Mike and I spent a few very enjoyable days visiting Dijon, the capital of Burgundy. No we didn’t buy any of the world famous Dijon mustard as I hate all mustards. We did drink some wine and bought a bottle that was less expensive than even a glass of wine in a restaurant which is already very inexpensive. I wanted to see what cheap Bordeaux bought in France tasted like. We haven’t opened it yet as our guests and neighbours keep bringing us wine. If you are wondering we paid 3.50€ which is less than $5 Cdn for the bottle and at that price we had lots of selection.
The picture above is of the 15th century Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. It is on the very nice, very large Place de la Libération. On a side street was a tourist office, small chapel and a museum. I didn’t realize, even though we visited all three, that they were actually in a portion of the Palace. It really is large.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, in the ducal palace, opened in 1787. It is one of the main and oldest museums in France and there is NO entrance fee. It is completely free to visit the main exhibits. This really encourages you to just drop in for a quick look at something specific that you might be interested in. Even if the entrance fee had been really low, it wouldn’t make me stop in just because I was walking by, especially knowing that Fine Arts museums aren’t Mike’s favourite places these days. Because it was free, I said to Mike that I just wanted to run in and have a quick look at their main exhibit rooms of statues. Well, we never found the room of statues that I had seen a picture of and, of course, we spent more time than anticipated wandering around. We discovered this room with two caskets on display, for which it turns out the museum is justifiably very well-known. The caskets are the final resting places for two of the four Dukes of Burgundy. The carvings and art work on the caskets was exquisite.
I have come to the conclusion that almost every town in France has a church called Notre-Dame. This picture is Notre-Dame de Dijon, a medieval masterpiece. It was built in the 1200s on a small piece of land. The architect had to use many new techniques to try and maximum the size of the church and the space inside. If you look at picture you can see three rows of gargoyles which is unusual. The fifty-one gargoyles are only decorative today. That is to say, when it rains they do not spout water on the heads of the people below. They were added in the 1880s when the church was restored to replace ones removed much earlier. The original facade had many such gargoyles of monsters and men, but local legend states they were all (but one) removed by the friends of a money lender, who was killed by a falling stone gargoyle on his wedding day.
The centre portal that you can see in the picture used to have all sorts of statues carved around the top of it. During the French Revolution, which was anti-church, a pharmacist came to Notre-Dame every night after work for four or five months with a hammer and demolished nearly every single statue. After the revolution the pharmacist was given a reward for his “good works”.
The church side wall also contains a small statue of an owl, now the symbol of the city, and said to have magical powers. Find it on the left side of the cathedral and touch it with your left hand to make a wish come true! Mike figured it was a good way to spread viruses. The town has installed owl symbols in the ground that you can follow to discover many of Dijon’s historical heritage sites. We have seen this before. It is an interesting concept. Some of the other cities have gone a step further and added the audio about these sites into an app on your phone that you can listen to when you are walking. That is much easier than trying to read and walk.
This looks a little like Paris but it isn’t. The Guillaume gate is a monument in Dijon dating from the 18th century. It is also known as L’arc de triomphe de Dijon. For a while during the French revolution the gate took the name of Arc de la Liberté.
After Dijon we headed south, continuing towards Avignon and then Marseille as we look for somewhere to store our camper for the winter. France has a lot of toll roads and many of the toll booths are extremely narrow. The cement barriers are often badly scraped or broken from other vehicles that didn’t make it through unscathed. I have no idea how Mike manages with our extra wide RV. I swear I close my eyes as he inches through.
I was originally going to start this article wishing my husband a Happy 46th Anniversary but, as you can see, I decided that starting with Dijon was a better idea. I was slow getting around to writing this and October 22 was an AWFUL day anyway. We were staying in an area with very poor internet. It took me a good two hours (starting at midnight) to pick an online card and send it to my husband due to internet problems. I wanted a card that played the Viennese Waltz which is a dance we very much enjoy. Instead the card ended up with Auld Lang Syne. Not a great success. The next morning, the cell phone reception was so bad that Mike couldn’t even get the card open and when he finally did, he had no idea what the music was because he couldn’t hear it properly. So much for the start of the day. While I was still in my pyjamas, Mike discovered that we had no water. Now we knew that we had at least half a tank so that meant that it was the pump that wasn’t working. Mike went outside, played around and we got water – for 5 minutes! I got on the internet looking into how we could replace this specific American water pump in France while Mike went back outside and wiggled some more wires. The taps and toilet then worked for longer than 5 minutes.
[UPDATE: It is now a week later and even wiggling the wires has stopped helping a lot of the time. Mike has come to the conclusion that the problem is a micro switch which opens when the water pressure reaches a set pressure of 55 psi and closes when the water pressure reaches 45 psi to restart the pump. This switch costs about $2.00. We are staying at a camping place that is all automatic with no people or reception so we can’t have anything delivered here. I found one of these switches on the internet that said they had quick delivery but we had no address to give them. We went to the post office in the local village and they said that we could send it to them. This was late on a Friday. We discovered that the following Tuesday is a holiday in France and the post office closes at noon on Saturday and won’t reopen until Thursday. That means that for the next week the only way that we can get water is if one of us goes outside and holds two wires together when the tap is open and releases the wire when the tap inside is closed. If the wires stay connected Mike says that we will damage the pump itself because the motor will stall if it tries to pump at pressures much higher than 55 psi. By Friday night I had to have a shower and wash my hair, you would have laughed. I had the bathroom window open, Mike sat outside, I would call out when I needed water and he would hold the wires together. I would call out when I turned the tap off and he would release the wires. We couldn’t keep the water running as our hot water would quickly disappear. Mike and I kept up this calling back and forth for my entire shower. He is great. The next morning Mike had invented a new technique so that I didn’t have to hold the wires for him. From inside the RV we can turn the water pump on as long as one of the taps is fully open, as soon as we close the taps the water pump switch has to be immediately turned off. This isn’t great but it is a definite improvement. Not only that, but we don’t need to keep explaining to other campers why Mike needs to sit outside holding two wires together. Hopefully, when the post office reopens next Thursday we will have a new micro switch. By the way, this $2.00 switch is costing us almost $50 with expedited delivery etc.]
