Over the last few weeks we put in a concerted effort to tick things off our list for Paris, so we ended up visiting some of the city’s interesting museums. And as a result I’ve learnt so much about French (and European) history that it’s made me see it all in a very different light. More positive in some ways, more negative in other ways, and perhaps more in-depth in terms of my overall understanding.
But funnily enough, what made me realise how I felt about Paris was seeing the latest Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. The main character is a writer who wants to live in Paris – sound familiar? – and it’s set mostly on the Left Bank, which is the area I’ve been living in and spending most of my time. Without giving too much away, it involves a little time travel and bringing to life what the city was like a century ago. I’m glad that I waited to see it because the film was a love song to Paris that I probably wouldn’t have fully understood at the start of my adventure. After we saw the film, Josh and I went for a walk in the Left Bank and I was on a real high that all of this history and beauty was laid out in front of me. I liked Paris now more than ever before but…love? Maybe.
And then we took a trip back in time. Paris is crowded by the past but going to Dijon this week was like taking a step back into the Middle Ages, walking along the cobbled streets in the shadow of historical buildings. The city seems like a popular place for French tourists as a jumping off point for Burgundy, with its endless vineyards and wineries.
The only thing I knew about Dijon before we got there was its famous mustards. Also, when we were trying to work out where we wanted to travel in France, it had come up because it was close to one of the country’s key wine regions. As it turned out, Dijon is a very charming and well-to-do town in itself and the days we were there were hot and sunny, so it felt very summery. I really felt the constraints of living in a big city once we hit Dijon, because everyone was so friendly compared to Paris, and we were easily able to hop on bikes and meander around the back streets.
A daytrip to nearby Beaune was a further step back in time, another medieval town that had kept large chunks of the ancient wall surrounding it. The old town centre was so small that we could walk the length of it in half an hour.
Most of our visit was centred on the must-see Hotel-Dieu de Beaune, which was a medieval hospital par excellence, and the wine cellars of Patriarche, which are housed in a building that was a nunnery sold off after the French Revolution. We walked through a kilometre of underground wine caves before indulging in some unsupervised wine tasting at the end, drinking wine and champagne from more than a dozen bottles.
From Dijon, we caught the overnight train to Rome and I really didn’t really know what to expect. But I’m completely awed just walking along the streets, looking at the crumbling facades and ancient monuments on every other corner. So I woke up yesterday to find myself in another time altogether.