FIELD TRIPS! (Troyes, Provins, and the ‘Champagne Cave’)

CONTINUED FROM  “FIELD TRIPS! (The Other “sur-Seine’s”)

We took ‘field trips’ in September too, of course. Aside from the “sur-Seine” towns, we visited the nearby cities of Troyes and Provins. For our first excursion, Maja, Raquel, Laura, and I caught a ride to Troyes with Harold (the only artist-in-residence with his own car at CAMAC – score!) About an hour from Marnay-sur-Seine, Troyes is the capital city of the Aube department (a smaller area within the Champagne-Ardenne region – for the Americans reading, think of it as a ‘county’ within the larger ‘state’ of Champagne-Ardenne). It’s a beautiful city – the land of upscale shopping, quaint residential streets, adorable artisan signage, and leaning half-timbered houses from the 16th century. While Harold ran errands to prepare for his exhibition, us ladies took a long walk around…

 

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

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Why not put a horse on the side of your house?  Looks good to me!

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St. Pierre – St. Paul Cathedral…

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Saint-Urbain Chruch…

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For some reason, Troyes is full of creative swinging signs, and I just loved them…

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And a bit of fun with signage…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

A quick beer before heading back to CAMAC…

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Also in September, a big gang of “CAMACois” piled into a taxi and took the half-hour trip to the city of Provins. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, Provins is famous for its many medieval fortifications that sit atop the area’s biggest hill. Surrounded by stone ramparts, you’ll find half-timbered houses, a medieval tower and cathedral, and more. Naturally, this area is quite touristic, but it’s charming all the same…

 

 The ramparts…

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Photo by Jón Özur Snorrason

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Entrance to the city…

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Okay, so not exactly medieval, but you gotta keep the kids of the tourists happy somehow, right?

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Provins is known for its rose cultivation – they create all kinds of products and foods using them, like rose ice cream, perfumes, honey, candy, etc…

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La tour César – built in the 12th century and used as a watch tower, prison, and bell tower…

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The Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church – Also erected in the 12th century, but never fully completed as planned…

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I stood watching these birds fly in circles together around the church for a good five minutes – it was so beautiful to see…

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We also visited the Musée de Provins et du Provinois, which is full of all kinds of wonderful things – ancient, modern, and everything in between…

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A Victorian-era piece of mourning art created using human hair (almost certainly of the deceased).  As you can imagine, I was very excited to find this little gem…

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(And of course, there’s always time for a little fun in museums)…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

Ever since I began including it in my art, I can’t resist snapping photos of French furniture.  I just love it!

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Moving down the hill, you’ll find the more modern section of town, which has a charm all its own. Gorgeous flower boxes line the main street of the downtown area, all the way to the absolutely adorable Hôtel de Ville (another phrase for town hall, like la mairie). You’ll find shops, a lovely public garden, and all the signs of ‘normal’ daily life (as opposed to the hilltop village which feels as though it exists almost exclusively for the tourist industry)…

Heading down the hill…

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L’Hôtel de Ville…

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In a boulangerie – PIG BUTTS! (tee hee)…

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The Garnier Gardens…

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The Boulevard d’Aligre…

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Of course, the hilltop medieval village is where we decided to embrace the kitschy tourist activities to the fullest (“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” – right?) After a long walk around both sections of town and a spot of lunch, we joined the day-tripper crowd for “La Légende des Chevaliers” (The Legend of the Knights), a horribly cheesy spectacle with – you guessed it – a medieval theme. Oh, what to say? We were ‘treated’ (please take this word with the proverbial grain of salt) to a medieval set, live animals, jousting, jugglers, a water balloon catapult (yes really, water ballons), horseback riding and training tricks, and of course, the dashing heroes of the story – Thibaut (based on the historical St. Thibaut de Provins) and his lady fair, Blanche….

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Our hero, Thibaut…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

… and his lady fair, Blanche (Maja had me rolling on the floor watching this: “I want to rip her hands off!” she’d say as Blanche repeatedly gave the crowd her overly-exaggerated beauty pagent wave)…

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One of the only performers in the show with actual talent…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

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Bien sûr, I expected this to be cheesy (the actors were lip-synching their pre-recorded lines, for goodness sake). However, I have to admit that I expected some level of historical accuracy… just a bit, at least! These expectations were shattered when the Lord-of-the-Rings-esque ‘mud people’ arrived on the scene (to music from the actual “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack, no less!) – Lady Blanche is kidnapped and magically turned into a hideous ‘mud-person,’ the village is terrorized, epic battle ensues, the ‘good guys’ win, Lady Fair returns to her old self, blah blah blah (It was all in French, so you know, we weren’t catching every detail… but we got the basic plot points)…

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I think this VIDEO of one of the battle scenes sort of says it all.

 

The best part about the show, apart from us getting a good laugh, was seeing how the children in the audience reacted. As we were filing out of the bleachers, one little girl (about 7 or 8 years old) said breathlessly, “C’était trop bien!– “It was TOO good!” (Freakin’ adorable.) A bit later, we were walking along the ramparts, and witnessed a father playing with this three children – fake fighting and shouts of “Blanche!” and “Thibaut!” rang out with great enthusiasm.

 

 Raquel and I getting medieval…

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Photo by Maja Pegan


The last ‘field trip’ I want to tell you about occurred the evening prior to our trip to Provins. Jean-Yves, the Director of CAMAC, had joined us for dinner and we were discussing the possibility of touring a “champagne cave” (more accurately, a champagne cellar) sometime that month. After a moment’s thought he impulsively asked, “Do you want to go right now?” We hadn’t quite finished eating (or even thought about doing the dishes), but… umm… YES. Yes, we do! So he made some calls, and we all piled into the CAMAC ‘company car,’ a tiny hatchback from the 1980’s (that’s right, all SEVEN of us squeezed into that tiny car). Maja and I volunteered to take the trunk…

 

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 Photo by Raquel Esquives

(Returning from our adventure with a case of Champagne for the group)…

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

After about 20 minutes, we found ourselves in the small town of Villenauxe-La-Grande, at the Champagne Distillerie François Oudard, a family owned “house of Champagne” where Jean-Yves has connections (he got us in at 8pm on a Friday, after all). We were treated to a lovely tour of the distillery where the champagne is made, and of course, the cellar, or “cave,” where it is aged…

 

The distillery…

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Down into the “cave”…

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Our tour guide giving us the low-down…

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Ummm…. WOW.

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Loved the light fixtures…

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Photo by Maja Pegan

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HAPPY PEOPLE!

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

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Photo by Raquel Esquives

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Photo by Maja Pegan

And of course, a tour of any champagne cellar wouldn’t be complete without a tasting (in the charmingly strange display / store-front area)…

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Seriously, why have weird and creepy mannequins become a theme during my travels?  Is it just that I think ALL mannequins are weird and creepy?  Hmmm… Maybe.

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And that’s it! You’ve heard about all the fun ‘field trips’ I took during my residency. Next up, a few odds and ends left to share about my time at CAMAC, and then I’ll begin posting photos from my many wonderful travels around France during my last three weeks in the country. Au revoir!

 

 

 

 

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