Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Magic of Troyes

In a world of overhyped saturated tourist "destinations" it is a pleasure to arrive in a genuine historically preserved medieval town that retains its authenticity without being relegated to "Disneyland" status. Troyes (pronounced Twah) is such a place, a beautifully preserved town with numerous half timbered structrures dating from the 14th and 15th century, remarkably intact, restored and imbued with distinct character that is genuine and delightfully memorable. It reminded me of Stratford on Avon without the hordes of tourists.

Troyes was a crossroads town, set in the middle of the numerous grape growing villages that make up the Champagne region, but it gained its reputation as a textile center in the 14th century and acquired great wealth as a trading town. The old town is shaped like a champagne cork, and in spite of fires through the centuries has more intact half timbered medieval buildings than I have ever seen. 

We are staying in the Maison de Rhodes, a lovely inn with only 11 rooms that was once a home for the Knights Templer in the 15th century and has been restored to impeccable splendor. You feel as if you are living in an ancient home from 500 years ago (with the exception of the indoor plumbing and cable TV). The Devil Dog and his nimble partner in crime, Francois deLay du Pompideau, have been given adjoining third floor attic suites that come to resemble the boys dormitory at a splendid castle. We look out our window into the courtyard below. It is a slice of heaven. The feel of the place is remarkable.

The next day we take a full tour of the town, and are enthralled with the extent of its restoration. The Church of the Madeline in particular stands out for its amazing pulpit and the ornate stone carvings. 

The ancient half timbered houses become so ubiquitous that after several hours we almost... almost.... take them for granted. But it is amazing to be in a place that has not been restored to become a tourist attraction, but attracts tourists because it has been so beautifully preserved and continues the feel of a genuine town that has thrived for more than 600 years.

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