Lan and Jane 'do' Western Europe travel blog

The Basilique Saint Urbain de Troyes

The marvellous streets of old Troyes

We were to bid farewell to Épernay today. After breakfast in our lovely apartment, we packed up the Fiat 500 and headed into the town to explore it a bit more. We found a place to park next to St Peter and St Paul’s Church, which was a pretty standard as churches go in France. However, there was an organist practising up above, which was a nice surprise, and he serenaded us with La Traviata as we left.

We walked around the town a bit but it was pretty quiet, so after a cuppa at Le Progrès brasserie (same as our first night), we hit the road to Troyes (pronounced the same as trois/three). The drive to Troyes took us through the Épernay hills, with their intense coverage of grape vines, before we passed into the Aube region, of which Troyes is the capital, a flat countryside with the mighty Seine making the area an important trading centre through the ages.

We negotiated the 120 km trip safely and found our lovely hotel, La Demeure D’Eirene, with the help of Google Maps.We were delighted to find a large and bright bedroom with a small living room and terrace and large bathroom. Fabulous. After settling in, we wandered the 10 minutes into town to find an amazing array of 16th-century half-timbered houses lining winding narrow cobbled streets. Why hasn’t anyone told us before about this lovely gem? It’s apparently known for its shopping outlets, but in fact the town centre is just charming.

Troyes has been in existence since the Roman era, as Augustabona Tricassium, which stood at the hub of numerous highways, primarily the Via Agrippa. As a result it flourished as a market town, specialising in clothing (Lacoste started here), food and gold (troy weight is named after the town). There is a part of the town, the old city, which is still moated and features the Troyes Cathedral, while to the west of this, across the moat, is the commercial area (the Bourg). People say these two areas are shaped like a champagne cork!

It also boasts nine intact churches, since it was left untouched by the World Wars. But these churches are often jammed in between the crowd of medieval buildings, so you often cannot view them fully, and indeed you don’t even know where they are until you turn a corner and suddenly see their stone edifices jutting out.

We located a café for lunch, Comptoir des Halles, just behind the town market, but only just, as it was 2 pm by this stage, and French cafés often open just between 12 and 2. Lan ordered the plat du jour (a delicious mushroom risotto), and Jane decided to try a local dish called andouillette de Troyes. It looked like a grilled sausage; however, when Jane bit into it, the texture, smell and taste were not what she expected. Again consulting Google, we found that the “delicacy” was made from large intestines and stomachs wrapped in pork bowels and slowly cooked in court-bouillon stock for 5 hours. Needless to say, Lan had to share her risotto, as the sausage was gag making. The café owner noticed the uneaten sausage and offered une autre chose. Very nice of him indeed! So Jane then received a small serve of the delicious risotto at no extra cost. We wondered if this was a common offer for unsuspecting tourists who clearly don’t have the sophisticated palate required to appreciate the specialty dish!

Refreshed, we wandered on and came upon the Basilique Saint Urbain de Troyes, a massive medieval church. It was consecrated by Pope Urban IV in 1262 and is a marvellous example of late 13th-century French gothic architecture. We have indeed been feasting on French gothic in this part of the country. It is always fascinating to see how bits and pieces have been added over time reflecting the architectural trends of the times.

We continued to explore the laneways and mediaeval streets of this lovely town until the light began to fade and it was time to eat again.

We looked down a narrow laneway called Ruelle de Chat (Cat Alley) and saw a lovely cosy restaurant, Chez Felix. It wasn’t quite open yet, so the waiter sent us to a charming bar opposite, Le Lapin Bleu. We had a drink at the bar accompanied by some local cheese and then dinner at Chez Felix. We were seated in the downstairs section, which was very atmospheric. The food was delicious as was the glass of Saint Emilion.

Another lovely and very full day, and we were glad of the extremely comfortable bed in our apartment.

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