Pamela MacNaughtan

I know, you’re shocked. Dijon, France is more than just a mustard town?! Hell yeah, it is!!

I didn’t know a lot about Dijon, but I did know that it was only a 90 min train ride from Paris. J’adore Paris. I really do, but the stairs were causing big problems with my right knee, and I needed a wee break – flat ground – for a day. So, I opened my Eurail train schedule, looked at trains leaving Paris, and decided to go to Dijon – and yes, I did plan to buy mustard!

I wasn’t sure what to expect. In my mind, I had romantic ideas about quaint French villages, with charming locals, fabulous markets, flowers, old buildings, town squares. When I stepped off the train in Dijon, I realized that I was being slightly unrealistic. I walked towards what looked like the main street, with older buildings. No map. No plan. Five hours of free time. There were a few old buildings, but nothing overly impressive. I walked slowly, hoping to find what I was looking for, my dream vision of quaint French towns.

When I spotted the spires of an old church, peeking above the rooftops in the distance, I changed my direction. I love old churches [have you figured that out yet, from this]. As I walked the streets became smaller, and the buildings got older. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was leaving the new city, and entering the old [this happens when one doesn’t do any research, or carry a guide or map]. The houses were skinny and tall, with decaying facades, and charming iron balconies. I walked slowly, turning my head every which way, and giving away the fact that I was indeed a foreigner!

As I walked the cobbled streets of Old Dijon, I tried to recall lessons from history class, and art class – even though it has been several years since I sat in my favourite classes. It sounds silly, I know, but whenever I walk passed old buildings, I wonder what life was like when they were new. What did the streets of Dijon look like in the 18th Century? What was the cool thing to do back then?

My knee throbbed as I walked, but I kept going. I wandered down main streets and explored quiet side streets. I snapped photos of windows (it’s a new obsession) and buildings. I watched locals enjoying a café patio, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of a park in the centre of Dijon. I walked through shops, looking for something unique to buy, but only buying Dijon Mustard. Yes, I bought Dijon Mustard in Dijon, France. I realize it’s a cliché, but I couldn’t help myself!

As with many cities and towns through Europe, Dijon has a couple shopping streets for tourists, which I try to avoid at all costs, as the crowds make me crazy – I avoid large crowds at home as well.

My time in Dijon was short – 5 hours – but lovely. It was a fabulous break from the stairs of Paris, and I can’t help but wonder what other French towns are like, but they will have to wait for another trip. It’s time for me to pack my things in Paris, and get ready for an all day train ride to Vienna, Austria.


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