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Published: February 7th 2010
on the train!
It was 10pm on Friday night, as suddenly I had the itch to plan a last minute trip. Pulling up a map, I saw that Dijon--capital of all things mustard--was only a 15 euro ticket away (and that's round trip!)
The next morning (yesterday), Cyntia and Tricia and I hopped on the TGV to go explore this famous city. I was especially excited to leave our own region of Franche-Comte for that of Burgundy, known for it's Boeuf Burguignon, Coq au Vin, escargots, and excellent wine.
After only an hour on the train we reached the Dijon station and began our adventure. As it was lunch time, we decided to eat before doing anything else, so we found a lovely little restaurant right next to the Dijon Cathedral. I had lapin moutarde (rabbit with a creamy mustard sauce) served with a salad and french fries--it was SOOO delicious. You guys know that I'm not a big fan of meat, but this was the most tender, juicy, flavorful meat I've ever had! Cyntia's Boeuf Bourgiugnon (stewed beef) was also out of this world! It made me think that maybe I'm just not a fan of American meat. With my lunch,
I sampled a glass of regional red wine. It had a VERY full oaky aroma (and I swear a hint of some cheesy flavor!! haha, that's so French...) that was good, but a little stronger that I prefer to drink.
For dessert I couldn't' help myself, I had a creme brulee--and it was the best creme brulee I've ever had! So it goes without saying that our first stop in Dijon was a smashing success. Next, with bellies full, we headed across the street to see the Dijon Cathedral (a.k.a Cathedrale Saint-Benigne de Dijon). Inside the ceiling soared above, creating a space that felt open and light. The stained glass windows were lovely, and the organ was massive. It was a very peaceful space, not to mention it was well heated (a rarity in France)! Huddling above the grated floor heat ducts it was hard to imagine going back out into the cold, but we ploughed on like true soldiers of travel!
Our next stop was the Musee de la vie Bourgogne (Museum of Burgandy Life), which had samples of 18th century clothing of the region as well as life size replicas of various shops of the time
(fur coat shop, pharmacy, candy shop, etc). Attached was a building that we really wanted to get into, because it seemed important with its large green dome. I asked the woman at the desk and she said that they only open it upon request, and then she called two people to escort us and open it for us. Cool! Inside, we saw that it was an old basilica style church that had been turned into a Museum of Sacred Art. We walked around and looked at the various artifacts, including cases and cases full of golden holy grails. Hey Indiana, you should have looked in Dijon first! An unassuming plaque on a wall said something that Tricia and I puzzled over. It said that the bodies of those who fell defending Dijon from German onslaught in WWII and the soldiers who died for France in Algeria had been collected here. Now, that sure made it sound like there were hundreds of bodies stuffed somewhere in this old church. Needless to say, Tricia and I were like "Cyntia, there's a bunch of dead people hidden here!" And then we peaced out.
Next, we headed through the labyrinthine streets of Dijon
to find the Ducal Palace. Dijon is the most confusing city I have yet experience, as the streets have no grid or organization (yes, it was even worse than Atlanta!). This meant that though we were in a big part of town going to another big part of town, we had to take 9 little streets and zig zag our way there, because there was no big thoroughfare. Finally, we reached the Place de la Liberation. The Dijon we had seen thus far was a quite, small place. But we were suddenly thrust into a square that rivaled that of Paris. There was a huge palace ahead of us as we walked under an arch with two Greek pillars. The palace, which is still the town hall today, is also the location of the Musee des Beaux Arts (art museum). It was free to enter, so even though there was only 30 minutes until closing, we dashed inside to see what was on display. I saw some truly excellent sculptures from the Middle Ages, but seeing that time was almost out, I rushed to the 19th and 20th century art sections. I saw some Manet's, Sisley's, a Cezanne, and a
Monet--not bad. We made it to the contemporary art section, but the guards were coming through to shoo people out.
Back in the square, we spotted a store selling food products of the region. I, of course, bought some grainy Dijon mustard! (It's really good!) We were similarly tempted when walking the huge thoroughfare of Rue de la Liberte when we saw a chocolate shop. Inside, there were tables and cases featuring delicious single serving deserts, all made with chocolate. So we each bought one and the woman boxed them up like presents. Our plan was that we would only enjoy them on the train back.
So, with our chocolates and mustard in tow we found somewhere to eat dinner near the train station. (Actually, it was a little more complicated than that--there was a lot of map consulting and direction asking, because again we had to take about 12 different little streets to get back and we got a little lost.) BUT, with our chosen pizzeria in sight, we were feeling pretty good! Cyntia ordered a chorizo pizza, and I was intrigued to see what French chorizo looked like, because a friend had told me they had
it here. To my disappointment I saw that it was not the same chorizo that we have in Texas--it was just thick sliced spicy pepperoni. So my campaign to recreate a good breakfast taco here might be more difficult than I thought....
After a filling dinner, we had just enough time to walk back to the train station and board the train. Once on, I settled in, feeling the exhaustion of a long day. Tricia was worried because she had forgotten to get her ticket stamped with the date and time (here they call it "composting", I don't know why). The conductor came by to check everyone's tickets, and when he saw hers he asked why she hadn't done it. We actually didn't understand why it's necessary (because the tickets are only good for a specific date and time anyways), but he said that normally it's a 10 euro fine! He asked where we were from, and we told him America. Then he said, a little flirtatiously, that because we were foreigners he would let it slide, but that we needed to be careful in the future.
So, after our long adventure and barely eschewing a TGV fine,
we popped open our desserts and scarfed them down as the slow lull of the TGV was enough to make all of us fall into a quite half-sleep. We reached Besancon after an hour and took the bus back to the dorms.
In my room I picked up "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom, which I bought right after I arrived in Besancon just so I would have a leisure book to read in English. Though I was sleepy, the book pulled me in and I read half of it before finally turning in. I finished it this morning. It was a great read, and very thought provoking.
Today I tried to hunker down and do some school work. It sort of happened. For my archeology class I have to do a presentation on an archeological site near my home town. Did anyone know that one of the oldest and most complete Paleoindian skeletons was found in LEANDER? She's called the Leanderthal Lady! She dates back to 9,000 B.C., not to mention she was found with a paleolithic shark tooth. Cool! It's hard to believe I didn't know about it, living so close! (Thanks
Dad for tipping me off!)
Well, this week should be pretty busy. I'm leaving for Amsterdam on Friday to meet Sarah Bowen! And then we're doing a 10 day trip around the Netherlands and Belgium. Stay tuned to read about my adventures!
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