It feels like we were in Europe eons ago (read: eight days ago). This post got a bit delayed, but better late than never!
The second half of the fiance’s work trip took us to France where he had additional work meetings as he and fellow company colleagues met with customers at the 2013 International Paris Air Show. I wasn’t able, and didn’t really want, to attend the Air Show, so I had plotted out several possible day trips I could complete on my own during the days he was working.
I had never ventured beyond Paris and Versailles during my last two trips to Northern France so I was excited to get out and see a little more of the surrounding area.
My first-day trip was to Provins, which is east of Paris. I took the metro to Gare de L’Est to take a regional train out to the medieval city.Because it was a regional train it moved a bit slower, so the trip ended up being about an hour and 15 minutes each way. However, Provins is within zone six so I was able to buy a Mobilis card for unlimited travel during the day, which was convenient and a deal. Trains left every hour in either directions, which made it one of the more flexible destinations on the trip.
I had looked over the website in advance to determine what to see and do in Provins since it came up as one of the more popular day-trips, and to be honest, I was a little concerned it was going to be hokey. The website makes it look like an overplayed Medieval Festival complete with jousting tournaments and people in period costume, etc. It just seemed like those gimmicks were unnecessary given the actual ramparts, fortified gates, churches and towers still in place.
Luckily it ended up being the perfect balance of history and tourism.
I spent the majority of my visit wandering through the city, climbing up to Caesar’s Tower and Saint-Quiriace church, buying some rose-themed gifts (which I understood to be the flower and symbol of the city) and accidentally discovering the gates and walls.
Only then did I even come across the attraction area, which is just outside of town near the visitor center. There were lots of school groups headed down to watch the shows, which I’m sure are entertaining–I probably would have seen one had I not had to make my way back to Paris to meet the fiance for dinner!
It really was a nice balance and a great day-long adventure. Even traveling solo, I never felt out-of-place or even slightly uncomfortable.
The city was actually pretty quiet, and my only complaint was that it was quite warm. I was hot and sucking down water as I hoofed it all over, which ended up being an adventure in itself since I couldn’t find the tourism office or a map until long after I saw most of the sights.
I found the church on the highest point and kept winding my way up until I got there! Here’s a look:
The next day I again took the metro to Gare de L’Est where I caught a TGV train to Reims. While I was able to use my little Mobilis card for Provins, I actually had to buy a round-trip ticket for Reims, which also meant I was on a tighter schedule to return.
I was excited about Reims because it’s northeast of Paris and in the champagne region. I’m not a huge champagne fan, but when in Rome!
I got to the city fairly early, and the small tourism office at the station gave me a map and directions to the larger tourism office downtown near the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which I understood to be one of the high points of the city’s attractions. I was not disappointed.
I bought a city pass, which included an audio-guided tour of two attractions (I chose Notre Dame and St. Remi Basilica) as well as a champagne house tour and tasting (I chose Tattinger, which was down by St. Remi).
My visit started off a little overcast but the sun broke through and things got warm pretty quickly! I walked around Notre Dame and the square, made famous by the crowning of Charlemagne and Joan of Arc, saw the palaces and some of the crypts and then took a bus south to see St. Remi’s and to meet up with my champagne house tour.
Tattinger stores its champagne in these underground labyrinths of what used to be a monastery. The monks, and others, dug them out of the chalk, which was a key item to have, and they seemed to go on forever. Our taste at the end was ok, and I bought a small bottle of rose for the fiance and I to enjoy on our wedding night. Here are some photos:
The fiance finished up work Thursday night, which was followed by our whirlwind three-day weekend in the city. We spent the first two days exploring the must-sees downtown since it was his first time there.
You’ve seen pictures of Paris before, but here were some of the highlights, in our opinion:
Fontainebleau and Versailles, France
We spent our third day traveling out to the palaces of Fontainebleau and Versailles. The weather barely held out for us– we spent time touring Fontainebleau, headed into Avon where they were having an open air market and grabbed some lunch before the rain could pick up again, and then took the train over to Versailles. We didn’t go in–just grabbed some outside pictures and toured the gardens briefly before our last supper.
It was another wonderful trip over too soon!