Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day 5- Down to the Catacombs, then off to Provins!

On Day 5, we had our first adventure outside of Paris, but, before we left Paris, we traveled under Paris.

When we came up from the metro (okay, so maybe we had already been under Paris, but it was totally not the same kind of thing),

(by the way, Paris has really cool vintage Metro signs)

we walked a little up the street and found our first bakery, where I finally got the chocolate croissant that I had been wanting.

We ate while we stood in line in front of the entrance to the Catacombs, waiting for them to open.

In 1786, the city decided to remove the dead from the city cemeteries all to this one location--an old former limestone quarry.  There are literally piles of bones everywhere underneath this part of the city.  After traveling down,

we reached a carved model of France's Port-Mahon fortress created by a former Quarry Inspector.

After continuing further, we reached the entrance to the catacombs themselves.  It warns, "Halt, this is the empire of the dead."


(Yes, those are all bones)


 Verses were mixed in with the bones.  I took pictures of a few--now I just need to figure out what they mean!

Thus ends everything on earth:
Spirit, Beauty, Talent, Grace,
Short-lived like a fleeting flower
Blown down by the slightest breeze.
(found translation on the internet)

When we finally emerged, we metroed to the Gare de l'Est (l'Est Train station) to start our trip to Provins (pronounced Pro-vah).
 Unfortunately, there was a train accident earlier in the week, and the train was not running all the way from Paris to Provins, otherwise this would be an easy daytrip.  The way there we had a take a train, then a bus, and then the train again to finally get to the Provins train station, where we caught a shuttle to the town. At least we bought a snack at the bakery for our travels!
(First madeleines of the trip--and yes, that is my Coke this go round--I needed the caffeine!)
Provins is an old medieval walled city believed to date back to the early middle ages.   Charlemagne himself sent the Count of Paris to Provins in 802.  It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site because the town walls are still standing, as are many of the houses.

It is most well known as the home of one of the Champagne Fairs, which were very important in the 12th and 13th centuries. At that time Provins was under the control of the Counts of Champagne.  The Tuesday before the Ascension was the day of the Provins "May Fair" (which was just last week actually). 


We walked through the town until we reached the Caesar's Tower.  This tower was built between 1152 and 1181.

 Since Katherine and I had yet to turn down a chance to climb something high up, we went up
the roughly 200 stairs to the top of the tower of the castle so we could look out over the countryside. 

This church is the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church, and was our next stop.  Construction work began on this church during the 12th century.  The dome you see now was added in the 17th century.

This church is less fancy than some others we have seen--it was never completed due to financial difficulties. 

At this point we headed back towards the town square and stopped at a cute little store we had seen during our walk to the tower.

There was a whole wall of loose leaf tea inside,

and the store offered many local products for sale.

After spending money, we headed back to the town square.

Since it was now 5 p.m., it was time for a late lunch (have I mentioned yet that we had gotten onto a very weird eating schedule, but then you do eat later in France!).  We stopped at an adorable creperie. 

The inside was really cute,

but the day was so beautiful we ate outside with everyone else.

I got a gillette (a savory buckwheat crepe) with goat cheese, honey, ham, and almonds.  I also ordered a lemonade with rose syrup (which was very good).  Provins is famous for its roses and creates many different products with them (jellies, syrups, soaps, and candles to name a few).

We continued our walk (potentially with some ice cream--mine flavored with rose syrup (which was delicious, by the way),

until we stepped into the rose garden.  Even though it was way to early in the season for roses, the gardens were still pretty. 

(I did some potted roses near the store)

Also exciting for me, there was a pretty tearoom that I could take pictures of!  It would have been beautiful with the roses in bloom.

From here we finally walked up to the ramparts. 

After  more climbing, we actually walked on top of the walls for a bit,

before we headed back to catch a shuttle to the Gare.  Here is where the adventure really began.  Because of the delays caused by the traveling difficulties, we couldn't go back the way we had gotten to Provins. The people at the station were wonderful, however, and, even with a bit of language difficulties (on our end because neither Katherine nor I speak French) they figured out the best way for us to get back to Paris with the delays.  They walked us over to a bus that would take about an hour and get to the Chessy Gare, which served RER A--a train route that happened to let off near our hotel.  They also found another traveler who was going to Paris who spoke English and introduced her to us so that she could help us if we needed it.  We rode a bus for about an hour through the French countryside and got an impromptu tour.  By this point we were really tired, and I was a bit stressed from our travel woes, so we were fighting sleep.  I got an adrenalin rush, however, when I figured out what the Chessy station was--that is where Parc Disneyland Paris is located!  I just had to hurry over to take a picture of the entrance. 

Even with me dashing off (much to Katherine's disgust I'm sure), the lady who traveled on the bus with us from Provins came looking for us to make sure we knew where to catch the train--so, as I said, we had some wonderful experiences with the locals!  We hurried back in the station and hopped on the train to Paris with just a bit of time to spare.  Roughly 20 minutes later, we were in Paris. 
It was now past 10, and we were tired and hungry, so we stopped for dinner at a restaurant near the metro (and our hotel). 
I got a chef 's special--which included the biosson (drink), plat (main dish), and dessert all for 16 euro--which I thought was great deal.  The special was a delicious pork chop

with cream puffs for dessert :).



  1. What a beautiful, charming town. They sure have a lot of rose flavored treats.I also loved the austereness of the church. It was a long day for you, but so nice that the locals directed you. The trains are such a great way to get around Europe even with the mixups.

  2. I typed out a long comment on this post, but then the internet ate it and I got mad. I have recovered and so I'll try to recreate it, although I probably won't be able to recapture the genius and witticisms in my initial insights. :-P.

    --The pastries from that little bakery near the Catacombs were so delicious. I remember ordering a cherry tart thing in an effort to avoid being a flaky mess, but still wound up being the most crumb-covered of the two of us. Typical.
    --Thanks again for doing the Catacombs with me. :-P. It was awesome, except for the EXCRUCIATING climb back out, which I thought would kill me.
    --TRAIN MADELEINE! :-D :-D :-D. The first attempt at this shot will forever be my favorite, though. You should have posted the "outtake."
    --I really like Photo No. 21 for some reason. That is all.
    --Nice sneaky shots from the inside of the little shop in Provins. ;).
    --The creperie where we had lunch in Provins was indeed presh. I think we ordered the same galette, which was the second-best galette I had on the whole trip (only after the exceptionally cheesy post-Notre Dame towers galette). I also never saw the inside of that restaurant, so I'm glad you took a picture. I should have used restaurant restrooms more! :-P.
    --Your photo of the hill up to the ramparts in Provins is better than mine at showing the steepness, but still doesn't totally convey it. I thought my heart would give out. :-P. And then that runner came up behind us...LOL.
    --Somehow, I'd totally forgotten about the "Disney Detour" aspect of our Provins return trip. Hahaha. It's funny now. :-P.

    ...The end.


Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you have a wonderful day :)