Monday, August 14, 2017

In France ~ Something Old and Something New

Never has the old and new been so perfectly juxtaposed as they were in the French countryside where we made our home for a week in June. We had Disneyland to our right and the medieval city of Provins to our left.
PicMonkey Collage
Disneyland and Medieval villages in the French countryside
And we can thank our ‘timeshare’ life for introducing us to both.  I’ve long sung the praises of the timeshare concept of ‘trading time’ for new locations.  In this case we’d traded one of our small hotel-room sized weeks in Hawaii for a two-story, two-bedroom, 2.5 bath home in the French countryside. I wrote about it in June, if you missed it, take a look at our home away from home.

Minnie's welcome sign at Disneyland
Our stay at the “Village Marriott” or the Marriott Ile-de-France as it is properly called, put us smack dab between the sprawling Disneyland (now celebrating its 25th Anniversary) and several charming villages where life remains untouched by the glitz that Mickey and Minnie brought to the area a quarter century ago. One of our favorites was Provins. . .

Entry into the medieval town of Provins
While the name when spoken sounds much like the wildly popular “Provence” region, this “Provins” is in the midst of the Champagne region; a region founded back in 1065.  Once the administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire, the place is simply oozing with history.

Heavy security at Disneyland
And unlike Disneyland, there are no entry fees or metal detectors or armed security guards with their attack dogs to greet you.

So on a cloudy morning that threatened rain we set off for a trip back in time. . .by hopping a public bus at the station near Disneyland.

The journey aboard bus No. 50 was a journey of an hour in each direction. It would have only cost 4 euros round trip per person had we not purchased the bus/train pass that allowed us unlimited travel for the week we were there.

Those of you who’ve traveled with us at TravelnWrite, know that we are not fans of group tours nor do we like the confines of set tours. Hopping a public bus and setting off on our own is one of our favorite ways to explore new territories. 

Off on an Adventure

We pretty much had the bus to ourselves – which also meant we had front row seats. The villages on the route are small and there weren’t a lot of folks traveling between them and Disneyland on this mid-week June day.
Our almost private bus in France
Again those who know us, know one of the reasons we bought a place in Greece was to have a base from which to explore more of Europe. This week-long trip was one of our first ventures out and let me tell you, that a just-over- two-hour flight from Athens to Paris is an affordable treat when compared to trips from Seattle, our home-base on the U.S. west coast.  And as we prepare to make Greece more of a full-time home base, we are also planning the outings that we’ll be taking.

PicMonkey Collage
What a contrast to Paris less than an hour away by train
Provins was an administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire and was one of six cities on the circuit of Champagne fairs.  Those medieval fairs lasted for six weeks in each location and at the height of their reign offered fair goers textiles, furs, leathers and spice.  Some of the huge warehouses in which the fair goods were stored still exist within this walled city.

The city square - Provins
I’d like to imagine the fair -  the fair of St. Ayoul of Provins - was held in this city square each September.

The buildings and streets in Provins were out of a fairytale
Provins prosperity lasted until the beginning of the 14th century when rerouting of commercial routes, plagues, wars and the decline of fairs led it into a state of hibernation; a small town in a rural setting - somewhat untouched by the outside world.

Provins storefront
That seclusion is credited with the saving of some 58 monuments, nearly all built in the 12th and 13th centuries. They’re credited with this town’s placement on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

PicMonkey Collage
Eglise Saint-Quireace  Provins, France
Entering this cathedral we were reminded of one of our all-time favorite books, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is set in medieval times – those in which fairs were held and central to its story line is the building of a cathedral. We highly recommend it to you historical novel fans out there.

Even the doors reek with history
We pretty much had the town to ourselves on the day we visited although from the many tourist shops and restaurants that fill the ancient buildings we suspect this place at times could be as busy as Disneyland.

We were content to wander the streets and let our imaginations run wild (with the help of interpretive signage along the way)but for those who want more tourist-type experiences, there are a number of monuments  and performances that have set hours and admission fees. For example the Underground Galleries are 4.50-euro for adults and 3-euro per child; the Legend of the Knights show is 12-euro for adults and 8-euros per child.

Even the steps had a story in Provins, France
Should we return to this part of France again, we’d probably opt to spend a night at one of the many hotels within this walled city so we could experience its after-dark atmosphere. . .I am certain it would be magical . . .

If you are lucky enough to be in this region this fall you might want to attend the town’s Autumn Fair, October 1st.  For more information on it and the town, visit their tourist office website at:

That’s it for this week.  Our packing continues. We thank you for your time and hope that you and yours have safe and happy travels.  Thanks to those of you who’ve shared the blog with others and re-posted it on Facebook.  It is much appreciated!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


  1. Hmmm ... Provins, a UNESCO WHS or Disneyland, filled with kitsch and screaming kids? 🙂 Coming from the US, the sheer ancientness of Europe is truly astonishing. When you write about Provins being founded in 1065 and I see your pics of the architecture, my history loving heart and mind go wild! I love your photo of the storefront with the vines spilling over the roof and down the sides. A snapshot of pure charm! Thanks for introducing me to this pretty gem of a town and you've reminded me of one of my favorite all-time books. I think it's time for a re-read. Pack on Jackie! Anita

    1. Actually my post reminded me of your recent post -- I love the old cities, in fact they are so enchanting I am certain that is why we want more time on that side of the pond -- can't get our fill of these adventures. And it is writing and reading these posts about them that is keeping me sane during this 'summer of slogging'. xxx J.

  2. I'd choose France over Hawaii anytime. What beauty!

    1. Well Hawaii's weather is pretty hard to beat but both locales were wonderful. Thanks for stopping by and commenting - please do it again!

  3. So glad you enjoyed your travels, and thanks for sharing at

  4. I'm absolutely swooning over those half-timbered buildings in Provins. Wow. So gorgeous. :-)

    1. They were enchanting - it felt as if I was living in a fairy tale and I can only imagine the fun of spending an off-season night here -- I bet I could almost see ghosts of yesteryear in the shadows. . .

  5. It must be so nice to be nearer to Europe now. I would skip Disney and do what you did. I wonder if the public bus driver would have given commentary (in French) if you asked.

    1. The bus drivers we found to be less than chit-chatty. So I didn't even think to ask.

  6. Love the Ken Follett connection. Although I've often visited France I've never 'done' Disneyland. Thank you for offering a quick peek at it.

    1. We opted to 'do' Disneyland from the outside only - admission was costly and the lines long (sounds like here right?) and the security line made those at airports look short. Glad you enjoyed the peek we had.

  7. I had not previously hears of Provins. It definitely looks like a place I would love. Thx for the great post and pics.

    1. Same with us, a name that we'd not heard of before in an area we'd never stayed before. Again I was reminded of why even though I love going back to favorite places that it is good to get out and try new ones.

  8. I love these old walled cities and I hadn't heard of Provins, though I have only been to France once. So much to explore in Europe, I can understand why you want to be much closer to these "treats"! Happy travels! and have a wonderful week.

  9. That's quite a contrast - Disneyworld and Provins! Glad you showed pictures of the latter! Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite books of all times.


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