Back to our anniversary. After problems with the card and then no water we finally got away for our bike ride. We had about 25 km left to ride to get back to our camper when my bike starting acting very strange. I stopped quickly and Mike discovered that a major bolt was missing and then found out that the bike was actually coming apart at a weld spot. There was no way it could be ridden. Mike took off on his bike to get back to the camper and get our car. We were on a long bike trail along the river that cars had no access to. I walked the bike somewhere between 5 and 10 km and eventually got off the bike path and came to a small bar that was open, where I could sit and wait for Mike. It was 26°C or 79°F and it was a very hot pushing the bicycle that far. The good news was I got to this bar about 2 minutes before Mike arrived with the car. At least I had time to order a drink and Mike had to wait for me to slowly finish it. It took me as long to walk and push the bike as it took him to ride 25 km, tie up his bike, get in the car and drive back to me with a wrong turn enroute.
As anniversaries go, not a great day. Since then we have spent a lot of time visiting ebike stores and welders trying to find someone who can fix my bike. It is very tricky because all the cables for the motor and rear brakes etc. run through the portion of the frame that needs welding. Not only that but the bike frame is aluminum and that means that the welder will need some specialized skills because it is much harder to weld aluminum than steel. I am also very concerned that even once it was welded it won’t ride straight. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Since I was without a bike for an unknown length of time, Mike decided that he needed to ride and wanted to test himself. He drove to the nearest train station and took the train 120 km (75 miles) north. He then cycled back on his own to the car. All together this took over 11 hours with almost 7 hours spent actually sitting on the bike seat pedaling. I was concerned because if anything happened and he needed rescuing (which has happened before) I had no way to help. I had no car and no bicycle. For my family at home. This is a longer distance than riding from Port Credit, where we live, to our old university in Waterloo and further than Port Perry. It is more than ½ the way to the cottage. 120 km is a LONG way. Mike got home tired and with a bit of a sore seat but all in all was in much better shape than either he or I expected. He was fine the next day.
Even with bad days, we are still thoroughly enjoying our time in Europe. A couple of our friends are currently on a 6 week cruise around the Mediterranean. After visiting multiple European towns for the first time, they sent us an email and said that they now understand how we can really be enjoying our time over here and why we keep extending it.
One day when we were out driving we unexpectedly came upon this quaint small town and this chateau. We had lunch at the chateau with no-one else around which was a strange feeling except that it gave us time to try and talk with the people working there. We paid a small amount to tour the grounds and part of the interior as the owners still live there. The same family has owned the chateau for 26 generations. The building on the right is the chateau’s equivalent of a laundry room. One floor was for washing clothes, one floor was for drying them, a third floor was for ironing and an attached room was for the seamstresses.
I am not sure how well you can see the side of the chateau in the small picture here. We wanted to show you how you can actually see the different eras where various portions of the chateau were built and rebuilt. The original chateau was built in the 13th century, more work was done and parts added in the 16th century. The stables and main building were rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is interesting to see one building with obvious age differences.
Now I told you about our water problems and bike problems. I might as well wrap this up with our final woes. This hasn’t been a great week. Mike and I have been talking about whether or not it was worth paying to ship our car home when we do return to Canada. The car is over 10 years old and has more than 160,000 km (100,000 miles) and that doesn’t count the 60,000 km that it has been towed behind the RV. The good thing about the car is that it has been modified and is great to tow with all four wheels on the ground. This isn’t a common capability in automatic cars. Mike has been concerned about a noise that was coming from the driver’s front wheel. The car is a Ford Lincoln which is a model that Ford doesn’t sell in Europe. Mike took the car to a Ford dealer who would not believe that our Lincoln was a Ford and refused to work on it. Eventually Mike found a shop that works on classic American cars and they agreed to look at it. As you can see, the cars in the shop are all worth much more than our old Lincoln but we do need it fixed. The repair is going to cost us almost $5,000 Cdn. The car isn’t worth anything near that amount of money but we cannot survive traveling in our RV without it. The owner of the repair shop said that it would take two weeks for the parts to be sent from the US. After we paid for them, we were told that the last two week estimate he was given actually took over a month. If it takes that long, we may be flying back to Canada and have to have the shop hold the parts until next spring. Since we have already paid for them, we really hope that they are still in business.
And oh yes, the dryer portion of our washer/dryer no longer works most of the time and I won’t bother telling you about the filter that we can’t get out of our fridge where it has been stuck solid all year.
With all this, I wish my husband a very happy 46th anniversary and hope we have many more. We are healthy, having a great time, living a super life and everything else can be fixed or lived with.