Yesterday, Saturday, was laundry day – no choice! – but, happily, the laundrette was located next to the marvellous covered market so we had better things to do than watch our undies spinning around. I bought fresh fruit – apricots, strawberries, cherries and raspberries and I was given a bonus peach. If I had a fridge and I was able to cook, I could have really gone to town. There was a large variety of cheeses, as you would expect, bread, fresh fish and seafood of every kind, vegetables including the fat white asparagus which is currently in season (having tried it, I prefer the green), and bunches of the little pink and white radishes, which I love. There was a queue for unpasteurised milk & cheese and one butcher had an extensive selection of cuts of horse meat. The meat is very dark, almost black. The stalls outside the covered market offered the usual bric-a-brac, books, clothes etc.
Domestic duties complete, we went for a drive along the River Ouche and the Burgundy Canal, to Pont-de-Pany where we had lunch under the plane trees and continued through the gorgeous, wooded countryside of Auxois, which is dotted with tiny villages.
We returned via Nuits-Saint-George and had a drink on the terrace of the Chateau de Gilly, which now operates as a 5* hotel. Must stay there the next time we come to France!!
Happily, we were back in time to visit Notre-Dame de Dijon, where people have been praying for over ten centuries. The present gothic construction, built between 1220 & 1240, replaced a chapel founded in the middle of the 11th century, called Notre-Dame du Marche (Our Lady of the Market). Sections of the facade of the church were destroyed by revolutionaries. Legend has it that the reason there are just a few gargoyles left from the 13th century, is that a moneylender who had come to get married was crushed by one of the gargoyles falling from the facade and his colleagues had them taken down. In the 1800’s seven sculptors created new, false, gargoyles. The lovely thing about this cathedral was that there was a service in progress when we visited and the mass was sung. I am not a Roman Catholic so was not familiar with the words but it was a wonderful experience to be there. Afterwards we wandered around town (it was still very hot) and watched the children enjoying the water in the Place de La Liberation. Fruit for dinner – couldn’t be bothered going out again.
Later: We drove from Dijon to Verdun, via Toul and Commercy. The Cathedrale St.-Etienne in Toul is very impressive and has some beautiful stained glass, but it is cold and cavernous and, to me, it lacked feeling. It has just become a monument. Near Commercy is La Boîte de Madeleines, and I was looking forward to a freshly baked madeleine with a nice coffee but what we found was a glamourised factory outlet with hot drinks from push-button machines. We ate our free cake and left! It was not what I had in mind at all. We drove through some very pretty countryside to reach Verdun, where we will spend one night before heading to Reims where we will meet our friend Richard. I am looking forward to visiting the cathedral.
We met an American lady this evening, in France for 8 days, with her 88 yr-old mother. The mother was an army wife and her husband was based in Verdun for some years and the daughter was born here. They are a pretty intrepid pair as they are travelling with a wheelchair and they have no French!