TRAVEL | Provins, France

I have to admit, I feel privileged to have been given plenty of opportunities, more so in my career where I get to focus on my passion: health and wellness. Last May, I was given an opportunity to speak at an international conference in Dublin, Ireland, and learn from some of the best in the international health industry. It was an amazing opportunity I wasn’t going to miss, so I dragged Mr J and we decided to tag on a much needed holiday after the conference. Ireland, UK (by way of Scotland and my beloved, whisky), to the South of France, Paris, and finally Dubai. Short, sweet, but sensational!

I might be blogging backwards here, but I’d like to start our travel stories by talking about our last stop: Provins. It was the day before our flight back home, we had an extra day to explore outside of Paris, and we were totally, immensely in love with France. Provins was just the right amount of history, accessibility, and uber French romance for these two Aussie travellers. It was also the perfect last French city before we head back to the beautiful land of red earth and golden sunsets (Australia!). Plus, I had to admit, my inner nerd was fully geeking out at the fact that Provins is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Provins is about 1 1/2 hours train ride south east of Paris. Catch the Transillien P train from Gare de lest, which should take you straight to Gare de Provins. A return trip is an affordable 22€. The train ride itself is comfortable, and you get spoiled with the most beautiful French countryside views without having to travel too far.

This is a walking town, and I wouldn’t suggest any other way of exploring it. Like most small European places, it’s hilly, with cobblestone-paved streets, small lanes, not much street signs (and the rare ones we found were of course, in French), and quite deserted. Have no fear – everything leads to the church and the town centre in, well, the centre of town; just follow the streets and if in doubt, ask a local in your best broken French (or just consult Google Maps). Buses also run around the city, but why bus it when you can walk it? Make sure you’re wearing really comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and lots of water during summer.

We were pleasantly surprised and equally amazed by this beautiful city. Go to Provins if you’re after medieval architecture, French trading and commerce history, dainty little cafes and shops, underground galleries, and the perfect day trip from Paris without breaking the budget. 🙂

  1. Visitor’s House (or Tourist Centre) – it’s a bit of a walk from Gare de Provins, but I think it was worth going to the Visitor’s House to get your bearings of the place, purchase tickets, and get some local knowledge before exploring the town. The friendly lady at the Centre also gave recommendations on what to do and where to go, which shows were playing, and the times. We purchased our tickets to the Caesar Tower and the Underground Galleries here.
  2. Ramparts and the Fortified Gates – dating back to the 11th and 13th, the gates surround the Upper Town and are easy to spot on your way to the Visitor’s House.
  3. Town Centre – lots of choices for lunch, a bit of shopping for jams and souvenirs, and sightseeing.
  4. The Caesar Tower – built between 1152-1181, the tower was once a watchtower and a prison. There are multiple stairs (some quite steep and narrow) to get to the bells of Saint-Quiciace Collegiate Church, but once you reach the top, you’ll be treated with spectacular, panoramic views of Provins. Before leaving the tower, make sure you watch a short video of the history of Provins. This is found in the lower room.
  5. Eglise Saint-Quiriace – built as far back as 1019, this church remains unfinished and yet I found myself mesmerised by its modest beauty. Because of the many additions and renovations throughout the centuries, the church is a mixture of medieval, romantic, renaissance architectural styles.
  6. The Underground Galleries – learn more of Provins’ history and commerce as you walk through the Underground Galleries. Yes, it’s cold, damp, dark, and somewhat claustrophobic – and yet still worth checking out the Medieval graffiti in the vaults. Make sure you ask for the English tours; we joined the French tour because it was the only one running that day. Check the Visitor’s House for the tour details.
The bell tower inside The Caesar Tower
View of Eglise Saint-Quiriace from the top of The Caesar Tower
Inside Eglise Saint-Quiriace
Eglise Saint-Quiriace
Eglise Saint-Quiriace
Eglise Saint-Quiriace

 

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Sunday Slowdown | Blue Mountains; The Three Sisters; Scenic World

A delayed Sunday Slowdown list on a Monday night – because a few weekends ago, Sydney was blanketed with a wet, misty, cold, and hauntingly beautiful last winter fog. The Blue Mountains opened us up to a different viewpoint, one that only comes out when you brave its harsh climate.

First stop was The Three Sisters at Echo Point – at first, were hiding behind the thick clouds that surrounded the whole valley, but slowly, slowly started to peek through as the sun shone and wind blew. It was reminiscent of the Silent Hill movie, which wasn’t bad considering hey, we’re up in the mountains. Everything was a shade of blacks, greys, and whites – a monochromatic beauty that showed us a different side of the mountains.

