Yes, the French capital Paris has style, fashion, art galleries and museums. These are all recognised as ‘quintessentially Parisian’.
However, I think it is in the French countryside that true joie de vivre exists. And so a week into my Paris adventure, I set off to visit a friend in the medieval town of Dijon.
If you’re thinking of discovering Dijon, here are my top four tips for navigating this charming French town.
1. Travelling around the French countryside
I caught the TGV (high speed) train to Dijon, situated in Eastern France, and only an hour and a half from Paris’s Gare de Lyon. There are multiple options for departure times from both stations. Excellent wheelchair access is available in both stations, and with only a five-minute walk from the station to the Dijon town centre, for me this was a relaxed transport option.
2. Discovering Dijon – where to start
Over 150,000 people live in the capital of the Burgundy region, but despite this, the town centre still retains the charm of a small French village. Perhaps it is testament to Dijon itself that so many people choose to call it home – it certainly has more to see and do than it might seem at first glance.
A visit to a Dijon tourist website and tourist information office in the town is recommended, particularly if you only have a day trip set aside. Make it a long day! I was fortunate to have my friend on hand to show me some of the sights, but most visitors will benefit from a map and information booklet.
3. A French trail of discovery in Dijon
After lunch with my friend at one of the many cafes, I wandered off to explore the streets of this unfamiliar French city alone. Armed with my map of Dijon, I followed part of the 22 stop ‘Owl’s Trail’ (La Chouette) to give me the opportunity to discover the history of Dijon. The little owl figures stamped into the path identify the place of interest on the map.
At the journey’s end, an owl carving on Notre Dame can be touched as you say a wish. The owl was too high for me to reach in my wheelchair but I respect that not everything is wheelchair accessible (particularly not in medieval times!) and I know that the owl heard my whispered wish.
4. A French essential: Market Day!
Without a doubt, the markets in France are one of my favourite things. They are always wheelchair accessible and a go-to for me, so I was thrilled to find them while I was discovering Dijon. Colourful and set against picturesque backdrops, they are host to many sights and sounds – anything from a line of roasting chickens, to handmade clothing galore, and of course les fromages!
In Dijon, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, their market fills the streets with gaiety and French voices alongside smatterings of accents from other countries.
I left my friend in Dijon and caught the train back to Paris. The day had been tiring, but that was thanks to there being so much to see and experience!
Have you travelled by train out of Paris to a country town? Join the conversation by adding your stories in the comment box below.
1. Dijon Rue vieille by pontauxchats, via Wikimedia Commons.
2. Place Francois Rude Dijon by Arnaud25, via Wikimedia Commons.
3. Dijon Eglise Notre Dame de Dijon by StéphaneMarie, via Wikimedia Commons.