Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Porte Guillaume

We are in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, with our friends Merv and Pud and we are, naturally enough, starting by doing the town trail. It is known as the Owl's Trail and the whole thing is described in a nice booklet available from the Tourist Office. The route is marked out by a series of brass owl symbols set into the pavement.

We decided to walk the route from its official starting point, so first we had to walk the length of the main street, rue de la Liberté. We did however spot a nice art deco shopfront. The first landmark we see is the Porte Guillaume above. This triumphal arch was built in the 18th century and was originally set into the town walls. Beyond it lies the Jardin Darcy constructed in 1880 over a reservoir built 40 years before by Henry Darcy.

As you enter the garden there is a replica of a fine statue of a polar bear by Francois Pompon (the original is in the Musée des Beaux Arts). It reminded us of a Fox's Glacier Mint.

We retraced our steps and followed the route past the Hotel de la Cloche and the impressive main Post Office, currently being restored, to reach Place Grangier. Here, at 9 rue du Chateau there is a simply wonderful art nouveau building by Louis Perreau dating from 1906.

Three further buildings by the same architect in a similar style can be found on the opposite corner of the place.

Now we walked along to the covered market of 1873-5. It is a rectangular iron structure with identical entrances in the centre of each side.

From here we headed towards the historic centre and along rue des Forges to see the superb Hotel Aubriot. It dates from the 13th century although the main doorway is later. We loved the Burgundian tiled roof, hopefully the first of many we will see on this holiday.

A left turn at the end brought us to the 13th century church of Notre-Dame. The oblique angle of our approach highlighted the extraordinary west front with its detached arcade. This put us in mind of romanesque cathedrals we have seen in Italy. The celebrated Jacquemart clock can just be made out above the right hand side of the facade. It was brought here in 1382 from Courtrai by Philippe le Hardi (the Bold), the first Valois Duke of Burgundy, after a victory over the Flemish.

A bit further on we come to the exquisite Hotel de Vogüé, a 17th century renaissance mansion. The inner courtyard is a delight.

Soon after this our guidebook offered us a boucle or loop round the Rouseeau area. To be honest it was rather disappointing, but we did see some nice timber-framed houses.

We continued on the main route to pass the Eglise St-Michel with its lively renaissance facade (the interior is gothic) and enter Place du Théatre, dominated by the neoclassical threatre. This is the view past the theatre towards St-Michel. The church on the right is now a library.

Now we turn right to pass behind the Palais des Ducs into the Square des Ducs. We loved this small corner watch tower.

 An archway brought us to the inner court of the Musée des Beaux Arts (which is within the Palais) and a great view of the Tour de Bar (1365) and the 17th century staircase.

We emerged into the Place de la Libération to see the Palais des Dukes head on from the Place de la Libération. The tower in the centre is Tour Philippe le Bon. It is 46m high and was erected in the 15th century. Philippe was the third of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy (preceded by Philippe le Hardi, Jean sans Peur [John the Fearless] and followed by Charles le Teméraire [Charles the Brave]) who ruled during the golden age of Burgundy.

We left by the opposite side of the square and passed the Palais de Justice, designed for the Burgundian Parliament in the 16th century. From here, some quiet streets brought us to the end of the walk at the Cathedral of St-Benigne with its iron flèche and tiled roof.

The most interesting part was the wonderful circular romanesque crypt.

Conditions: very hot - about 30 degrees.

Distance: about 3 miles.

Rating: five stars.

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