Tue 10 Dec - Dijon, France

Subzero degrees and fog and therefore humid and frick'n coooold in Dijon.

We woke up to a chilly morning, longing for tea and no kettle in the room but refused to pay 7€ per person for continental breakfast downstairs, so we sent Di downstairs with 2 tea bags of our own and...

Viola, she came back with 2 cups of tea having not paid a euro cent. Well done, Di (Hans' turn tomorrow...)

After breakfast in our room, eaten from supplies we bought yesterday (including cold food which we had in the bathroom overnight and outside our room in the morning) we went to wander the Owl Trail of Dijon.

This was how each of its points of interest were marked on the ground...

...and all you had to do was to follow these markers, which appear every few metres or so.

The map below shows how we followed the Owl Trail, with some detours and refreshment stops along the way.
Apologies for the late sudden spike. Hans forgot to turn off Runkeeper before we went back inside our hotel.
The rest of the wiggly lines are because you really do zig zag through town plus every now and then we lost the trail marker because a truck had parked on it, or in one case a temporary ice rink covered a whole section of them.

A selfie as we started, introducing our fabulous cold weather beanies for the season (bought in Los Angeles during our first week away in January). Yep, it's definitely a fashion statement... not...

But absolutely necessary. Note the temperature was still -2 degrees after 3pm and foggy.

Dijon is the capital of the Burgundy region (Bourgogne). The city started as a Roman town on the road from the roman gallo capital, Lyon, to Paris. For 4 centuries, from 11th to 15th, it was ruled by the dukes of burgundy and grew quickly, got wealthy and so is quite an old town.

For us, we were amazed at how much is preserved from the 15th century, with a lot of it visible along the Owl Trail.

Di marking the edge of the old roman fortifications of the town.

And on her way to check out this statue of some famous guy stuck in the middle of the car park...the indignity for Jean-Phillipe Rameau, a composer from this area. To the right is the old Dijon opera house so the close proximity of the statue to there made sense.

The dukes of Burgundy left their marks.

The Owl Trail took us past what looked like an old guard house and into the palace courtyard, overlooking the Place des Ducs de Bourgogne.

Not your usual down pipes on the ducal palace, decorated for Christmas and with "mouths" shaped like fish where the water comes out.

One of the dukes - not sure which one - but we hoped it may have been one with a good name, like John the Fearless or Charles the Bold. Nah, probably not.

Part of the ducal palace that can be seen beyond the Christmas decorations and temporary ice rink (the one that hid the Owl Trail markers for a while, on Place de la Liberation).

In the grounds of a nearby museum we saw this sign and admired the encouragement of vigilance for oneself. Perhaps something for the litigious Californians? Ha, that sign would never work in the US.

The old churches in Dijon all seem to have a similar style to them, but we did like the roof on this one with its coloured tiles design.
By the way, it seems many churches have changed their purpose. Part of this one, the back, now houses the Museum of Archeology.

Around town we have noticed markers for bus stops of a free city loop bus service.

The buses are so cute - mini in size and coloured to match the new trams. They enter areas where other traffic is not allowed and have some mechanism for dropping a barrier as they approach.

We vowed that we would take a loop on one of these before we leave Dijon.

Half way though the Owl Trail and the frick'n cold was getting to us. Time for a coffee at a little Boulangerie (we will definitely miss these little saviors).

Our little table wedged into a corner was big enough for a shared almond croissant and 2 cups of coffee. Hans thought it was all very civilized.

Refreshed, it was time to brave the elements again and continue the Owl Trail.

The trail took us to D'Arcy Park which was very pleasant. We could imagine it in summer when kids play in the fountain, but for now the pond is frozen pretty solid. We know, we tested it...with Hans threw a stick hard on the surface and the stick broke into 2 parts and bounced off.

Very attractive...grotto at the end of the fountain. And Di...

Hans found this polar bear attractive too!

The cute purple coloured trams which match the commuter buses which match the free bus.

All seemed very very new (which we verified later - these trams were put in traffic in December 2012).

Then a plaque with a familiar name...

TJ is everywhere...they certainly adopted him in France during his time as US ambassador to France. We smiled at the mention of Monticello - that was quite a while ago in our trip that we checked out that place and we remembered it fondly.

The Owl Trail continued and joy oh joy it took us past the market halls, Des Halles.

