Treasures of Troyes
Inside the Troyes cathedral.
If you are considering a day or two away from Paris, Troyes is the ideal town to visit, only an hour and a half away by train and full of pleasant surprises. In the town itself, the ancient capital of the Champagne region, are many beautifully preserved medieval timber-framed houses. But unlike those towns where all the buildings have been prettified for the tourist industry, Troyes has many old houses in a state of dilapidation – to my mind just as fascinating to behold.
Troyes boasts a wealth of beautiful Gothic churches, crowned by an exceptional cathedral, built between the 13th and 17th centuries, which has (after Chartres) the largest number of stained-glass windows in France.
It is also worth spending a few hours in the vicinity of the cathedral, since it is flanked by two museums, the Musée St-Loup, specializing in archaeology, and the Musée d’Art Moderne, which is a real gem. All too often the quality of paintings in provincial French art galleries is disappointing, but the modern art museum in Troyes has an extraordinary collection of paintings and sculptures by Gauguin, Degas, Rodin, Seurat, Vuillard, Modigliani and Derain, among many others. For those missing Paris already, there is a wonderfully individual rendering of the Eiffel Tower by Nicolas Staël.
Located in the old episcopal palace (which feels more like a spacious medieval home than a palace), the museum is conservative in its choice of modern art (no video installations here), but the quality of that art is magnificent. The current exhibition (running until January 6, 2008), entitled “Un Regard Fauve,” features paintings by Matisse, Bonnard, Marquet, Dufy and others from the Musée des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux. My particular favorite is a portrait of a woman by Marie Laurencin.
For those more devoted to shopping and eating, Troyes will not disappoint. If you arrive by car, there are many factory outlet stores on the outskirts of the town, selling all the top fashion labels at a fraction of the price you would find in Paris. The many restaurants in the town cater to every taste. If you are willing to pay a little more for your meal, I recommend the restaurant La Mignardise (1, ruelle des Chats, telephone: 03 25731530), with its excellent traditional cuisine and service, set in a beautiful house with interesting modern art.
Regular trains to Troyes leave from the Gare de l’Est. Click here for details.
Musée St-Loup: 1, rue Chrestien de Troyes, 10000 Troyes. Tel.: 03 25 76 21 68. Open 9 a.m.-noon; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Closed Monday and public holidays. Admission: €4. Web site.
Musée d’Art Moderne: 14 place Saint-Pierre, 10000 Troyes. Tel.: 03 25 76 26 80. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-noon; 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Closed Monday and public holidays. Admission: €5.
La Mignardise: 1, ruelle des Chats, 10000 Troyes. Tel.: 03 25 73 15 30. Fixed-price menus: €24.50, €40 and €50. Closed Sunday evening and all day Monday.
© 2008 Paris Update
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