A French Adventure – Dijon

When I think of France, I think of my dad and our annual trip to visit a different part of France. From when I was small right up till now, aged 22, dad and I have one thing in common and that is our love of France. Planning this holiday, we decided to do longer drives to get us further south, and that is how we found ourselves five hours away from Calais in Dijon. Yes, where Maille mustard comes from.

Place de la République
Place de la République

I’ll be the first to admit that when we arrived in Dijon, I was honestly worried about the whole thing. We’d driven round a bit and I can safely say I felt totally underwhelmed by the place. In fact I was so disappointed I complained about everything – from how far we were from the Old Town to being too hot constantly. Sorry Dad! Once I got over my initial heat phobia and laziness and walked the 10 minutes to the Old Town in Dijon, I face-palmed. How, honestly having been to France for at least 10 years have thought Dijon was going to be a let down? I don’t know why I even bothered thinking it wasn’t going to be good, I’ve never been anywhere in France I haven’t thought was pretty after all.

Palais des Ducs
Palais des Ducs

There’s a special something about Dijon, that I still can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not a magical sense of wonder, but there’s something that makes it, importantly, special. I would argue, probably wrongly that Dijon is unassuming place, once you get past a couple of big buildings that is.

It’s quietly excellent, much like my father. (Mum, if you’re reading this you’re  loudly excellent – don’t you worry)

From it’s narrow little streets, which can fit a semi-bus, honestly they are tiny, to it’s hidden away museums, Dijon does seem to have something for everyone. Adults can relax in the sunshine in the square of the Palais des Ducs, kids literally run around screaming in a non-irritating way in the fountains and everyone just seems to accept more. I only say that because usually kids running around in fountains would seriously annoy me, anywhere else in the world and I would complain most whole-heartedly but when you’re sitting there it’s like peace. (Cue cliche and cringe) Plus a couple of beers later and everything starts to seem pretty sedate anyway.

Detail is a massive part of the architecture in Dijon
Detail is a massive part of the architecture in Dijon

In the west wing of the Palais des Ducs is one of the oldest museums in France, established in 1787 or so I am told, is The Museum of Fine Arts or en français Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. The museum houses a unique collection of art, from jewellery and sculptures to armour and paintings, and ranges in time period from Ancient Egypt (why?) to the 21st century. It’s full of just about anything you can think of, at least in terms of art history and is definitely a way to at least feel like your learned something during your trip and not just stuffed yourself with food and wine.

Crown from The Museum of Fine Arts
Crown from The Museum of Fine Arts, Anonymous

The museum really does seem to have a lot squashed all into one place. Maybe too much. Too much that doesn’t always necessarily fit with the other selections. Note the Ancient Egyptian section, I keep talking about it but I still don’t get it. This shouldn’t put you off though, with free entry meaning you can also access part of the former Hotel of the Dukes of Burgundy and visit the kitchens, the hotel and the Tower of Philip the Good, which unfortunately was closed when we went, you get a lot for nothing. The place really does express the history very well, and it’s an amazing relief from the 38 degree heat we found ourselves in, another pro point for visiting. There are other museums to visit in Dijon such as Musée Magnin, an unassuming museum in a 17th century home which houses a beautiful collection of French, amongst other places, paintings and furniture. This museum, was lovely, cool (which is surprisingly very important when it get so hot) and showcased a wide range of different styles.

I have no idea who or what these two little beauties are.
Jacques de Baerze, Melchior Broederlam, Retable des Saints et Martys

Another undeniable sweet aspect to Dijon was the market, honestly I’m not sure if it is everyday but it was in full swing today. Lucky us. The market takes up a lot of the town and you see stalls dotted around everywhere you look, but the main area was a building which housed the food market. If we were staying in a house, or had access to a kitchen, I’m pretty sure we would have made our dinner from the amazing foods they had on offer. Dijon15_057 The most important place of all though in Dijon has to do with food. Perhaps most surprisingly with MUSTARD. That’s right I capitalised it. A condiment that is used around the globe to make things taste better, or in my case worse. Mustard from Dijon, i.e Dijon Mustard has a special place in the city. You can get anything in Dijon’s Maille shop, from mustard with orange – bleurgh to Dijon with Chablis – which was actually pretty good. If you want mustard mixed with something head here.

Dijon15_075
This man poured our Chablis Mustard form a pump.
Dijon15_077
A bit of white wine mustard, yum?!
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