Imagine yourself strolling along narrow medieval alleys in Troyes. So narrow, in fact, that a cat can jump from one house across the alley to another, as in the Ruelle des Chats. Admire the lurching walls of pretty pink and ochre half-timbered houses built after the 16th-century fire that destroyed most of the area. Go shopping on Rue Champeaux, where medieval and Renaissance buildings house modern shops. Stand where Joan of Arc rallied the locals and got their support to rout out the English armies during the Hundred Year War.
Troyes, the medieval capital of Champagne, sits comfortably in a bend on the River Seine, 100 miles southeast of Paris. It is easily accessible by car down the A26 toll road or by train from the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Troyes’ location in the southern tip of the Champagne region makes it a perfect place to stay and explore the beautiful Champagne Route. Hard to say no to bubbles!
We had a wonderful time in Troyes exploring its narrow winding streets, where ancient crooked buildings seem to loom over our head. You can see the materials used to build and mend walls throughout the centuries: stone, different kinds of brick, wood, mortar. Troyes is steeped in history and it dates to Gallo-Roman times. In the Middles Ages, Troyes became the region’s capital and commercial powerhouse. A big fire destroyed many of the medieval buildings and the rebuilding project that began in the 1520s left the beautiful colourful buildings we see today. The old town is one of the best preserved medieval centres in France. In the 1800s, Troyes enjoyed a thriving textile industry and the buildings from that era are truly magnificent.
There are many historic churches in Troyes, and you know how obsessed I am with medieval churches. However, the cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul (13th to 17tyh centuries) took my breath away. The columns that soar to the sky, the Gothic arches, the stained-glass windows that colour the incoming sunlight all bear witness to a significant moment in the history of the Hundred Year War between England and France in the 15th century.
In July, 1429, Joan of Arc came with the Dauphin, later King Charles VII, on their way to his coronation in Reims and Joan secured the city’s allegiance. A plaque on the cathedral’s wall remembers this day. I don’t know whether this is historically accurate, but I pictured Joan in her armour addressing the citizens of Troyes and persuading them to join forces with her. It was exciting to be in a place where such a famous historical figure once stood.
If you go
Head to the Tourist Office (Tourisme Troyes), 16 Blvd. Carnot, for maps and walking tours of Troyes. Pronounce it /trwa/ Head to Rue General Saussier for places to eat. Troyes Museums