Provins was a fortified village and an important trading center in the Middle Ages, and has a fabulously well-preserved medieval center in the upper part of the town, which is entered through several stone gates. While the medieval part is clearly a place where people live and go about their daily lives, because of its history and its beauty it clearly must attract a lot of tourists, as it has huge parking lots just outside the medieval part and a lot of people were visiting the village the day we were there. We never walked down to the lower part, which is the modern commercial center, but spent an hour or two walking through the old part. The ramparts surrounding the center are quite impressive, as is the church, but the most spectacular part of the village is the ornate 12th century tower (Tour Cesar) high on the hill above the town.
After leaving Provins we drove to Plailly, where we spent the night in a beautiful chambre d’hotes, La Chasse Royal, that we had stayed at about 15 years before. We also had dinner in what is now the only restaurant in Plailly, La Gentilhommiere, where we had also dined 15 years ago. La Gentilhommiere is a small restaurant (about 8 or 9 tables), offers just 2 four-course set menus with 3 choices for each course, and is still run by the same couple that ran it 15 years ago. It was a great way to end our vacation, and it was far and away the best restaurant we ate at on the trip. One of the highlights was the cheese course, which consisted of a trolley carrying about a dozen regional cheeses being wheeled to our table. We had been eating a lot of goat cheese over the last few weeks, so we decided to sample several cow cheeses, including Livarot, Pont Leveque, and Brie de Melun. While Plailly is just a sleepy suburban town containing some nice old buildings (at least until the ongoing development demolishes or ruins them), it’s worth staying there for La Chasse Royal, La Gentilhommiere, and its proximity to the airport.
And speaking of airports, on Sunday we flew back home and suffered through the chaos of both Charles de Gaulle airport and the Philadelphia airport. I guess that’s the price one has to pay to fly internationally these days.