Deux Pas de Troyes (Two Steps from Troyes*)
When my daughter visits, we are akin to ‘passing ships in the night’…unless we go away on some excursion together. This is because our schedules are so different that if we don’t actually make ‘appointments’ to spend time together, we literally would miss seeing each other entirely, even though we’re sharing the same apartment. Strange, but true.
The positive aspect of this is, however, those special excursions when we have a chance to really BE with one another, even if only for a couple of days. This time, we chose to stay in France where it would be fast, easy and inexpensive. A search of ‘cheap’ train tickets (43€ round trip from Paris — 1.5 hours) suggested a trip to Troyes, the capital of the Aube en Champagne — a town in existence since the Roman era on the Seine, made up of mostly 16th-century half-timbered houses.
Erica had never been to this part of France, while I had been there many times, mostly visiting with writer, editor, teacher and writing coach at Winged Words Editorial Services, Janet Hulstrand, who has a home in the Renoir-famous town of Essoyes not far from Troyes. Being concerned that Troyes would not satisfy our curiosity for the region, we rented a car in order to explore the region on our own, and booked a small hotel hotelarlequin.com/ in the center of town for just one night.
Troyes is particularly picturesque, thanks to the architecture, and filled with historical references, as it was in its heyday** the hub of numerous highways, primarily the Via Agrippa which led to many Roman routes. It was an important commercial center during the Middle Ages noted for cloth, coinage and credit. Joan of Arc made her contribution to it when she recovered it in 1429 without a battle. Sadly, a great fire of 1524 destroyed much of the medieval city, in spite of the city’s numerous canals. There’s little evidence of that now, however, as the historic center is a never-ending photo op.
The city is very manageable on foot and there is much to take in with many historical sights to visit from which to learn and discover, but we were right to rent a car to explore more than just the charming streets of the city. The “Champagne Trail,” beginning at Bar-sur-Seine that first afternoon took us on a circle of some of France’s most beautiful villages and vineyard-laden countryside. If one wanted to “gouter” (taste) champagne, it would have been a delightful, but potentially drunken “séjour,” so we opted instead to soak in the sights rather than the bubbles.
Troyes has started to take on the tradition of the Love Locks, finding a few of them hooked on to some of the bridges that cross the canals. Hopefully the lovers there will cease and desist as the city of Paris is battling the surge of locks destroying the historic bridges. Troyes could end up with the same blight if they aren’t careful. This morning, France national news channel France 24 (France24.com) ran a report that the locks will be removed by the city and glass panels will replace the wire rails on the Pont des Arts. (You may have read about the No Love Locks campaign led by the two Americans Lisas — our friend Lisa Anselmo — being one of them.)
Essoyes, located about 30 miles southeast of Troyes on the banks of the Ource, a tributary of the Seine, is particularly special, partly thanks to the impressionist painter, Pierre Auguste Renoir, who had a house in the town, the hometown of his wife, Aline, and model and governess of his children, Gabrielle Renard, both of whom are represented in many of his paintings. In and around the town are large renditions of some of Renoir’s most famous paintings from his period in Essoyes. There is a small Renoir museum in the center of town and it’s possible to visit his home, garden and atelier.
Along the route we discovered the La Pouponnerie puppy farm. A quick U-turn was easy enough to stop just to pet the adorable pups and dream of taking one home. We fell in love a dozen times, as is so easy to do, but we are certainly not in the market for a puppy! (But, if you are, this is a great place to find one!)
We took mostly little roads between towns — the kind that are more like lanes for farm vehicles than for cars. Along these ‘paths’ were myriads of bikers taking advantage of the smooth, relatively flat routes of the region and the beautiful scenery.
Our best meal was not in Troyes — it was at a restaurant on the Lac d’Orient. On the second day of the trip, we chose to drive to the lake, a reservoir of the Seine to the east of Troyes. The large lake is 23 square kilometers and is the third largest artificial lake of France designed to protect Paris from floods. The region around the lake is beautiful and the lake itself is a haven for boaters, fishermen, bird watchers, swimmers and all the wildlife a lake of this kind affords. (We could hear the frogs croaking loudly even from the road!)
On the rue des Cottages de Port Mesni in Mesnil-Saint-Père, is Le Marinka, a glass-walled restaurant with a perfect view of the port. It was elegant, delicious and perfect as a stop along the route around the lake.
Troyes cuisine was a disappointment, even in the restaurants with good recommendations — although testing out the Michelin-starred restaurant, La Mignardise was not in the budget. Fortunately, dining well wasn’t a priority for our visit to the region, considering that one of the specialities of the Aube and of Troyes in particular is “andouillette” — a sausage made of pork or veal, tripe, intestines, chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings. “True andouillette is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odor related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellant to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees.” (Wikipedia.org) We opted out!
(If you want to read more about the history of Troyes, our editor, Schuyler Hoffman, wrote this article about his trek there a few years ago.)
*Note: In ballet, a pas de deux (French, literally “step of two”) is a dance duet in which two dancers, typically a male and a female, perform ballet steps together. Pas de trois refers to a dance in ballet between three people.
**Note: “Heyday” is a word from the late 16th-century — earlier as “heyda” (1520s), a period of success, popularity, or power.
A la prochaine,
The Adrian Leeds Group
(with Erica at Bar sur Seine- by Erica Simone)
P.S. For those of you in the New York City area, who would like to know more about investing in France, I will be available for private consultations on July 8th and 9th. Consultations are typically two hours, and I will be offering my usual euro fee at the same rate, but in U.S. dollars. Email me personally to make your appointment: [email protected]
P.P.S. Special thanks to all of you who wrote by email or snail mail, who called or texted condolence messages about the passing of my mother, Gertrude Beerman. You have no idea how touched I and my family are by your heartfelt wishes and how much we appreciate the sharing of so many of your own stories. Please accept our deepest and sincerest appreciation. Yes, she will be sorely missed, but your kindness makes it so much easier!
Adrian and the entire Beerman family.