Showing posts from November, 2010

All of France in under 12 hours!

22 August

I woke up early on the 22nd - it was a huge day of travel.  I had an 8:00 am train from Dijon to Paris, where I would meet my mom, who was arriving to CDG airport around 10:00 am.  Now I know what you're thinking here.  "But Val, you never said anything about your mom coming on this trip!"  How right you are.  When my friend with whom I planned this trip backed out at the last minute, my mom offered the suggestion that she could come out and join me for a couple of weeks.  Now, I should tell you, my mother is not an impulsive person.  Deciding to come spend three weeks in Europe on just a couple of weeks notice was a huge decision.  But it worked out, and I'm so glad that it did!

Even if my mom hadn't been flying into Paris today, I would have passed through the city because I had planned to take the train from Dijon to Bayonne which, if you look at a map of France, happen to be at opposite ends of the country - so the easiest route was to…

Dijon II

21 August 

After a slow morning in the hotel room getting ready, I headed out around 10 am to begin my second and final day in Dijon.  It was Saturday, which means everyone and their brother heads to the markets.  The main market in Dijon is les Halles, and after having visited a number of cities where I hadn't seen any market to speak of (Strasbourg and Colmar, I'm looking at you), I was excited to find the Halles of Dijon were an excellent spot for my favorite French pastime, soaking in the sights and smells and sounds of a market.

Many of the Halles that I visited around France were impressive structures, and the Dijon Halles were no exception.  The building was designed by a man born in Dijon, maybe you've heard of him - Gustav Eiffel?

Within les Halles were rows upon rows of vendors selling fruits and vegetables, breads and pastries, cheeses and dairy products, fish and shellfish, fresh meats and charcuterie, herbs and spices, even prepared dishes: so much to feast yo…

Dijon I

20 August

The train from Besançon to Dijon was about an hour long.  I had chosen a hotel very near to the train station, so after dropping my luggage in my room, I headed into town to spend the afternoon getting to know the heart of the former duchy of Bourgogne.  In the historic town center, the streets are lined with fluttering ensigns:

I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast except for a couple of peaches picked up in the market in Besançon, but it was still way too early for dinner, so when I passed a Mulot et Petitjean, I had to step inside to ogle the comely comestibles.

There are a few branches of the well-known and well-respected Mulot & Petitjean around Dijon, which was founded in 1796 and today offers all of the Burgundian pastry specialties - most notably, pains d'épices and nonnettes:

Nonnette translates as "little nun;" these are mini spiced buns that taste similar to the region's famous pain d'épices.  They may be described as natures (plain)…


19 August

After breakfast and finishing repacking my bag, I checked out of the Colmar hostel around 10 am.  The typical Alsatian sunny summer weather finally decided to show its face - for the first time since I arrived in Alsace four days earlier, the weather was gorgeous.  I took the bus to the train station, and then hopped on a train to Mulhouse where I had an hour to kill before continuing on to Besançon.  It was around noon, so I stopped in a sit-down restaurant for a pleasant lunch.  I ordered standard French lunch fare, a quiche lorraine:

Lorraine is the région of France immediately to the West of Alsace, and since I was on my way out of Alsace (Mulhouse is at the southern tip of Alsace, while Besançon is in Franche-Comté) I figured this was as close as I was going to be to Lorraine and I ought to try some of their most famous namesake dish.  Ordering a quiche lorraine means that you'll be getting a quiche with bacon in it.  This one had plenty of bacon - more than I would…


17 August

While I generally would prefer to take the train in the morning and have the whole afternoon in a new city, the hostel in Colmar wasn't open for check-in before 5:00 pm, so I didn't leave Strasbourg until about 4:00 pm.  It was a short train ride - just half an hour - to get into Colmar.  After my first luggage fiasco in Aix, I didn't want to take any chances rolling my luggage over any more cobblestones than necessary, so from the train station in Colmar I took a bus to my hostel.  The hostel was about a kilometer outside of town, and it wouldn't let me reserve a room in advance, so I was a little nervous as to whether they would have space... but I needn't have worried.  They had so much space that I was able to spend an extra 5€ per night to have a private room, which brought the grand total to about 19€ per night... sheets not included.  I'm glad I brought my own!

Once I had taken my luggage to the room and familiarized myself a little with a map …