But soon the wind blew the clouds away and the sun started to shine brightly, and the Three Sisters came out to say hello to us and show another side of its mountain beauty. We decided to go down to the first sister and look at the valley from a different angle.

We then headed to Scenic World to check out the world’s steepest passenger railway in the world, the Scenic Railway. You can also check out the other sights and sounds of the Blue Mountains from the Skyway, Cableway and Walkway!

52 degree incline with the Railway
The Three Sisters as seen from the Skyway
A pretty majestic view of Katoomba Falls from the Skyway

So take a day trip to the Mountains. It’s only a 1 1/2 hour car ride through M4 or a train ride to Leura. And you never know – the mountains might just surprise you with its other magical, haunting beauty.

Echo Point, Leura – the best vantage point for the Three Sisters, including a walkway down to the First Sister.

Scenic World – get lost in time, learn about the mountain’s mining past and see the mountains from some of the best vantage points.

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Philippine Food Week at Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney

Pork belly lechon carving station

Did you know that last Thursday, 1st of October, was the 40th anniversary of Ali’s and Fraser’s Thrilla in Manila match which was held in, guess where, but Manila?! Well, today we toasted a Thrilla in Manila cocktail and celebrated everything Filipino at Shangri-La Hotel’s Philippine Food Week. 1 whole week of Filipino food fair at Cafe Mix in Shangri-La Sydney to celebrate all 7,000 islands of the Philippines. A few of us Sydney Filipino food bloggers do a pilgrimage to Shangri-La every year for this particular event, and this year’s is definitely bigger and better (ping Raff and Christine!).

Thrilla in Manila cocktail

Got your kare-kare cravings in tow? CHECK. Kilawin? CHECK. Lechon, BBQ, buko salad, halo-halo and leche flan? CHECK CHECK CHECK! It was a beautiful ode to Filipino feasting! And what better way to celebrate the start of this beautiful warm weather than to sip refreshing coconut water straight from the coconut itself, and feast on the delicious Filipino dishes that the chefs, who came all the way from Shangri-La Makati, Philippines, have prepared for us. Food really brings people together – and it was a beautiful scene to see different people from different backgrounds and cultures come together and enjoy the dishes from my own motherland. Let the fiesta feasting begin!

The Philippine Food Week buffet lunch is available at $55 per person from Monday to Friday, noon to 2:30pm, and from 12:30pm to 2:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. The buffet dinner is available all week from 6pm to 10pm for $75 per person. For bookings or enquiries regarding this event, please contact Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney on (612) 9250 6206. Book quick because this event is only here for 1 week (2 – 10 October 2015) and spaces are running out fast.
Thanks to Shangri-La Hotel Sydney & Makati (and Raff of RamenRaff) for the invitation, and the beautiful lunch, conversations and experience. Trish dined as a guest of Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.
Chef Darel Pajarito from Shangri-La Makati, Philippines
Entree section
Kilawing Talaba (Oyster Ceviche)
Tokwa’t Baboy (tofu and pork)
Embutido (pork meat loaf)
Lumpiang Sariwa (Fresh Vegetable Spring Roll)
Itlog na Maalat na may Kamatis (Salted egg with Tomato)
Chicharon – crispy fried pork skin
Ihaw-Ihaw (BBQ) pork and chicken skewers, chicken inasal, baby back ribs, lamb chops, boneless beef ribs “Tagalog” (the pork BBQ were absolutely AMAZING!)
Dinuguan – pork stew with congealed pork blood
Pancit palabok – rice noodles with shrimp sauce
Kare-Kareng Buntot ng Baka (Stewed Ox Tail in Peanut Sauce)
Biggest bowl of bagoong for the kare-kare!
Bopis (Pork Innards cooked in Vinegar and Radish)
Dila ng Baka Mechado (Slow cooked Ox Tongue in Tomato and Soy Sauce)
Pinaputok na Apahap (Baramundi Wrapped in Banana Leaf)
Pata Humba (Pork Knuckle cooked in Sweet Soy Sauce)
Inihaw na Pusit (Grilled Squid with Tomato and Onion Stuffing)
Lechon pork sisig station
The dessert station
Buko salad
Sans rival – King Oscar cake
Leche flan (creme caramel) & Biko (sweet sticky rice)
Turon – fried sweet plaintain spring rolls
The halo-halo station

 

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