Week 4: Part 1: Day 22 – Day 24
3rd January, 2017 – 5th January, 2017
Today we walked around the medieval streets of Troyes (pronounced ‘twah’), which is locally famous for its champagne cork-shaped town plan, given this shape by its location on a bend of the River Seine. Historically, Troyes had two distinct areas: the cité, in the head of the cork, resided the rich, powerful and privileged, surrounding the cathedral. The majority lived in the cork’s stem.
We quickly fell in love with this place and were so grateful that our hosts’ invitation had brought us here. On the way we crossed over the sparkling river Seine and contemplated that we would soon be following it into Paris.
Troyes is a commune and the capital of the department of Aube in north-central France. It is located on the Seine river about 150 km southeast of Paris. This area is known as the Champagne region of Northern France. Many half-timbered houses (mainly of the 16th century) survive in the old town. Troyes has been in existence since the Roman era, as Augustobona Tricassium, which stood at the hub of numerous highways, primarily the Via Agrippa. – wiki
Troyes held many wondrous surprises for us. One was a near namesake for Prunella: we stumbled upon the Cellier Saint Pierre which has produced Prunelle, a specialist plum liqueur on site since 1840!
Made by History
We were awe struck by the phenomenal and magnificent stained glass of the cathedral. The glass covers more than 1500 square metres and dates from the 13th to the 19th century. It is a renowned and awe inspiring sight. The cathedral site was originally built on in the 4th century. The site in the 11th century was the location of the Council of Troyes, at which the Order of the Knights Templar was confirmed and its rule established. The current cathedral also contains a reliquary of exquisite religious artefacts.
We met a young student named Yannis who kindly walked us to the main street. We luckily stumbled on a tiny hidden cafe down the famous alley of the cats, we knocked on a closed door and second later it opened: suddenly we were enjoying an exclusive breakfast among the work of some local artists.
Tasting the Stars
After lunch we returned to Thibaud’s place for a personal tour of the area and a privileged look at Champagne processing, compliments of his friend Arnoult. We were excited to be heading 70km away to Trannes in the Bar-sur-Aubois area.
On the way we passed the Le lac réservoir Seine, which forms the centrepiece of the Parc naturel régional de la Forêt d’Orient. This is part of an artifical lake system used to control the power of the Seine and its tributaries, the Aube, the Marne and the Yonne, in the Champagne-Ardenne Region. Primarily it is in place to help stop the Seine from flooding but is also used to provide habitat to a large variety of wildlife and a recreational area for the locals.
On arrival at Champagne Arnoult Ruelle we were warmly greeted and, despite the cold, taken to walk amongst the precious vines.
From there we were ushered into a shed where gleaming steel vats accept and store the crush grape juice through the first stages of filtration and fermentation. Some of the juice is sold to famous Moet et Chandon house, but most of it contributes to the excellent house vintages.
We tasted the wine as it progressed from juice, to a careful blend, various fermentations and finally to the bottling facility down the road in the village. All the while guided by our host in his fantastic, passionate enthusiasm for his craft.
This experience was a genuine surprise and a pleasant finale to our short but richly tapestried stay in Troyes, a gem of a town. We felt as if we could come back some time…
…and Graham did.
A Trip to France
Almost as soon as we boarded our RER train for Paris the next morning, Graham realised he had left behind our new Kindle Reader. This gadget was proving a useful alternative to a stack of books, and it was only a few weeks old. Too expensive to abandon, we discussed the problem and decided to try to organise a return trip with Graham’s uncle John, with whom we were meeting in Paris.
A phone call or two and the day trip was set up. So the following day, after we had settled in our couch, Graham strolled out into the dark winter morning and met John in the relative morning quiet of the Gare de l’Est, under the ‘meeting point’ sign. A coffee and a couple of croissants, and tickets in hand, Graham re-traced his steps, this time the tour guide.
We caught up and chatted on the two-hour trip back to Troyes. First stop back in the town was a stroll to the famous central markets, brimming with all the seasonal produce of France: pigeons, rabbit, a panoply of cheeses, a cornucopia of pastries, sliced meats, terrines, quiches, fruit, bread, fish, coffee and wines.
From there our stroll took us back to Thibaud’s house, for a friendly coffee and to collect the Kindle. We retraced the route to the cathedral, stopped in on the small stained glass museum and enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the half-timbered medieval centre.
As we returned to Paris and strolled back along it’s magnificent boulevards, it was nice to hear John say that, despite several recent trips to Paris, this impromptu excursion to Troyes was his first trip to France in a long time…