Friday, 18 July 2014

The Italian Job: Dijon

There’s no doubt about it, travelling this way is tiring.  And we suffered for it the next day, with the boys surfacing at around 10.00am – unheard of at home.  And so consequently we missed breakfast, which was not included in the room fee, and so we entered Dijon absolutely famished and heading for the first car park that we could find.  There was a scraping noise as the car went down a steep ramp to the underground parking that was Parking Darcy.  G looked a bit concerned, whilst the rest of us concentrated on finding a space in the packed car park.  As we got out of the car, the boys all knelt, peering into the darkness under the vehicle.  There was a piece of the undercarriage hanging low, through which flowed a liquid on to the concrete floor.

Pandemonium and panic ensued.  G panicked that it was terminal, the boys panicked that the car was falling apart. I wandered how on earth we were going to eat.  I don’t profess to know much about cars, but having been brought up in Africa, where pretty much any vehicle is held together on a wing and a prayer, I was not unduly concerned.  I suggested that G put his finger in the puddle and look and sniff.  It wasn’t oil, diesel or brake fluid.  It was water.  It made sense that because it was so hot, the air conditioning had been working overtime.  And on that diagnosis, the pouring liquid stopped abruptly.

We had a Lonely Planet and some advice from the internet. Of course Dijon is famous for its mustard, and we were sad to see that the mustard factory tour had closed down – we had no idea why. We decided that the Owl Tour seemed to fit our style of ambling around, with the benefit of being free (with the exception of 2.50ϵ for the guide book from the Tourist Information Centre). 

The Owl is a lucky symbol in Dijon, and built into the pavements are tiny brass owls which one follows, and which point out the places of interest. The tour itself takes about an hour to do, unless you are us, and meander up and down, in and out of mustard shops and little interesting side streets. 

The owl symbols in the tarmac that the boys ran ahead to spot

The boys were on the hunt for food, and soon we came across the Maison Millière, a house steeped in history and built in 1483 – and now a renowned restaurant. We went in, were seated by a young man who spoke fluent English and who nevertheless understood our attempts at French.  We decided on the Menu du jour, and Little Man’s children’s menu was served at the same time as our entrees, and he had his dessert when we had our mains.  The restaurant itself was set outside in a quaint old courtyard, replete with elegant French women sipping glasses of crisp white wine and with wall paintings of the French countryside which would have done a Hollywood set painter proud.
Maison Milliere with its painted walls

Mustard mustard everywhere
So well fed and watered, we ambled through some of the finest architecture that we have seen, and taking in some fine sights such as the Hotel de Vogue, Jardin Darcy, the Palais de Justice and the cathedral at Saint- Bénigne.  It was very hot, and several stops were required to stock up on l’eau and les glaces. The boys were delighted to reach the Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne.  This was not because of the enormous tower of Philippe Le Bon which stood at 46m above the town, or the Palais des Etats with its host of red white and blue flags and the proud words Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité above the enormous door.  No, it was the Place de la Libération with its three linear ground level fountain displays, amongst which the local kids ran squealing and shrieking in the sunshine.

Fun in the sun
Within no time, G and I watched as our kids joined in, forgetting their shyness as they joined in the splashing and shouting and getting totally drenched much to the amusement of the people in the nearby cafes.

Nodding Queen
Those who know me, or who are regular readers of the blog, will know that for a year or so I have been battling with an Achilles Tendon problem, and indeed, by the end of the day, my foot was tender and swollen and in need of icing.  Stopping off en route at a leClerc near the Hotel Armony, G used his initiative, and came back with a bag of frozen peas.  I would give any money to have seen the puzzled face of the chamber maid after we had checked out the next day…

Dinner that evening was in a family friendly French chain of restaurants known as Hippopotamus.  The boys were slightly disappointed that hippo was not on the menu, but they were delighted with their steaks, and I with my Hippopotamus Colada cocktail. Walking back across a dual carriageway proved an exciting end to the evening, and I was glad that I had only stuck to the one!

The next morning we were all up early enough to make check out.  We sat in the car and Garmin sprung into life.  She sounded perky as we typed in the address in Milan.  The boys settled down, and I got out the Italian phrase book.  As we whizzed along the toll roads with their magnificent mountain views and the glaciers of Mont Blanc, all we could hear were the kids rolling their ‘r’s and stressing their ‘e’s with Latin drama ‘Per favorrrrrre’ and ‘Grazieeee Milleeeee’.

9 or 10 tunnels, 15 bottles of water, 2 boxes of tracker bars, 1 bar of melted chocolate, 5 tangerines and 4 hours later we reached the border.

La famiglia Morrisoni had arrived in Italy.