolithic times to 19th century. By now we were pretty worn out, and we’d seen the majority of what we’d come to see, so we headed back to the hotel in La Ferté Gaucher.
Sunday, the 11th of June
Bit of a lazy day, today.
A kestrel hopping onto people's heads and back to the hands of the trainer. They did this trick with 1/3 of the audience!
We decided that since we’d covered the fair, and had both the hotel and the rental car for another day that we would head out to Sézanne, which is going to be our stopping point tomorrow when we bicycle out of Provins. Once we got there we found a great hotel that will have a wonderful room waiting for us when we arrive, downstairs and with a safe area for the bikes to be stored. YAY!!! No stairs or elevators the size of a coat closet. Once we reserved the room, we traced the route back to Provins, kind of a pre-run for tomorrows ride. We’re definitely looking forward to it!
Monday, the 12th of June
Our first day on the bikes since the aborted entry into Paris. Only had one bobble on the way out of town. We went a little too far out on the road out of Provins, so ended up one road north of where we wanted to be. Made a right turn at the next crossroads and a left back onto the road we wanted. No problem! We continued on the route we’d pre-run and didn’t have any real problems, other than
"Jesse, sit down!"
Otherwise known as a very close Bald Eagle fly-by.
we hadn’t had breakfast beyond some meal replacement bars, and were a little short of water. FYI, EVERYTHING in France seems to close on Mondays. What the heck? There’s not much of anything open. Luckily the hotel lobbys are ;) So, it was a bit of slog. Along the way we found a small little church in this tiny little hamlet that wasn’t much more than a wide spot in the road. It had a capstone on it that read 1150! That little church predates our country by 500 years. We just don’t have that concept of age in the States. Towards the end of the ride we were definitely feeling the fatigue. The heat and the very light breakfast and lunch took it’s toll, so we were just about dragging into Sezanne after a ride of approximately 41 miles. We retired to our beautiful little bungalow room for showers and rest before dinner, which was wonderful.
Tuesday, the 13th of June
We were all a little sore getting back on the bikes, and we knew where to make sure to get sunscreen put on from yesterday (our right sides get more sun). We had a hard
One of the many very old houses in Provins. And Margaret thought the "flipper" house she bought a little while ago was old, having been built in 1941. This one beats it by several centuries!
grinding up-hill for about a mile and a quarter heading out of town. When we got to the top, we realized we’d gone the wrong direction, missing a turn at the edge of town, and going up that long hill for nothing. Ugh. Once we got back on track the rest of the day was pretty straight forward, other than the swarms of bugs we rode through at the edges of farmer’s fields. We bicycled by more lovely old churches, and tiny little hamlets that had to date to the 18th century and earlier, in some cases. We also ran into our first new construction on the way. In fact, this leg’s had a fair bit of it. One house built in a semi-traditional way and sporting a miniature tower, had a stunning view over-looking the valley we’d just climbed out of (or the plateau we’d just climbed, depending on how you look at it). Gorgeous! When we arrived at the hotel in Vertus (it was about a 32 mile ride), we found it to have a very strange arrangement. It’s got a main building with the restaurant (all the hotels we’ve seen outside of Paris have their own restaurants),
What Year Is This Again?
You can easily forget what century you're in wandering around Provins during the Festival.
but the body of the hotel is around the back of the block. We got back there and JOY!!!!, they’ve got a pool!!!! We jumped into swimsuits and then dove in. Oh my goodness…..now THAT’S that way to end a day’s ride!
There are more photos below