Posted on June 11, 2014
Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and has been for hundreds of years, and it’s been in existence since before Roman times. Population 152,000, but with a downtown seemingly several times as large as Santa Rosa. Burgundy once was a very powerful dukedom, encompassing lands such as Belgium and the Netherlands. Lots of money was spent here on ducal palaces and the like. If the winds of chance had blown otherwise, Dijon might have become the capital of France. Yes, that kind of power and money was here.
A living relic today. No construction cranes, hardly any renewal. Maybe on the outskirts, but not in or near the old town where life is vibrant, more or less. Burgundian architecture is on the heavy side, not light and airy such as Paris with its trees and inviting balconies.
Unfortunately most everything is made of a rather soft sandstone which isn’t holding up too well. Romans had good reason to favor marble and granite.
Here’s the street where our Airbnb is located, in the old town, close enough in to reach everything on foot. I would’t call this the best impression of the first French city we visit, other than Strasbourg, but it seems like a typical scene.
We explored the neighborhood a bit, looking for a bite to eat, maybe a real French meal. Here’s what we found, in order.
After a while we get inured to sticker shock. We’ve now seen menus up to 150 Euros, but 40-50 Euros is not uncommon for a dinner. We settled on a nearby grocery store and had lots of fun seeing what the locals live on at home. We grabbed some cheese and stuff and ate in our apartment.
Dijon is definitely better for seeing old buildings than Paris. No 19th century boulevards here but rather many twisty streets and old buildings. Small enough to walk end to end in the old town, inside the former walls. The Romans were first to lay it out with some order but in time Gaelic tendencies led it astray.
The women here may not be especially attractive, unlike in Paris, but many sure are tall and thin. Thin is definitely in. No waddlers here, except for the occasional accidental American and some French tourists. The stats say that there are 40% more fat folks in Germany than in France, and I could easily believe that. The bad news is that there are two and a half times more fat folks in America than in Germany. How about that, despite all their excellent bread, beer and sausages.
Bread comes with meals – rather tasteless but crunchy crust. The problem is that baguettes are baked 2-3 times a day so are nice and fresh, but it takes a long slow rise to develop deep flavor, such as required for sourdough and rye types of bread. Baguettes look so nice and Frenchy but they can’t fool my taste buds.
Buolangeries have very limited selection of breads, mostly white in various forms. Mostly baguettes. Usually only one type of croissant. No bagels. Whole grain, heavy tasty bread – gotta go to Germany for that.
Photo hazard – while backing up to take a photo, I stepped in a deep pile of Dijon mustard colored dog doo, to be carried around town for hours, because there’s hardly a blade of grass in this town where one can clean one’s shoes. Dog owners aren’t too diligent about cleaning up after their pooches.
Dijon is roasting today, about 92 in the shade. After paying nearly $6.50 for a liter of water for lunch I hesitate doing that again just to quench a thirst as we wander the baked streets of Dijon. So hot the tar patches melt. Here’s the precious water and lunch that went with it.
We later found the city’s main park where there was a water tap with no sign saying “eau non potable”. Cold and refreshing.
One blessed thing about the cathedrals is that they are cool. Now if they only had water fountains. My shoe sure stinks in this church. Someone just brought a dog inside and it decided to bark. The echo of dog bark in a cathedral is unusual as one usually expects organ music with its lingering echoes that gives an eerie sense of holiness. The church is filled with incense smoke, giving a special ethereal visual effect and good odor balance to my shoe emanations.
Lots of smokers and cell phones seen on the streets. Eva thinks the Germans have seen the light and are cutting back on smoking. But not by much. Still 50% more than in the US. Why can’t some country show some leadership here?
One morning we visited the grand indoor food market Les Halles where there’s an abundance of fresh food for sale by vendors. We were surprised to see so much fish and seafood. These folks must live high off the hog.
We walked so much that day we worked up an appetite. We chose an outdoor setting such as you see here.
We decided to have a rather simple supper of three courses – salad, galette and sweet crepe.
There are some photo details that I will show in the next post to give you a bit broader impression of what Dijon looked like to us.