If North American urbanites could have cosy, yet sophisticated and relaxed cities like Dijon, France, we would all be happier and healthier.
Timeless, Relaxed Elegance
Dijon is like a timeless elegant lady, yet sitting relaxed in a polished, antique chair. She wears a silk blouse with a pair of worn jeans and stylish deep red leather boots. Visitors are attracted to this city of 152,100 for its gracious
architectural beauty of its core buildings dating far back to 1400’s, art, several museums, centuries old cathedrals, choice restaurants and cafes.
Convenient Ways to Get Around
There’s a public bike share system, cycling infrastructure, a newly built streetcar system, parks and canal bike-pedestrian path over 100 km. long, where we spun leisurely a portion of it.
Architectural Beauty, Art at Its Core
Though we stayed in an Ibis chain hotel downtown, across the cobblestoned street from our hotel window, were lovely 18th-19th century buildings with red tiled roofs, iron wrought balconies, tall windows with shutters and cheery flower window boxes. Shifting sunlight and shadows would illuminate building facia and stone carvings.
At night, Dijon glowed confidently under streetlights. The city hung large print banners of old Master Renaissance paintings over its cobblestoned streets. This simple street decorative gesture amplified an air, a reminder of history and courtly elegance in this old neighbourhood. You wanted to walk around at night after dinner, just to soak in the ambience.
Canal Bike Ride to Pont de Panya
On a warm, sunny afternoon, we biked a flat canal bike-pedestrian path that meandered through parkland. After 20 km., we turned around at the village of Pont de Panya. Every few kilometres, were former canal 16th-18th century lift houses now either tumbling gently with age, or the rare one,
turned into a renovated home. Since we were cycling on a work day, the path was quiet except for occasional pedestrian, jogger or cyclist. After seeing many cyclists in Dijon in streetwear, most canal cyclists we saw wore, cycling clothing and a helmet.
Imagine cycling in North America for only 20 km. and encountering 2 villages along the way. More likely it would be a long stretch of suburb, park, just farmland or wilderness.
Pont de Panya was quiet like many French villages in this region, and in Germany, where we’ve cycled. Many old villages were not oriented for tourists, meaning stores with food, knicknacks and cafes open or in visible locations.
Dukes of Burgundy– Legacy of Power in Fine Arts, Wine and Gastronomy
Back in the city, we soaked in more art at Musee des Beaux Arts, the former palace for the Dukes of Burgundy who ruled this region, 1364-1477. They included: Philip the Bold, Philip the Good, John the Fearless and Charles the Bold. Their power extended over the Netherlands and Belgium. Dijon and the Burgundy region became a powerhouse of wealth, art, music, and gastronomy (which means also wine production).
Art collection was stupendous with many medieval and Renaissance paintings, gold sculptures, and wood, leaning on Christian themes. Since there were more medieval works, one saw not just Mary, but more women, as saints
portrayed –St. Ursula, St. Bernadette and the opposite, women who were tortured who “sinned”. Rather disturbing to see all this in careful painterly execution. It was to teach and convert the illiterate masses of the day in France.
Although there were enough tourists thronging certain plazas and corners in early October, Dijon never seemed too crowded nor too noisy where we stayed downtown, a 10 minute walk to Les Halles Market for a meal or another 5 minutes more to the soaring Gothic cathedral and museum nearby.
I will always remember Dijon.