Adventures in Paris: a walled city

One of the things that was especially exciting for our boys when we were in Portugal was the castles.  Coming back to Europe this summer brought with it the hope of more castles.  Paris, however, is more a place of chateaux and palaces than the medieval strongholds our boys were hoping for.  They prefer the rugged, ancient, fortresses to the decorated, fragile, and gilded ones that are common here.  Lucky for us, we discovered Provins.

Dubbed “the only walled city in Ile-de-France,” Provins is a little over an hour from Paris, easily accessible either by train or car, and it provides a fantastic break from the standard Paris sites.  It was perfect for our kids, and filled their needs for an old-world castle, even though it is more properly described as a walled city—there’s no castle, per se.

Provins is separated into the lower town and the upper towns (the upper town being the older, fortified section), and we were able to enjoy both sections.  Leaving the train station, we headed into the lower town, pulling together a picnic at the small grocery store (Monoprix) and then heading to the Garnier public garden to enjoy it.  There we were surrounded by a small pond with swans and a waterwheel, manicured (but not forbidden) lawns, and overflowing flower beds.  We then made our way towards lower remnants of the outer wall—which is now a small canal—and followed it up to where the massive city walls remain today.  Following the wall up a steep hill towards the upper town, we were able to climb the ramparts and enjoy the views both towards the center of town and across the cultivated fields of wheat, corn, and other staples.  From this vantage we also got a great view of an imminent rainstorm!

The boys were happy exploring the walls, and our only regret is we hadn’t arrived early enough in the day to enjoy the Birds of Prey show and a few other small attractions.  The plus of going late in the day, however, was that our whole visit was quite secluded—we saw only two other people as we explored the ramparts.  Even heading back through old town past the two churches, we had the place mostly to ourselves.  Past the tithing storehouse, past a wishing well (into which two of my boys wished never to have to go to school again…sigh), and down a quaint, steep road back to the lower town.  By this point the rain had begun, but we were treated to a full rainbow as we got back to the train station, and we seemed to avoid the bulk of the rain, so all in all, no complaints.

If you’ve got a week in Paris and want a day to experience more medieval times with lots of outdoor space for the kids, Provins may be just the place for you.


3 replies
  1. Pheobe
    Pheobe says:

    What a cool place! I’m sure it was refreshing to have a more open area for the boys to explore! Definitely a gem to remember!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] only gone one step farther from downtown with the book An Hour from Paris, which proved helpful in our visit to Provins.  Yet as time passed in Paris, Normandy kept coming to mind.  Not only would it provide a break […]

  2. […] HUGE.  And to our kids, it’s a bit less interesting than the more medieval structures we saw in Provins or […]

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