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France’s hidden jewel

There are many beautiful towns and villages in France, and they are allworth visiting, but few are as standout-spectacular as the town ofTroyes.

There are many beautiful towns and villages in France, and they are all worth visiting, but few are as standout-spectacular as the town of Troyes.

The streets of beautifully preserved timbered medieval buildings in the town’s historical centre make it a very special place to visit.

Set in the heart of the Champagne region, the centre of Troyes (pronounced “trois,” like the French word for three), is actually shaped like a champagne cork.

The magnificent architecture dates back to 1524 when 500 houses were built by wealthy merchants after a fire had burned down most of the city. Those houses, with their timbered fronts, have been lovingly restored and it’s a pleasure to stroll down the cobbled pedestrian streets.

Pick up one of the many guides in the tourist office at 16 rue Carnot, and follow a route through the town so you catch all the highlights. Check out the historical tool museum, and if the exhibits don’t sound appealing, stop by just for a walk round the beautiful interior courtyard garden, which showcases useful and beautifully scented herbs.

There’s also the Gothic cathedral St Pierre et St Paul, which boasts 1,500 square metres of stained glass dating from the 13th to 19th centuries, as well as the Modern Art Museum (Musée d’Art Moderne) in the former bishop’s palace next door, with more than 2,000 works from French artists including Rodin, Dégas and Derain.

Tucked down the picturesque alleys are lots of little shops, as well as restaurants and bars, with terraces outside. There’s also a manicured park to laze in and a busy main square packed with bars with terraces, the perfect pitch for people-watching with a glass of wine.

In the evening, the pavements outside restaurants are lined with tables for al fresco dining. Gourmet adventurers beware: the local specialty, Andouillette de Troyes, is a sausage filled with smoked tripe, and smells a bit like halitosis. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

When you’ve had your fill of culture, give yourself a shopping hit without depleting your wallet: Troyes is at the heart of France’s textile industry and it’s where the big brands have their outlet stores.

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