Dijon, France. UNESCO Heritage Site and Rich Cultural and Culinary Haven.

Visiting Dijon: the Journey

The journey was not without hiccups. Leaving the airport, we had to deplane due to the weather. Our flight was delayed, and Bryan had to help board the plane when given the all-clear to depart. Luckily, we had barely enough time to walk to our gate when we landed. We also procured luxurious business-class seats. I had purchased Dunkin gift cards for the flight crew, as they do so much on a long-haul flight. I recommend this as a standby passenger! They seemed to like them. 

Business Class

We were treated to a lovely dinner, beginning with a heated towel, warm nuts, and a beverage. Then we were served a fabulous chicken appetizer, salad, and warm bread. We chose the sea bass for our entrées and finished the meal with ice cream sundaes. We both tried to sleep on the plane to avoid jet lag. In the morning, we received breakfast, which included a frittata, fruit, and bread. 

Finding the Train

Having enjoyed the flight, we deplaned and had to figure out our next steps. We found our way to the train and made sure, so we thought, to have found the platform before completing our ticket purchase. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong platform. We asked a train employee minutes before our ticket time, who told us to run as he pointed across the station. We took off and then had to find our train cars (our tickets were not together) while not speaking more than five words of French. Frantically asking and pointing at the mobile tickets resulted in us finding our separate train cars just as the doors closed. We had made it!

The Train

I found my seat next to a French family of three, feeling like a third wheel. I caught my breath and prepared for the ride, as I noticed I would be going backwards, which I was hoping to avoid. We sped off, enjoying picturesque views as we rolled past the French countryside. We whisked past sunflower fields in full bloom, rolling hills, farmlands, and old structures and buildings. Unfortunately, we came to a stop for some electrical repairs for almost an hour, causing us to miss our train connection. I used Google Translate for the train conductor’s announcements and to ask the gentleman next to me how we would get a refund for the train connection we would be missing. The locals had been overall very helpful to us. We would have had numerous other issues if they had not helped us along the journey. 

  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon
  • Train, visiting Dijon

Checking in

We connected in Lyon to our final train. After many hours of travel, we finally arrived at our destination! We exited the Gare de Dijon (train station) and moved to find our hotel, the Oceania Le Jura Dijon, right next to the station. Upon arrival, we found that the third-party site where we had booked, and prepaid, for our room had not communicated our reservation to the hotel. The front desk staff was helpful and treated us to a glass of wine and some crackers while they worked to resolve our reservation. We ended up getting an upgrade! Our room had beautiful tall ceilings, a separate toilet room, and a spa-like shower with a waterfall head and sprayer. The room overlooked a small courtyard that the hotel rooms surrounded. Hungry, we set out for dinner.

Hotel, visiting Dijon

Visiting Dijon: Dinner

On the way to dinner, we took in the sights and admired the old medieval/renaissance architecture in the golden hour lighting. Unintentionally, we saw many of the things we were saving for the next day, but this was good because there was a lot to see. We chose a restaurant with outdoor bistro tables in the Square des Ducs that served a multi-course French meal. We enjoyed a leisurely meal that began with escargot. The escargot was delicious! The next course was beef bourguignon. It was beef stewed in a gravy with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Finally, we enjoyed dessert. It was a decadent panna cotta, one of my favorite desserts, as my husband makes it occasionally. It was a great beginning to visiting Dijon!

One thing we liked about the dining culture in Dijon was the relaxed pace. We spent around two and a half hours enjoying the meal and the beautiful square we were dining in. Our stomachs had a moment to settle between each course. No one rushed us with the check, we learned you have to ask for the waiter to bring it. We liked having a moment to enjoy the present and partake in conversation. Tired and satisfied, we returned to the hotel, stopping at the Jardin Darcy on the way.

