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Medieval Cork in the Champagne

Stained Glass Troyes photoThe center of the Champagne region and doorway to the Aube “Route du Champagne”, Troyes connection to the bubbling elixir for which this area of France is known is famously reflected in the city’s old town, which is laid out in the shape of a Champagne cork. This unique relationship wasn’t intentional, just an accident of history from the boundaries of the Gallo-Roman era city along the Seine River and later growth, but has become part of the city’s identity. In the middle ages, Troyes was a center for Medieval Trade Fairs which gave it great power and influence in the 12th Century when Troyes competed with Paris as France's most important city. Half-Timbered Houses Troyes photoTextiles and cloth built the region’s prestige long before its wine making reputation. Troyes was where the Knights Templars originated in the 1100's at the outset of the 2nd Crusade which increased the city’s wealth and power (see Hugues de Payns Museum). In fact much speculation is has been made about the Templars’ treasure making for plots of movies and manifold conspiracy theories. In fact the treasure of the Templars was actually found here. 708 pieces of silver were discovered in 1988 in the house of a former commander of the Templars in nearby Payns. St Bernard of Clairvaux (See Chatillon-sur-Seine St. Vorles) drafted the rules of the Templars approved by the Council of Troyes. The Abbey of Clairvaux is a few miles away as well as the well preserved Abbey Fontenay.

Middle Ages in France carved Stair photoThe One Hundred Years war was ended in Troyes when England’s Henry V signed the Treaty of Troyes with French King Charles VI, with the marriage of Charles daughter Catherine de France to the English ruler. One of the most distinctive and fascinating features of old Troyes are the many streets of magnificent half-timbered buildings which still exist from the middle-ages, colored in pastel mauves, greens and pinks. Troyes suffered a devastating fire in 1524 which destroyed most of the city, so that much of it was reconstructed at the same time and that common unique architecture has sustained for 500 years. The buildings were protected under a dull gray plaster until allowed to be uncovered in 1964, with continuing restorations of a glorious history.

Market Shopping Troyes, Champage photoThe Troyes indoors market reflects the heritage of the medieval market days when the Counts of Champagne came up with the idea of promoting their domain’s prosperity by encouraging commerce. The medieval fairs originally centered around the gothic Church of St. Jean au Marché. Traders came from all Europe to trade at the fairs. The Troy pound still used in England was a measure created at the medieval fairs of Troyes. Streets around the church still bear names like bread market square Marché du Pain. There are nine churches in Troyes dating from the 12th to the 16th Centuries.

Walks in Troyes phtotoThe Vauluisant Museum a private mansion originally guest quarters of the Cistercian Monks from the Abbey of Vauluisant (see Vauluisant Abbey Music Festival) houses two museums, the Museum of Troyes and Champagne History with paintings, sculptures and stained glass from the famous “Troyes School” of stained glass artists which flourished in the 16th Century and gave the city the nickname of the “Holy Town of Stained Glass” and the Hosiery Museum reflecting the history of stockings and bonnet making which made Troyes the “capital of Hosiery” in the 1700’s with one of the first wooden looms from the 18th Century.

Troyes Restaurants at Night photoTroyes is not just history on view. Restaurants and bars line many of the old town streets with a lively effervescence after the sun sets. Troyes’ merchant tradition continues with bargain shopping. Three main shopping center with 200 stores and shops, Troyes claims to be the factory outlet capital of central France. And of course, Champagne. The Aube region is the second largest producer of bubbly in France. A map of the Route of Champagne through the Aube wine region to the east of Troyes. The rail station in Troyes is located at the “bottom” of the cork, at the edge of the St. Jean old fair district.

Where to stay. The Best Western Hotel De La Poste is a stylish 4 star hotel in the heart of the pedestrian historic district on the Rue Emile Zola, which runs through the center of the "cork". The wooden beams of the old building remain prominent in the rooms, framing marble bathrooms. For bargain two star B&B style accommodation in the center of the old town, the Hotel des Comtes de Champagne is charming in an original 16th Century half-timbered pastel lodging house, with a helpful staff and tour information. Family rooms with a kitchen are available.

Troyes is a stop on the TGV just over an an hour from Paris. Directly across from the SCNF Gare is the Le Grand Hotel, not as grand as it once was, but still a convenient option for train travelers with four restaurants and a disco, 10 minutes from the outlet shopping and the Patiotel next door with its own garden. There are also the budget Ibis Troyes Centre and the Maison de Rhodes is an 11 bedroom hotel in a beautiful 17th Century half-wood house which once belonged to the Order of Knights of Maltese. © Bargain Travel Europe 

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