Monday, April 27, 2015

La Chouette

Dijon is a medium sized city with a great idea. The center is full of interesting architecture, pedestrian walkways, museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. How best can you encourage visitors to discover what is there?  The treasure is in the collection, not in one stunning spot. 

The solution is a very well marked walking tour called La Chouette.  Embedded in the sidewalk are brass triangles with a little owl (la Chouette) pointing the way. With a city map in hand we spent a drizzly day following the little owls.

We learned that the composer Rameau was born in Dijon as well as the sculptor of one of the statues on the Arc de Triomphe, Francois Rude.

 Dijon is full of medieval buildings. I was especially fascinated by the colored patterns on the roof tiles. They reminded me of quilt patterns in tile. 

The Renaissance also left its mark.

Dijon was important as the capital of Burgundy up until the 15th century when the French kings, especially Louis XI, won the Hundred Years War and dominated the Burgundians thereafter. 

The Musee de Beaux Arts was a great place to get out of the rain. Like the Smithsonian museums in Washington it is free.  Even the lockers returned the euro we had deposited when we returned the key. The most impressive room was the tombs of two of the Dukes of Burgundy.

Of course as we read the fine print, it turned out that these tombs had been damaged by the Revolutionaries of the 18th century. Those revolutionaries were also the ones who smashed the statues at the Cathedral so thoroughly. But the town knew that tourists come for glitter, and these tombs are well gilded. There are also plenty of weapons and armor as well as religious art.

The Burgundians were essentially the losers in the battle to control France. They were allied with the English and made a good effort.  Now they are the capital of spicy mustard and great wine.
They are unquestionably French, but it doesn't hurt to have a Duke or two to pull out to impress the visitors. 

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