Yesterday I, along with my friend, took a train that took me away from Paris, and back in time to the medieval city of Provins. As we got further away from Paris, the buildings got smaller and smaller until they disappeared altogether.
When we got off the train station, we were at the edge of the city, and had to find our way to the center of town. I had counted on being able to use GoogleMaps to find my way around, but my phone seemed to think we were still in Paris. So we had to use the Caesar Tower as a kind of north star to orient ourselves. As we walked, we had no destination in mind just yet – we were pulled into the roads that seemed as though they had been there the longest. After getting sidetracked (more than once) we found our way to a market in the center of town, where we bought cheese and fruit for a picnic lunch. We followed signs that said “Rosarie” to a small garden with a watermill, rose bushes, and swans. Yes, swans. We had stepped into a fairytale, it seemed (the young knight in shining armor was to appear later on in the story).
At this point, we decided it would be a good idea to stop wandering and start making our way towards the medieval city, starting with the ancient city walls. As soon as we walked past the ramparts, towards the wall, and through the archway, everything stopped – time, sound, and civilization. For miles and miles all that could be seen were fields of wheat and grass. And off in the distance I saw a woman standing outside a small cottage with her dog, hair blowing in the wind. All I could think was that in another life, that could have been me. How different my life would have been.
I stopped fantasizing and snapped back into the present, as we headed back into the city. At one point we walked by an interesting door that said “Banquet des Troubadors.” Peeking in, I could see stone walls, and a smoking cauldron with something purple bubbling up inside. We were intrigued. We descended the steep stairs and saw tables lined end to end with place settings, in a room that looked like a mix between a Gothic church and palace dungeons. A dashing young man in a tunic and jester’s shoes came out from behind a curtain to greet us. He explained to us that they put on a medieval banquet every Saturday, complete with a five course meal and entertainment from jugglers, musicians, and troubadours. Before we could express our excitement that we were in Provins on the very day that there was a banquet, he told us that it was completely booked for that night. We were sad, but talked to him for a while longer, telling him where we were from, and hearing that he is a student in Brussels. After thanking him for his kindness, we climbed out of the hall, a little flushed, both thinking the same thing.
“We don’t even know his name!” my friend said. How stupid, to not even ask his name.
The evening went by quickly. We tasted rose jam, rose soda, and rose ice cream (apparently rose is popular in places other than the Middle East). We danced at a concert held at the town square. We wandered through the charming streets and took pictures with several cats.
When the sun finally came out after a cloudy day at 7, we made our way back to the train station, walking by the “Banquet des Troubadours.” The gate was locked. A little disheartened, we started to walk away when I suddenly had the brilliant and immature idea to leave a note. So my friend and I, giggling like young schoolgirls, wrote a note for the man we had talked to earlier. Here is what it said:
“Merci pour votre hospitalité. Nous sommes les deux filles de Californie – bonne chance avec vos études! Enchantée de vous rencontrer.”
We’ll never even know if he read the note, but it doesn’t matter; it was a nice way to wrap up a wonderful day in charming Provins. Along with everything else, it will remain in my mind a cherished memory from the medieval town of dreams.