It’s been a while. Things have been pretty busy lately and, with the Women’s World Cup going on, there’s also been a lot of soccer to distract me. As a result, I’m now posting about things that took place nearly a month ago.
In any case, Dijon was an interesting trip. It was planned somewhat at the last minute as a way to fill the void that deciding not to run the half marathon in Liverpool left. It was relativeley close (2(ish) hours by train from Basel) and easy enough to do for a quick trip. I only felt bad because I was going to the land of mustard without Chris, who is (inexplicably) obsessed with mustard.
What I did not plan for was a crippling headache that day and a run- ins with Yellow Vest (?) protests. The first left me feeling sick and tired all day and the second just generally put a damper on the day. I think I made the most of it, though.
I got into town around 11 am, when things were bustling. The city center is cute in the way that French towns tend to be.
After orienting myself and grabbing a quick lunch, I was ready to set off and explore Dijon. The first thing I needed to do was get myself a guide and the only proper way to do that in Dijon is to apparently follow the owls. The owl is the symbol of Dijon and they even have a famous statue that is supposed to grant wishes (more on that guy later). If you follow the owls around town, you also get a tour of the major POIs of the city. This can be accompanied by a small guidebook that you can purchase in the Tourist Office that explains what all of the buildings are. There’s also a pretty handy map inside. Definitely worth the few Euros it cost.
Given that the Tourist Office is somewhat central to down, I naturally did not start at the first stop of the tour, but at stop 8, Notre Dame of Dijon. The 13th century church was quiet, but very pretty in the inside.
Apparently, now that I’m revisiting this owl guide a month later, I can tell you that the majority of the gargoyles on the front of the church aren’t the originals from the 13th century (as legend says those fell on someone who was in town to get married), but are “false gargoyles” that were added centuries later. I’m too architecture inept to know what a false gargoyle is compared to a real one, but it sounds like a fun fact.
The next stop required a bit of backtracking, but I couldn’t miss the covered market. Saturday was a market day, but the market was winding down around the time that I got in. As as result, there really wasn’t much to see and I felt like I was more in the way of people cleaning up shop than anything else. I wasn’t there long, but it’s pretty big.
Next, I backtracked from my backtracking to get back to Notre Dame. As I mentioned previously, owls are very important to the city of Dijon and no owl is more important it seems than the Owl of Dijon. This small and very weathered owl is carved into the side of Notre Dame. It is worn down because it is also a magical owl that is supposed to grant wishes if you rub it with your left hand.
It took me an embarassingly long time to find the owl. I didn’t realize at first that it was part of the church, so I had first spent some time walking up and down random side streets to find it. It didn’t matter, though, because the arrows on the ground should have gotten me there. If you see how frequently those owl arrows show up along the owl route, you would know I was just completely off. Nevertheless, I made it there and I made my wish.
I should also add that it was about this time that I should have noticed that something was up in the town. There were a lot of police hanging around everywhere given how quiet the streets were. Granted, the Owl is apparently under constant watch now after being damaged in 2001, but even a magical owl statue did not warrant the amount of police I was seeing everywhere.
Despite the fact that my Spidey senses were going off a little, I continued on my tour to experience some true Dijon mustard. Actually (and in something maybe only interesting to trademark nerds), Dijon mustard is not a protected name. You can get Dijon anywhere. The true mustard from Dijon that is protected is, instead, called “mustard de Bourgogne.” Trademark nerdage aside, the place I went to try out Dijon’s famous mustard was Edmond Fallot Moutarderie, a bit of an institution in town.
The store was kind of awesome, actually. There are some displays to show the mustard making process. There’s actually a second Edmond Fallot location where you can go on a mustard tour. Unfortunately, that was not where I was. Even better was the mustard tasting bar, where you could sample many of the mustard varieties that the store offers. There are quite a few. My favorite was the black currant mustard, but a lot of them were delicious. This mustard is something else.
In addition to that, there is a mustard vending machine in the store, where you can pay one Euro to get small jars of different mustard flavors. I had to try it.
At this point, I was hit with a little bit of guilt for having a mustard party without Chris, so I ended up over-compensating and buying way too many mustard products for him to try. I also got him a small fancy mustard tasting plate.
After getting far more than my fill of mustard, I continued on the tour. For a little while, it was mostly a matter of enjoying the surroundings, but then we ran into some other interesting points of intesting, including a very large and neo-classical theater and the St. Michel church (not pictured).
In the same area was La Nef, which used to be the site of an abbey but now houses a museum dedicated to Francois Rude, a famous sculptor from Dijon. It’s worth stopping by.
There’s also a library in the abbey, which I did not visit for whatever reason. Instead, I continued along my way until I hit the Place de la Liberation, which is a big square where the Palais de Etats sits. There’s also a giant statue of King Louis XIV in the square.
It was around this time that I was in desperate need of a long break (thanks, headache), which is exactly what I did for a little while. It was also around this time that I heard the sounds of protest and the heavy police presence suddenly made sense. Nothing seemed particularly dangerous, but I also was not in the mood to be among something that could potentially go that way. I sat it out and continued on my tour once things settled down a little.
The first stop on part two of the tour was the Palais de Justice, which was originally built for the Burgundy Parliament in the 16th century.
The buildings around the law court are also quite pretty. There were people stepping in and out of the courtyards for pictures, but I wasn’t going to do that at all. Instead, the path took me along some of the bustling shopping streets of the city. There was a crepe restaurant in particular that I would have stopped in for food if 1) I was hungry and 2) it wasn’t closed.
I made my way from there past more picturesque buildings and churches until I got to the Cathedral Saint Benigne. I stepped inside to see what the interior looked like, but left as soon as I saw that there was a mass in progress. I didn’t get a good picture of it from the front, so a picture from the back will have to do.
I was actually going to continue making my way to the beginning of the tour to hit some of the stops that I missed (including the first public garden of the Dijon). However, it was around this time that the protest march sounds came back and I saw a few of the infamous vests. Again, it didn’t seem dangerous, but I also was not ready to test that out.
Instead, I took that as my cue to maybe go to the train station slightly earlier than planned. This, of course, was not without a quick stop by Place de Francois Rude (which is the image of Dijon that you will see most frequently when you do research on the town) and a stop by Mulot and Petitjean to try out the famous Dijon gingerbread (pretty good, but was expecting more ginger).
Due to several factors, the trip to Dijon was a little shorter and did not fit in as much stuff as I had initially planned. Despite being sick and dodging protests, I still think I managed to get a pretty good day trip out of my visit.