It was long morning of driving from Alsace to Dijon. Risa was visiting her friend in town, so for once, we had a deadline to arrive by. I’m sure it could have been flexible if we wanted to stop for a break, but I decided to just drive like the wind and make it there on time.
It wasn’t the most exciting drive, especially with the thick fog obscuring the views. But, I suspect that the flat farmland wasn’t too different to the thousands of kilometres of flat farmland that we’ve seen before. We stayed away from the motorway, since it’s expensive, and unpredictably so. Thankfully it was quite an easy drive, with only a few small towns to slow down through on the way.
We arrived almost exactly on time, and while Risa went to catch up with her very old friend (they were neighbours when they were children), I went and found a quiet park and caught up on MotoGP. And that was about all that we did today. I picked Risa up just before dinner, and returned back to that same free, flat, quiet car park a short walk from the old town – which we’ll go explore tomorrow.
It had felt like an eternity, though I’m sure it was much less than that since we last had a sunny day. Our phones were telling us that it was 2˚C outside, but with the sunshine, it felt much warmer. Still, it didn’t take long for my fingers to become blue and uncomfortable when I took them out of my pockets.
I wasn’t actually all that fussed on visiting Dijon, and had originally thought of just continuing our drive westward this morning. But, I was convinced that it was worth a quick visit – especially since we were already parked but a short walk away.
My first impressions were that it was a city much larger than we’d visited recently. The old town was a bustling with shoppers and filled with all the usual international shopping chains.
A little further exploration brought us to the really nice indoor market, which had some really, really nice fresh produce. I’m always overwhelmed when it comes to buying cheese in France – I mean, how many different varieties of soft-cheese can there be? I know the difference between camembert, brie and reblochon but the others are an overwhelming mystery to me.
It made me feel really happy to see the queues of people buying this fresh produce from the market vendors. I wish I wasn’t so lazy, purchasing my produce in individually wrapped plastic portions from supermarkets.
We walked by some really nice 15th Century buildings, with their usual beautiful wooden facades. Here they looked much more out of place, being surrounded by much more modern (though still very old for an Australian) stone buildings. I particularly loved this one building, with the cat pointing its butt right at the church next door!
The gothic Notre Dame church was much smaller than the ones we’d been seeing recently in Germany. It was also much plainer, missing the excessive spires, and spikes that most of the others have been covered in.
This carried over to the interior, which was much more austere, though as a whole, it felt much, much older. The giant rose windows were beautiful, as usual, though very little light managed to seep inside, keeping the interior hushed in a calm darkness.
We walked through more of the streets, through the mini Arc de Triomphe, and along a boulevard lined with stunning, stunning stone buildings.
But, we’d quickly exhausted things we wanted to see, other than the main cathedral, which was on our walk back to the van. As we approached we heard the bells for noon – and then realised that the church is actually shut from 12-2PM! We were back in the land of things closing at lunchtime.
I had wanted to drive to Versailles today, allowing us to get in early tomorrow morning, prior to the crowds. Thankfully we weren’t leaving Dijon too late, but it was still a rather long drive – and because I don’t like the expensive surprises of the French motorways, we had to take the regular roads.
It had also been a few days since we’d replaced the water/waste in the van, we had to make a bit of a detour to a service area. I love how common they are here in France, with many towns having a dedicated area with free (or cheap) servicing equipment.
It was a nice drive, with beautiful weather. We were passing by expansive stretches of open farmland, interspersed with patches with small hilly forests, still clinging on to the last of their leaves for the year.
The closer we got to Versailles, the thicker the fog became. The towns also started getting more frequent – and larger. The fuel light came on again, and after running out at the petrol station as we were leaving Hungary I was paranoid about letting that happen again. However, the petrol stations were few and far between – the next one on our TomTom wasn’t for another 70km, which would leave us with about 2-3L in the tank! Thankfully we made it, and thankfully they fuel there wasn’t extremely expensive.
Gunter may have been fully fuelled, but I ran out of energy about 90-minutes outside of Versailles and called it a day. We’ll be there by lunch time tomorrow, so not too bad.