As it was noon the suppliers were packing up - a sign of a true food market. Pity though that we didn't get here earlier when things were in full swing.

Di was happy and sad...she could not buy as we have no kitchen and we bought supplies yesterday for breakfast.

We still find it fascinating that you can really tell what kind of bird you are going to cook based on face, feet and feathers.

Di as a foodie was embarressed to not know of a Chapon bird (capon) so Wikipedia helped. It's basically a rooster, that is castrated and sex organs removed when young, so that it grows into a big chicken without hormonal changes. Apparently this makes the meat more tender and moist. Usually small production as it cannot be industrialized.

Sounds delicious doesn't it?

The French are proud, and picky, about where their chicken (and all meat) comes from.

Hooray - we wanted to buy a few more everyday tablecloths in Proven├žal style and this stall sold them ranging in price from 15€ to 25€. Unfortunately all a bit too long but we still bought 2 in styles that we liked. We will get them shortened in Sydney.

Back on the Owl Trail and we finally reached the tourist information office near Notre Dame Cathedral (we had sort of been looking for it for a while).

We stepped inside to warm up and also see if we could get a guide or summary of the points of the Owl Trail we had seen. Yes, was the answer, but it costs 3.50€. Our map, provided by our hotel, was free so considering we had nearly finished the trail we chose to move on.

The tourist information lady did tell us to go seek out the Owl (La Chouette) carving on the wall of Notre Dame. The Owl is the symbol of Dijon and it is also good luck to rub it with your left hand (to get your wish granted). We really are tourists sometimes...

Time for lunch and the TripAdvisor number 1 value restaurant, and number 2 rated overall in Dijon, was a cafe called La Chouette (the owl, yet again). Seemed appropriate.

La Chouette specialised in galette, and not much more. Their midi formule seemed reasonable value - a cider to drink, a galette and a sugar crepe for dessert at 11.90€ each. It also was quite a light meal compared to most and suited us.

A galette here was a crepe with a layer of cheese and ham and an egg cracked inside, folded and baked. It worked. Di could imagine eating it for breakfast.

A relaxed lunch, enough time to get warm and all we could think about was that we did not want to step back outside into -2 degrees for very long. A quick finish to the Owl Trail and we headed back to our hotel.

A street near ours is named after Jean-Jacques Rousseau and we've taken to calling him JJR for short. Hans remarked that Dallas may have their JR but Dijon has JJR...

Once we returned to our room we did have to work out who JJR really was and he could not be further from JR Ewing if he tried - according to Wikipedia - he was a philosopher, writer, and composer of the 18th-century, who's political philosophy influenced the French Revolution.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that private property was the start of civilization, inequality, murders and wars. Definitely not JR...

Back to a nice warm room a little after 2pm, pleased with our exploration but ready for rest and warmth. A luxurious afternoon nap called... And we had a very long and lazy afternoon, and a few glasses of wine... For warmth of course.

At 7pm, we were on our way to dinner at, not a regional or even French place, but to a restaurant called Little Italy.

Pizza and pasta was on the menu together with the usual suspects in Italian restaurants such as the antipasta of meats.

The pasta combinations were presented in an innovative manner and Hans went for the homemade ravioli with salmon and lemon.

Di chose housemade meatballs with spaghetti and the guys are cooking here in the background.

The meals arrived and they were pretty tasty. A selection of bread accompanied the food in a bag, with what we didn't eat stored away to be served to the next customer (yep, we saw them doing that). It seems it is OK to handle bread products in France as we see it in bakeries all the time.

A scoop of gelato each to finish up our meal before we paid up and left. Quite a pleasant experience.

We did go by a couple of other potential restaurants for tomorrow night (price and karma are important) and looked at menus to ensure we eat local burgundy cuisine before we leave. Back to the hotel just before 9pm.

Unfortunately no UEFA cup football on TV despite Manchester United playing Shakhtar Donetsk tonight so we had to check the score online.

Di suggested that Hans try on her leggings as a long john substitute against the now punishing cold and here is the result...they stretched and worked...but definitely not sexy.

Images of Rowan Atkinson doing Mr Alternative Carpark, the mime, in "Not the 9'O Clock News" came to mind (not good). Clearly more functional than fashion, but the leggings were definitely warm and will be tried out tomorrow (and Di needs to buy a new pair).

All good, and now it is good night from a freezing Dijon.

 

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