  • Visiting Dijon
  • Visiting Dijon
  • Visiting Dijon, dining
  • Visiting Dijon, dining
  • Visiting Dijon, fountain

Visiting Dijon: The Owl Trail

First thing in the morning, we set out to explore the Owl Trail. Scattered around Dijon, there are owl markers near prominent landmarks in the city. One stop is an owl on the side of St. Paul that visitors touch with their left hand for good luck. We downloaded an app, Le Parcours de la Chouette, that listed all of the stops on the trail with some relevant information and a map. In French fashion, it is not intended as a fast-paced scavenger hunt. Instead, it is meant to be a leisurely adventure, with side stops and meandering off-route. Our first stop off the path was for breakfast. We stopped at Paul’s, a cafe offering pastries and bread. We ordered croissants and espressos and sat down to enjoy our breakfast. The croissants were flaky and delicious. 

Sights While Visiting Dijon

Along the Owl Trail, we saw many architectural delights. The Porte Guillaume, an 18th-century arch, welcomed visitors into the city and was one of the stops on the trail. We thought it was unique that the city was so walking friendly. Entire streets were devoted to pedestrians. We rarely saw a car, and the cars we did see were electric. There were electric trains as well. In the morning, we came upon the Covered Market. It was sprawling, even in the middle of the week. There were displays of food and goods, both in and surrounding the market far as you could see.

We got to sample a few culinary delights while visiting the Dijon market, and found some souvenirs. I chose a ceramic owl, and we got some herbed salt, gingerbread, a baguette, and mustard. (It is Dijon after all) The market took us to the Place Francois Rude, a square with sculptures and timber buildings. We continued to see Notre Dame, where the owl resided. Notre Dame was adorned with gargoyles and was an impressive example of 13th-century architecture. 

  • Market, Visiting Dijon
  • Market, Visiting Dijon
  • Market, Visiting Dijon
  • Notre Dame, Visiting Dijon
  • Notre Dame, Visiting Dijon
  • Notre Dame Owl, Visiting Dijon
  • Notre Dame, Visiting Dijon

Lunch while visiting Dijon

Walking further, we enjoyed many more timber buildings and saw a couple of palaces. We decided to grab lunch and bring it back to the hotel so that we could drop off our souvenirs. We picked up sandwiches. I chose a sandwich with prosciutto, pickles, and a creamy cheese spread on fresh baked bread. Bryan chose ham and cheese. We each got strawberry tarts. The sandwiches were incredible, quite possibly my favorite bite while visiting Dijon. The bread was a league above bread in the States. It was such a simple sandwich, but it had so much flavor. 

Sandwich, Visiting Dijon

International Cité of Gastronomy and Wine

We decided to detour from the Owl Trail to see the International Cité of Gastronomy and Wine. We had issues with our Visa credit card, so we got a cash advance with our American Express card to remedy this issue. Many places while we were visiting Dijon did not accept American Express. We learned that it might be good to have a Visa that does not have foreign transaction fees. Once in the gastronomy center, we purchased tickets to the exhibits and wine tasting. At the wine tasting, our guide told us about the region’s rich wine history, and we got to sample one white and one red wine. They were tasty! To our surprise, each of us got to keep a wine glass.

The exhibits were informative, and dove into French food and wine culture. I had wished there were samples, as the plastic food replicas were taunting. There was also a mustard store where we sampled a few varieties. We visited a church that had been repurposed into a museum and had been a hospital in the past. 

Owl Trail Continued

After we had finished our diversion, we continued on the Owl Trail. We strolled through the Palais des Ducs where it appeared a music video was being filmed. We stopped to watch the dancers for a bit before continuing. Afterward, we finished the Owl Trail after seeing another palace, some interesting buildings, and more historic churches. We went inside a few buildings, but others, including the museums, were closed on the day we were there. For dinner, we decided to enjoy another meal in the Square de Ducs, which was also delectable. 

