In American tradition – I want to follow what i was forced to do, for many years in school – to write a report about my summer activities. Usually this is where the “have” & “have not’s” were separated mentally, and maybe emotionally.
While some of my class mates shared stores of wonderful full vacations- full of foreign adventures & strange food. My simple summers were spent, on the wooden swings, water balloon wars, or dancing in the sprinkler – running around – chasing frogs- all at the amusement of grandparents .
Years later – those old class mates are still doing the same vacations- now with their children, or by themselves. In my case, everything is changed. Now my summers are filled with house repairs of a home over 250 years old, landscaping a garden for the first time, or traveling in EU, basically nothing familiar.
June is MEDIEVAL PROVINS month. This is my summer bash- & I like to go all out. Before we get into the festival – let’s give this city credit – for winning the Historical award from the EU- called UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE in 2001. What does this award mean? The city Provins- is historically intact to call itself “ Medieval” . I can’t help, but be sad for those tourists, who travel so far – to “experience history”, and never come to this wonderful city. Its one train ride away, from Gare L’Est- the train letter “P” (easy to remember – Provins).
From the train, you can walk into the center- which is called the new area (its 300-400 yrs old) . If you can – walk straight up the main street – pass the little shops – like Monoprix, Yves Rocher, pass the café’s and their wonderful smells of bread and fresh coffee.
In 10 min, you can see the top – where Cesar’s Tower is, and the landmark church Saint-Quiriace. If you are coming for the festival, usually held in the 2nd weekend in June, you can’t get lost- just follow the signs. At the entrance- the ticket people are dressed in Court attire. Needless to say, these dresses are amazing; the blues and reds are deep in color- but never purple (unless you are royalty). The attention to details are where the “die hards” and the “novices “ are separated. Since this was a new experience for me, I was not quite sure of where I would “fall “in this medieval world society.
My first year – I was a “lady in waiting” , but my inexperience soon showed itself, with my lack of details in hair, and dress. The 2nd year- I decided to be a peasant- so a simple dress, big hat and big basket in tow. Not a very exciting costume, but I think historically correct.
This year – after watching the show ‘Vikings’ and fighting my rosacea- I am guess estimating .. that I should be a character from the North. My skin disease was the deciding factor this year (sad, but true). So I channeled Laghatha – from the Vikings. I LOVED the fact that the Vikings came to Paris !!
( I took a small video of the experience of walking down on of the streets during the fete – watch out for the ox ! )
I can say- this festival is so much fun – you are walking back in history.. gone are the street signs, traffic lights.. gone are any reminder of this current age. All carefully hidden behind hemp sacs.
Wizards and Witches- people of the forest.
And I was very happy to see many Crusaders walking around this year, double in number. Maybe this is a sign, that the French will fight these terrorists’ monsters.(?)
There were Trade people are everywhere – either making something – or selling something. This man, Mr. Mastrangelo, (L’Atelier de Maistre Angelo),follows the ancient tradition of making custom leather items. Beautifully butter soft leather goods, all done by him; bags, money holders, shoes with leather soles( wow), and my favorite – dagger & sword holders. This is a special art, for it depends on the owner.. if you are right handed or left handed, and the weight of the object – all of these things must be taken into account – for when you “ carry and draw”, this must ‘flow’ .. this is Living Art. I was very happy with my purchase from this Leather Master, and recommend him highly.
There were lots of Vikings !! The men were wide and tall- like a wall on legs.. some of them- looked good.. ( another form of art ) and the women were all styles, for Vikings were a community; of farmers, trades people and fighters. You can always tell a Viking – for they did not practice ‘Court standards’, so their looks were always different, a little wild.The women looked brave and amazing – do you see how much work, she put into her outfit !! wow
Along the city walls, you will find the ‘die hards, living in Medieval tents- their sleeping “bags”, nothing but simple natural blankets on the floor. They cook their dinners over a small fire, and clean the dishes in a local stream. (the town does give them Port a Potties- to make the Health Board happy).
These folks are also performers. There is a great show, of Knights Josting.. which is very intense. ( just ask King Henry VIII, his injury never healed). There is also a show about how birds were the telephone, back in those days !! ( no GPS !!)
Walking along the streets- you will find music performers (like this group), with strange makeup and instruments.
Fire breathers, people walking on stilts( kids love that) jugglers and many more – all for free.
There are many reasons why people go- some to observe, some to eat , some to dress up( Halloween is a new holiday over in France) and then there are the history fans. I am always amazed, walking down these cobblestone streets- the smoke of fire ovens cooking food, the smell of food everywhere, once in a while, you will also hear horses on the cobblestones. The chatter, is of friends and business talk – all common over 1,000 years ago, and you are walking in this lifestyle.
The homes are small, and the roofs low, for most people, were 5 foot or less. The average person married at 15, and was dead by 35 . This is a time before antibiotics, when bloodletting was thought to be a cure. Most people could not read- only the royals and clergy had that skill. Thus why churches depended on pictures to educate the masses. People even dress up their dogs – here is a Viking ankle bitter – and one very large Highlander Hound.
So why do I attend? Many reasons – to support my local community in celebrating this Historical Award. To walk among other History nerds- all dressed up & somewhere to go ! To remind myself, how far our western civilization has come, and how it needs protection from the PC police. Most of all- this is fun, to play dress up, at any age, & is better than dealing with bills ..anyday!