Weekend in Dijon (France)
I have a new favourite city! Have you visited Dijon? If you have, you will understand why I love it so much! As well as being full of beautiful architecture, there is plenty to do and one of the biggest selling points for me…the wide variety of gourmet goodies available.
We arrived on Saturday morning and met our tour guide Marie-Christine at the hotel La Cloche where we were staying.
The hotel is ideally situated in the middle of the city so we set off on foot to begin our gourmet tour. We walked through the bustling braderie taking in the sights as we went. Marie-Christine pointed out things there children might be interested along the way and soon we were at our first stop which is the gorgeous Mulot & Petitjean shop. This shop which specialises in pain d’épices (the famous Dijonnaise spiced bread) dates back to 1796 and the interior is just exquisite. I absolutely love this kind of boutique and it’s full of delicious treats including sweet and savoury breads, sweets and delicious nonnettes (these are small lightly glazed cakes of spiced bread filled with jam and they are amazing). We bought some things for the family and as soon as we were outside the children were clamouring to open the packets :-).
We continued our walk while Marie-Christine pointed out some more wonderful delicacies, before we came to a shop selling cassis. We love cassis and this makes a nice souvenir to take home. We also past a shop which sells products containing truffle which was full of lovely things, before we came to a highly impressive mustard shop Edmond Fallot. With dozens different varieties of mustard available, it makes it very difficult to choose. It’s really a must-see for mustard connaisseurs. We decided to try a selection pack and some of their classic recipe but later went back again to buy even more!
Of course, we could not miss seeing and touching the lucky charm of the city. The Owl of Dijon which is nestled on a buttress of Notre-Dame has become a lucky charm for passers-by who caress it with the left hand, the hand of the heart. To be sure you don't miss it, just follow the bronze arrows you will find among the cobblestones in the area.
It was also lovely to discover the halles de Dijon. Inspired by plans proposed by the Eiffel company (rings a bell?) in 1868, they were built from 1873 to 1875. For lovers of fresh produce, this is the place to be in Dijon and is filled with a huge range of different cuisines. A real feast for the senses.
The end of our tour led us to the restaurant where we would have lunch. The Café Gourmand is located in a lovely crescent of restaurants facing the Palais des Ducs with water feature in the middle. It’s a busy spot with plenty of people around. We were given a fabulous table inside with the doors open giving us the feel of being outdoors and we were soon deliberating over the menu. There are so many delicious things to choose from, it took us a while. Jean and I tried some snails and a salad, while the children chose burgers and they even prepared a lovely puree for Elio. The food was really good, the service fantastic, and we enjoyed dessert before setting off again.
Next stop was the hotel to check-in and drop our bags of foodie purchases. The hotel is lovely. Really smart and modern, and the location is perfect. We were given two interconnecting rooms which gave us plenty of space and they added an extra bed for Elio in one which was perfect. The rooms are nicely decorated with everything we needed (including some little boxes of chocolates!) and the children were each given a little bear (Elio is very keen on his). Each room also had a little balcony with city view which was great for people watching.
The next activity on the agenda was a trip to the jardin des sciences & biodiversité which was a short walk from the hotel. This is a really fun place for the children and a great place to learn. The gardens are a centre for biodiversity with influence that reaches throughout the city, there is also a planetarium which was sadly closed when we visited, a playground for the children and beautiful cultivated flower beds to stroll around. It’s a lovely spot and it’s hard to believe it’s so close to the heart of the city. Before leaving we stopped at the museum which is free to visit and contains lots if interesting exhibits (Jude was in awe of the tiger).
I was really feeling tired by this point so Jean and his friend Jerome (who lives in Dijon) took the children for a drink while I went to lie down for half an hour. After that it was time to get changed for dinner.
Again, here we organised a babysitter for Elio to try and stick to his routine so we fed him and put him into bed before heading out with Jude and Alba. Our dinner spot was L'Epicerie and we were given a nice table in the middle of the square. The place Emile Zola is full of restaurants and was buzzing with people in the early evening. It was so nice to see life going on around us. I took the set menu which included some delicious parsley ham, boeuf Bourguignon and poached pears so I was able to try more of the regions specialities. Alba had a really nice pasta dish and Jude, Jean and Jerome had delicious steaks. There was a lovely atmosphere with gentle lighting and good service. We strolled back to our hotel and we’re soon tucked up in bed.
The next morning we opted to eat breakfast in our room which is slightly easier for Elio, then we got our cycling gear on for the next activity.
Jerome joined us again and we set off for the vineyard of Marsannay where we were meeting our tour guide for the wine tasting tour by bike. Our guide, Cedric from Active Tours was wonderful and put us all at ease immediately. The tour is on electric bikes and Jean and Jerome were pulling trailers for the children, leaving me to ride solo.
I have to say that this tour is one of my favourite activities since we began the blog. We were blessed with warm weather and a gentle breeze, great company and gorgeous scenery. Cedric is extremely knowledgable and I learned so much about the production and classification of wine produced in the area, all injected with good humour and interesting anecdotes. The destination for our tour was Cave de Vougeot where we were invited to discover their incredible caves. It’s an impressive place with great lighting and the children really enjoyed exploring. Next up was the all important wine tasting which we really enjoyed and we decided to buy a couple of bottles to take home with us.
With our precious cargo (and the children haha) stashed away, we were soon back in the saddle and heading back to our departure point. We had all found our confidence by then and ramped up the speed (mainly motivated by the children’s demands to overtake each other) and all too soon we were back where we began to find Elio cuddled up against his brother in the back of the trailer. He actually seemed to enjoy the ride which was a great surprise for us - Jude said he even fell asleep at one point.
We finished our weekend at the Brasserie des Beaux-Arts and we enjoyed their set menu on their sunny terrasse before heading home. The food here was really good and we enjoyed melon and jambon cru, a delicious pork fillet and raspberry tiramisu. They also prepared a special puree for Elio which he gobbled back in no time. We really appreciate this kind of attention and knowing he can eat well while we are out and about makes excursions with our little man so much easier.
See what I mean? Dijon is a wonderful place and we would go back there in a heartbeat. The city is a bustling blend of culture, shops and restaurants yet minutes away and you can enjoy the magical scenery of the many vineyards, gorgeous villages and rolling hills. Whats not to love!
Office de Tourisme de Dijon Métropole
11 rue des Forges - 21000 Dijon Tél. +33 (0)3 80 44 11 44