Zagan the motorhome is parked up outside, and also inside, Camping du Lac on the outskirts of Dijon (N47.321484, E5.011215). The clever campsite owners have realised that not everyone wants the facilities of a campsite, so they have built an aire at the entrance to their site. As we’re now into high season in France, staying in the campsite for one night would have cost us €22.75. The aire is costing us €12.70, including service point, electricity and WiFi. Great value for a secure location about a 2km bus, walk or cycle journey from the centre of Dijon.
Back in Seyssel we crossed the Rhone river over into, err, Seyssel. It’s one of very few instances in France where neighbouring departments have towns of the same name right next to each other. In the past however, we would have been leaving France as we crossed the bridge, as the river was once the diving line between France and the Duchy of Savoie. The duchy was ceded by its princes to France in 1860 in exchange for military aid against the empire of Austria during the Second Italian War of Independence. As we crossed the bridge a sign post directed you to the two different post offices and administration buildings for the two departments in this, sort of one town.
On the look out for a bite to eat, we wandered through the aftermath of a big party. The Tour de France had come right through the middle of the town, and that is something that gets celebrated. We finally found somewhere open and sat down only for a very surprised looking waiter to ask what we wanted. ‘Le menu du jour?’ Jay said pointing at the blackboard, ‘non, c’est fini.’ said the waiter. With not much else to do, we stopped at the boulangerie for a couple of cakes worthy of a heart attack, before heading back to Zagan to devour them as the skies grew dark, the rain poured down and the air was filled with thunder.
The next morning we set off on a big drive, well a big drive for us, towards Dijon. Our first stop was a Carrefour supermarket to pick up a free ‘bag for life’ using a voucher that was thrown out from the caravan of the Tour de France. There was only one left, so I happy took ownership of it, along with a corkscrew as we’ve almost drunk all of our boxes of wine. Then we wound our way through pretty little towns and villages for a couple of hours.
Stopping off to fill up with fuel at a supermarket, always the cheapest places to fill up in France, I spotted a laundry in the supermarket car park. So we stopped for a spot of lunch, watching our dirty clothes spin around in the machines behind us as we ate – not something you can do everywhere!
Another stop at a free service point along our route, had us ready and able to stop anywhere for a night or two if we spotted a nice place. However as we drove along listening to comedy podcasts from the BBC to help the time pass, we were both keen to get some way across the country as it was a dull day. We opted to stop a few kilometres outside Dijon in a free aire for the night in the village of Marsannay La Cote (N47.27152, E4.99194). Unbeknown to us, we were now in the UNESCO World Heritage site that is the vineyards of Burgundy.
We went for a wander around the village in the hope of a meal out, but the restaurants were all closed – we seem to have our timings all wrong. Nipping into the tourist office, I grabbed all the leaflets I could find in English about Dijon and after exploring the rest of the village, which took five minutes, we once again ate in Zagan as the rain fell.
This morning, after a feast of a breakfast (sausages and croquettes) because we forgot to change the fridge onto gas and everything in the freezer had started to defrost, we drove the short distance into Dijon. We parked up in the aire and took Charlie for a walk to tire him out. With intermittent rain showers the temperature has dropped, so we knew he would be OK catching up on some sleep in Zagan. The wee man’s legs certainly wouldn’t have managed the lovely two kilometre walk along the river into the city.
We spent a lovely couple of hours walking around the pedestrianised heart of the city. We can’t remember the last time we were in a big city, or one that we liked as much. Sadly the huge market hall was closed as it was the afternoon, so instead of buying some tasty treats in there, we finally got to have our meal out.
We ventured into a couple of churches, something we’d stopped doing a while back as we have seen so many we’d got a bit tired of them, to be pleasantly surprised. One had huge great paintings hung on the walls, and being free to look around was a lot cheaper than the nearby art museum.
Of course, we couldn’t come to Dijon without trying some of the local produce. So with the money we saved from being in the aire instead of the campsite, we picked up a Dijon spice cake (basically an expensive gingerbread cake), and visited a couple of the Moutarde houses.
Around here mustard comes in many, many different flavours. We picked up several little pots from the Fallot house close to Notre Dame, both here and in Maille you could buy your mustard straight from the pump.
After several rain showers and a broken umbrella, it was time to head back to the aire. We really enjoyed Dijon with its higgledy-piggledy buildings and grand palaces. The were loads of shops, other than mustard ones, and the whole place felt very affluent. Being easily accessible to us means that in our eyes, yes Dijon did cut the mustard!
It’s now time to plan a route out of France as it’s National (Bastille) day on Friday. The fireworks have already started so Charlie has retreated to the driver’s footwell and is demanding to be removed from the country before it all goes off. So, while we would love to find a huge party to enjoy, sadly it is not to be this year – but he’s worth it.