Travel to Paris

I unfortunately woke up feeling unwell. Not feeling my best, we set off for Paris on the train. We routed ourselves better this time and put our reservation on the same PNR so we would be seated together. It was only a few euros more to book first class, so we did. It was just a two-hour train ride, and we were in the Gare de Lyon Paris. We navigated the metro system to find our hotel (near the airport) so that we could drop off our bags. On the way, we scanned our passports at the airport to avoid having to do it the following morning and we’re told our flight had filled up but there would be an extra section flight the following day. When we arrived at the Hilton Charles De Gaulle, we were upgraded (thanks to the Hilton status we got from our American Express card).

We had a room on the top floor overlooking the runway with a separate bath. I was happy to have a bath, as it helped me relax while sick. Our upgrade also included breakfast and access to the executive lounge for an evening reception. Wanting to see a little of Paris, we navigated the metro downtown. Having no prior reservations, we opted to see the Arch de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. We walked past each of these famous landmarks and snapped a couple of pictures. They were indeed impressive! However impressive, we did note that we preferred visiting Dijon. It was a slower pace and had less tourists than Paris to contend with. That was about all the sightseeing I could handle, so we returned to our hotel room where we ordered dinner and split a steak frites and creme brulée.

Flying Home?

We had chosen an airport hotel because we were supposed to leave the next morning. However, with the flight filling up, we knew we were going to the airport to be rolled over for the flight the following day. We spent the whole morning waiting for the inevitable and working with the gate agents to ensure we would get home the next day. I had requested a late check out at the airport hotel, hoping to keep our room, but we did not return to the hotel in time. Despite this, we got upgraded again to a room that was virtually the same.

Venturing into Paris

We opted to take an Uber ride into the city for the afternoon instead of navigating the metro. We decided to start at the Louvre and walk past some landmarks. The Louvre was magnificent! It was expansive and adorned with statues. It surrounded the famous glass pyramids. We walked through the square, passing gardens and a small fair to an Egyptian Obelisk (Luxor Obelisk). Unfortunately, we went the wrong way and ended up a mile off course. The walk was still beautiful.

I did not feel up to backtracking. Bryan purchased some tickets for a hop on hop off river boat, and we journeyed on the river, taking in the sites. I would recommend, if you want a boat ride, to opt for a different one. Other boats had better seating around the outside so that you could see the sights and snap pictures without glass in the way. They also looked breezier. The hop-on and off would be better if you actually want to hop on and off. After the boat, we stopped for a drink at a cafe as the sun was intense. We called another Uber to head to the hotel for dinner, where we had some snacks at the reception and split a Caesar salad from the restaurant. 

Journey Home

We had assumed it would be a straightforward journey home. Unfortunately, this was not the case. When we arrived at the gate, nobody was around, so we knew something was up. The extra section was delayed until nine-thirty at night, which would make Bryan miss work. He did some quick thinking and booked a ZED flight through Air France to get us home earlier. We then had to get across the airport to the other side and hope we did not have to go back through security to print a standby boarding pass. Luckily, customer service was able to print our standby passes. Bryan used Staff Traveler to see that there were two open seats on the flight. We ended up getting both seats!

The Flight

We got to our economy seats, and I came to find that I had no armrest for the nine-hour flight. I still felt pretty terrible, so not being able to get comfortable was unpleasant. The flight did have decent food, albeit nothing compared to business class. While landing, my ears were in pain from the pressure that had built up on my head. I had to endure the same thing on the next flight. Our following connection flights were both delayed, making for a long day.

We eventually got home around midnight, and Bryan woke up bright and early for work at 3 a.m. Despite the challenges, we were both so happy for the opportunity to see some of France and would want to return. The good memories of the food and sights will last a lifetime, while the inconveniences and sickness are temporary. Every time we embark on a trip, we are so happy to see something new. Each time we have a problem, we learn from it. Sometimes events do not go according to the plan, but the more you experience, the better you get at navigating the unforeseen. 

Leave a Reply