An hour-and-twenty-two-minutes away from gare de l’Est by the P train, Provins is a tiny (12k residents) enclave perched largely on top of a hill, though the (admittedly scenic) hike from the ville basse to the ville haute strongly emphasizes the height of said hill.
There are four churches, a handsome city gate, a tower with four turrets foothills, and an enclosure with walls and ruined towers, spilled all in the most charming way on two hills bathed until mid coast in the trees. – Victor Hugo
Built around a small medieval core, the city feels like a more-authentic Bruges; this isn’t to cast aspersions at Bruges (It’s a fairytale fucking town, isn’t it?), but it feels like an actual city that people live and work in (there were apartments built into parts of the old fortifications and in what little remained of a church that was mostly demolished more than 200 years ago), which is impressive when one considers that the city peaked in importance and population (84k, according to a quick google) some 800 years ago.
For all that, there’s not a lot to see; the tour César at the highest part of the town, the tithe barn, the exterior of the collegiate church, the ramparts, and… the fields outside the city.
Exposed to a cold, blustery wind and a light mist for the entirety of the weekend, we understood the presence of the thick layers of moss evident on almost every stone, brick, or masonry-clad surface as the humidity spiked and the fog appeared, not to let up until we were well over halfway back to Paris on Sunday.
Our Saturday foray through the ville haute and out past porte Saint-Jean prompted a couple of rounds of “let’s walk over there,” which resulted in a walk through an old graveyard (some of the graves dated to the early 19th century, while one dated to last month) and the two of us, standing on the curve of a very narrow road (more of a paved walking path, to be honest), medieval ramparts behind us, fields in front of us, everything more than a few hundred meters distant obscured by fog.
More than the weirdly-authentic-feeling mini-renaissance-festival, more than the surprisingly lacklustre Christmas market, more than the pig that was being walked through said Christmas market, more than the hike up the slippery cobblestone steps of tour César, more than the nicely-barrel-vaulted-but-essentially empty grange aux dîmes, I will remember those fields, that fog, and us, standing in the cold mist, in silence.