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Friday, January 14, 2011

France 2010 - Day 7, Part 3 - Provins

"If you live to be one hundred, you've got it made. Very few people die past that age." - George Burns

***

France 2010
Day 7 - 9th October - Provins
(Part 3)

After the medieval show, I checked out the rest of Provins.

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Autumn Creepers

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Tour César (Caesar's Tower)
Naturally it has nothing to do with Caesar

There was a lot of creepy vegetation around the Tour César:

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It looks like it'll attack you at any moment

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La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace (a church) from Tour César (not the top), which they started building in the 12th century but never finished - because they had no money.


The top of Tour César

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Town view from top of Tour César

I was very disappointed by the top of Tour César, as it was quite bare. The view was nothing spectacular either - the countryside mixed with modern buildings. But I was in the bell tower when the 4:30pm bell sounded - it was shocking.

There wasn't much of an exhibition in the tower either - only one room on the way down from the top, and one of the two panels was not lit (since the room was almost pitch dark was very important). Furthermore the room was very easy to miss on your way out.

There was a nice projection of the life of Henry I the Liberal (he went on the Second Crusade) in 7 chapters though, with animated manuscript cartoons. It didn't say why he was Liberal, though. Apparently he was called Liberal, because of his "enlightened, globe-trotting outlook" which probably came from his "multi-cultural parentage":





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Medieval stairs

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La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace and slope

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Maison Romane (Romanesque House) and Tour César

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La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace

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Rue du Collège

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Rue d'Enfer
Indeed, it'd be hell walking up. Luckily I was going down, one-way

I knew I had entered the Lower Town of Provins:

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Telltale signs of a place where real people live: a "Chinese" restaurant, an Allianz, a pharmacie and around the corner, a kebab shop (I also saw my first headscarf around here)

The "Chinese" in ""Chinese" restaurant" was in inverted commas above because "Auberge de Pékin" ("Peking Hostel") served Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese food. Go figure. They also featured "baguettes d'or" (Golden Chopsticks). At first I thought it was a food award (like the Michelin Star), but it seems it's just poetic.

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Among the highlights of the Lower Town - "McDonald's Drive"

I then signed up for an underground tour, of the old cellars of the town (only guided visits were possible, and they were in French). Surprisingly, the tours filled up fast, and I got the last or second last of the day's tours.

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You can only pay by cash if you don't speak French. Also note "No CB" ("No Carte Bancaire" [NETS equivalent]), which is an interesting mix of languages.

Photography was forbidden, but it was so dark that nothing good would've come out anyway. And anyway there wasn't much to see - just some graffiti and water marks that would one day become stalactites. It was the narration that was the [more] interesting part.

I was amused that they used LEDs to light the cavern route. Cool, bright, small and using little power - what's there not to like?

The caverns were used for woolworking in the 11th-13th centuries. After that, they had various uses till the 20th: storage, Freemason meetings and bomb shelters during WWII, among others.

Officially there're 3km of caverns, but some have not been excavated. On this tour we only saw 250m (some parts were cordoned off for safety reasons, others because they were used by private owners).

The caverns are 11 degrees and 90% humidity year-round, but I didn't find them cold.

In the past, property law distinguished between above-ground and underground land rights. It was either that or if you dug down and found a cavern it was yours (I didn't catch the guide's full meaning).

There was anonymous 18th and 19th century graffiti, then some from the person wh oowned the cavern and put his bottles inside (inventory was marked on the wall).

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"Taverne des Oubliées" ("Tavern of the Forgotten")
A medieval theme restaurant

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Much East Asian (Chinese-based food) is very cheap, but it's mostly pre-cooked and looks like shit.

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Carmina Burana. Vision médiévale (medieval interpretation)

There was a shop "je console". At first I thought it sold flowers and mourning material, but it turned out to sell console games. Maybe there's some elaborate pun or social commentary in there.

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Half-timbered house

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Stream: the Voulzie

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"Masseur-kinesitherapeute-reeducateur"
No, he's not a masseur. I just found out that this means "Physiotherapist, therapist"

The girl opposite me in the train back to Paris was doing her toilette: eyeliner and mascara. I thought it was a faux pas to do your makeup in public. Ah well, as California Girl says, il faut souffrir pour être belle ("you must suffer to be beautiful").

There was also a guy with a 23" laptop on the train (I asked). I wondered what the point was.

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The bunny on the métro is telling kids not to get their fingers stuck in the doors. In contrast to the other warning signs, this one uses the informal form of address. Incidentally the bunny has a fan page on Facebook.

For some reason Michelle Yeoh was in a RATP ad. I didn't know she was big in France.

I'd enjoyed the flammkuchens from 2 nights back that I returned to the place. The cute Asian waitress recognised us.

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Flammkuchen menu

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La Forge: bacon, mushrooms, Emmental cheese

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La Volaille: bacon, onions, chicken, Emmental cheese

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La Montbéliard: bacon, onions, potatoes, Montbéliard & Emmental cheese

I'm not sure whether it was because I'd had flammkuchen 2 nights ago or because of the prata rule - less is more (potato in particular didn't work). Though Emmentaler worked well.

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If you get mutilated in war, this is one thing to look forward to (notice that blind and disabled civilians get listed after those mutilated in war).


Weird fountain at Montparnasse

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There're reasons to dislike Le Méridien Montparnasse (for example you can't put your own stuff in the minibar for 'hygiene' reasons, and they won't let you put your stuff in their fridge either). The variety on the room service menu is not one of them.


I'd seen asmany white man-black woman pairs as the reverse. Vive La France !

I didn't see many homeless people. There was one in a phone booth, though.
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