The first weekend of February I ventured outside the capital once again to Dijon for Vicky’s 21st birthday. As usual, I was running late the Saturday morning and got into a serious panic about missing my train, finding myself in an argument with a man whom I had apparently accidently hit with my bag at Gare de Lyon… Red, flustered, huffing and puffing, I made it just in time – though I then dashed back off again after Mairead reminded me that I needed to ‘composter mon billet’ (any French student on a year abroad will know what I’m talking about!) Within minutes of being on the train we noticed that the Parisian suburbs were coated with a light layer of snow, which continued to thicken the further we travelled away from the city. Upon our arrival I could notice straight away a striking drop in temperature – it was definitely below zero in the depths of eastern France.
Though Vicky had underlined Dijon’s comparably small size to us Parisian girls, it is the capital of the Côte-d’or department and the Burgundy region, whose rich historical and architectural heritage attracts many tourists. Plus, its attraction is reinforced by its strong gastronomic reputation, most notably known for its mustard. Whilst Vicky gave us a tour of the city, it was funny to spot Dijon’s ‘Parisian equivalents’ – firstly, Porte Guillaume in Place Darcy which looks suspiciously like L’Arc de Triomphe, as well sharing famous road names and places such as les Halles, Nation etc… That being said, Dijon is a completely different city to Paris and definitely has its own character. It has managed to maintain several different architectural styles from the Gothic and Renaissance periods, with many of its town houses dating back to the 18th century. Their bright and quaint toits bourguignons, (roofs made of terracotta glazed tiles in various colours), are unique and are found only in the Burgundy region. Dijon is also without doubt cleaner than Paris, and, as always when outside the city, I could appreciate the fresh, smog free air. It has also just set up a brand new swanky tram system which is far more modern than most of the metro lines.
At lunchtime I had my first taste of the famous gastronomie de la Bourgogne in a restaurant called L’O. What’s great here in France is the menu midi – a lunchtime offer available in many restaurants consisting of either a starter and main or main and dessert for usually around 12 euros. Seeing as it was Vicky’s birthday, the two of us thought a bottle of white with a nice meal was more than acceptable – plus it also made the walking around in the freezing cold afterwards slightly more bearable! Our waiter was quite a character, who failed to understand why Mairead didn’t want a glass of wine with her meal. The meal was amazing and the dessert – a traditional crème brulée, was délicieux. Stomachs satisfied, we went for a wonder around the Cathédrale Saint –Bénigne de Dijon, being the committed history students that we are. I am always impressed with the architecture of cathedrals and I still cannot quite comprehend how such impressive structures were constructed such a long time ago. Vicky then took us to the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne before we gave into the cold and took shelter inside for a hot chocolate.
We then made our way back to Vicky’s to get ready for our night out in Dij-town – as Vicky and Ali like to call it. We were reunited with another fellow Warwicker Ali, who had come from her town Dole, which is about an hour away on the train. She had brought a group of her students along for the night out – yes, her students – she is lucky enough to teach those around the same age, if not older than herself! During pre-drinks we had a rather entertaining game of Je n’ai jamais (or Never have I ever) – it’s great to know that the same drinking games exist across the globe. I was shocked to find that prices for drinks were pretty pricey everywhere (I had expected a considerable difference in comparison to Paris), though I still had a good night.
After a well deserved grasse matinée, we had a typical French breakfast with coffee and pain au chocolat before heading out in the cold for a walk around the Lac Kir. Again, quite a contrast to Paris – we even saw an otter! When we told Vicky’s housemate that we had braved the minus temperatures and walked along the lake, the reaction we got was ‘Euh, vous êtes folles !?’ – we had to remind her that we were the thick-skinned English, we don’t feel the cold. This may be the case for Northerners Vicky and Mairead but as Londoner I was personally freezing my arse off! We had one more great meal in a brasserie in Place Darcy called L’Edito where I had the most amazing grande salade végétarienne. Seeing as I can often find it difficult eating out in France, I went back to Paris as one happy veggie.
A great weekend break in Dijon – and another destination in France ticked off the list!
L’O : http://www.lo-restaurant.fr/artc/1/fr/ 14 Rue Quentin 21000 Dijon
L’Edito: http://brasserie-ledito.fr/dijon/ 2 Place Darcy 21000 Dijon