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Troyes: stained glass
& half-timbered homes

© By Mike Keenan

  Given that it's located in France's famous Champagne region, it's most appropriate that the city center of Troyes is arranged in the actual shape of a champagne cork. Located on the Seine River, this place is a gem for those who covet stained glass, magnificent Gothic churches and picturesque 16th century courtyards. It's is also well known for its knitwear and factory shops, home to the Lacoste company production headquarters, one of the more popular Western brands.
     Troyes entertains one with a remarkable history associated with an array of bizarrely named players that include Louis "the Stammerer," Philip "the Fair," John "the Fearless" and others, reminding me of the Gals and Dolls play. Joan of Arc recaptured Troyes from the usurping English forces for the Dauphin in 1429, and the 1429 Treaty of Troyes attempted to settle the dreary Hundred Years' War. During the Middle Ages, Troyes established itself as an important trading town, and loaned its name to "troy weight." Troyes is also the home of world-champion chocolate maker, Pascal Caffet, a factoid and raw material that's powerful enough to coerce me to visit.
     Walking through the city however, is not recommended for those who devour too much of Mr. Caffet's chocolate creations. Some of the streets are absurdly narrow and would inspire great chase scenes in Western movies. There are examples where no more than three people may walk abreast. You seem to enter the past by strolling along these streets and their network of narrow lanes, showcases for the remarkable architecture of the Champagne region circa the 16th century. Everywhere you encounter half-timbered houses, faithfully restored either by the town or their owners, with the expert know-how of local craftsmen.
     The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is a Gothic treasure that houses an extraordinary collection of stained glass. The craft was revived in Troyes and the southern Champagne region at the end of the 15th century, starting with traditional techniques and finishing with the creation of windows wherein glass was painted in "grisaille." The Aube department holds the French record for the amount of preserved stained glass with 9,000 square metres dating from the 13th to the 19th century. Troyes is known as the "Jerusalem of stained glass" because the churches proudly display many lavish examples. The Cathedral alone boasts 1,500 square metres of dazzling glass that plays kaleidoscope tunes in the sun.
     In Troyes, one must sample the regional specialty, "andouillette" (sausage) but I recommend champagne to help wash it down. Yes, I prefer the chocolate.
     Troyes was a town once famous for its bells with a collection of more than 120 until many were melted down or destroyed by the masses during the Revolution that featured the guillotine. It has maintained eight historic churches and the Cathedral, a special treat for lovers of art and architecture. The Bishop's palace next to the Cathedral hosts a Museum of Modern Art.

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
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Tourist office http://www.tourisme-troyes.com/welcome/index.htm
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troyes,_France
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Troyes

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