An Unimpressive Hike in Provins

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Hiking near Paris

If you go hiking nearly every week, you can’t expect to hit the jackpot each time. Some hiking trips go awry (you get lost, it starts to rain), while others fail to meet expectations – and a welcome thing this is, too.

Otherwise, we would no longer have standards – all concepts of appreciation, such as “good” or “beautiful”, require an opposite: a dark background against which they can shine – and lose first our vocabulary and, ultimately, our capacity for joy.  

Provins is one of the main tourist attractions of the Ile de France (the area around Paris), full of medieval buildings and monuments. And not only that: one of France’s main hiking trails, the GR11, passes right through it and continues into the surrounding countryside. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

A Hike in Provins

Walk out of the station (trains of the suburban RER network leave from Paris Est and take about 80 minutes) and cross the main road as well as the small creek behind it to step right in.

"Finger boards in the Cite Medievale Provins France"

Early on, you have to make an important decision. Which way to go: left, for the medieval Old Town – or right? We decided, with a heavy heart, to leave the paint factory for our next visit.

"A spaghetti if electric powerlines in the streets of the Medieval city of Provin in France"

The first thing you notice in the Old Town is that it must have been against some medieval belief to lay telephone cables underground.

"The ancient pilgrims' hospital in the medieval part of the town of Provins near Paris"

This is the ancient Pilgrims’ hospital. People in the Middle Ages came to Provins in their hundreds – not only to do business (Provins was the area’s foremost market town) but also for pilgrimages because this was the place where they had found the earthly remains of St Ayoul. (Whose fame has since gone into something of a steep decline.)

There is little about the Middle Ages that modern people find as strange as the concept of pilgrimages – week-long travels to gaze at a pinky finger or some such.

Personally, I cannot help wondering which of our own travel habits will most amuse people a thousand years from now: Easy Hiking, perhaps, although my money is on our strange obsession of traveling half way around the world to watch our favourite sports teams play. (If we want to mock something, we do not usually have to travel very far either in time or in location.)

"The stairway alley named Grimpon du Cochon Epic a sight seen on a hike in Provins"

The name of this street translates – unless my French is failing me – as the “Climb of the Epic Pig”. I would love to know what exactly happened here, I really would.

Elsewhere in town, they have a place called the “Maison de Bourreau”, the Hangman’s Home, and a street called “Allee des Lepreux” – just in case you were thinking that life in the Middle Ages was all pageantry, fun and games.

"Tourism Office of Provins in the middle of a wheat field"

Other places have out-of-town shopping malls, Provins has an out-of-town Tourism office. Yes, that is a wheatfield over there.

The funny thing is this: The only memory that I had from our previous visit to Provins was this image of my small family and myself standing forlornly somewhere in a place where faceless suburbia blends into farmland. Suddenly, it all came back.

"A stone stairway of a house without banisters in Provins near Paris"

No handrail! If a proper health and safety inspector saw this, these Frenchies  would have to tear all of that down, historic town centre or not. (Yeah, you laugh, but wait until someone falls down and breaks a hip.)

After our walk through the Old Town, it was already afternoon, so we decided to skip lunch and to buy a sandwich instead, intending to picnic in a beauty spot along the way of our short afternoon walk, nearer to 5 than to 10 km, surrounded by bucolic scenery, somewhere between Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and Fete de Champagne. So we followed the GR11 out of town, from the back of the train station, in the direction of Poigny.

Here are some of the highlights from our short hike in Provins:

"Through the asphalt forest along our hike in Provins near Paris"

The local council estate.

"Local waste recycling site in the medieval town of Provins near Paris"

The local waste recycling centre.

"asphalt trail along a wheat field in the hike in Provins near Paris"

Bucolic scenery.

"a private-public forest in the Provin hiking trail near Paris"

At least we did in the end find a place where we could eat our sandwiches, which was “bucolic” enough if slightly spooky. We felt a little like intruding into someone’s private garden (there was a house but no fence and no indication that this was a public building either), and I nervously expected – for the first few minutes at least – Smithers to release the hounds at any moment.

The windows of the stately home at the top left of the garden were probably shut, I reasoned, because the owners did not want to let any sunlight in – for fear of turning into dust. (In the end, however, you will be relieved to hear, we survived unbitten.)

From there to the nearest RER station (called Champbenoist-Poigny), it was only a 15-minute walk – down a busy road, of course, in keeping with the leitmotif of the trail – but at least, we were home early.

So if you go to Provins, you may well want to skip the hiking bit (with Easy Hiker’s express permission, for once) and concentrate on the medieval Old Town instead – but go you should, if you can find the time, because there is quite a lot to see. More than we could show you today, as a matter of fact. Which is why there will be more pictures of pretty Provins here.

Don’t miss our Paris hiking tips. Follow us on Facebook or register to get our free updates direct in your mail box.

15 comments to An Unimpressive Hike in Provins

  • Aha, thanks for the interesting clarification.

  • Veronique Marot

    Sadly nothing very exciting about the epic porc – in fact it is French for porcupine! I stumbled across your site by accident.

  • Every once and a while I like the boring hikes, it makes you appreciate the good ones!

  • I’ve gotten used to your beautiful sceneries on your hikes so this was a bit different but this Old Town looks quite charming. I had to google Bucolic too so thanks for my word of the day. I’m very curious about Climb of the Epic Pig street too.

  • The location of that stop sign is interesting. I guess if you trip near the top, you could grab hold of it? Still, for all its quirkiness, it’s a beautiful place. Glad you were able to sit and have a quiet lunch without being set on by hounds.

  • Calogero

    Provins? New to me, thanks.

  • We do have to take the good with the not so good, don’t we? Glad you at least found a nice spot for your lunch. I do enjoy medieval villages so I would probably find the old town interesting.

  • But you golf, Deej. You also have to walk quite a bit.

  • Hahaha, glad to be able to enrich your vocabulary, Ted. I wouldn’t give Provins a pass though. The hiking may not be grand, but the town itself is rather charming, worth a day to visit.

  • Welcome, Adri. Hope you liked what you saw and get you easy hiking.

  • It was not a very pretty hike, indeed, Jeremy. Thank goodness it was short. Or rather we could easily cut it short.

  • Jeremy Branham

    Well it seems like you didn’t like this place too much! :) I did like the bucolic scenery but it seems like it was definitely a disappointing hike.

  • AdriBarr

    Well,what an entertaining post! I have never visited your site before. I came to day at the recommendation of Mette of Italian Notes. And I too wonder about that street name…

  • At least you got a nice workout, and I learned a new word. Had to google the definition of bucolic. I never heard of Provins, and I now know why. If some tour company is offering the choice between a tour of Versaille and Provins, I can make the educated guess and go with the non-bucolic option.

  • I don’t know…your uneventful hikes still seem to be pretty great. This from a guy that can barely hike up a flight of stairs:)

Leave a Reply