Back in 2008 I spent New Year’s Eve with my siblings in Dijon, France. It was my first trip abroad ever and I went alone. Before coming home, we all went on a trip to Paris for the weekend. I loved it!
Trip to Bordeaux
Facts about the city:
Bordeaux is the world’s major wine industry capital. It is home to the world’s main wine fair, Vinexpo, and the wine economy in the metro area takes 14.5 billion euros each year
This was my first great trip abroad if we don’t count a few small trips to Spain (Vigo and Santiago de Compostela). The trip was not by plane but by car, in a typical emigrants family experience. I went with my nephew Stephane and my sister Isabel’s husband.
I always get sick in a car and I was very surprised to get to Dijon without vomiting. But worse, I only ate cereal bars during the trip and I was really feeling bad in a different way. Before arriving in Dijon, we made a quick stop in Bordeaux, to visit a brother of mine who lives there.
Trip to Dijon
Facts about the city:
Dijon is famous for Dijon mustard which originated in 1856, when Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic “green” juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for vinegar in the traditional mustard recipe.
This was a journey that took me to my father’s life story and past. My father had 9 children from his first marriage and moved to France, like many Portuguese, in the sixties, in search of a better life. My father lived in Dijon for 18 years. In the meantime he became a widow, returned to Portugal, met my mother and they had me.
My siblings still live in France (and are a lot older than me), so we were never very close. I only saw them for a few days in summer, when they went to Portugal. However, in 2008 they invited me to go to France and spend Christmas with them. I remember that by then our father was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, because I remember buying the flight at a travel agency and needing my parents’ signature to travel since I was still a minor, and he could not sign his name (they had to stamp his fingerprint).
I remember staying at my sister Isabel’s house and then visiting everyone. I saw old family photos, I went bowling with the family, etc.
I remember loving Dijon and its countless churches, like St. Philibert, St. Michel, or Dijon Cathedral, dedicated to the apocryphal Saint Benignus, the crypt of which is over 1,000 years old.
Among the more popular sights is the Palais des Ducs et des États de Bourgogne, which includes one of only a few remaining examples of Capetian period architecture in the region. The square in front of this palace is really beautiful. I also visited Lac Kir, which is a lake close to my sister’s place, and Porte Guillaume, a triumph arch in Place Darcy, where my father used to work.
I also went to the Church of Notre Dame, which is famous for both its art and architecture. Popular legend has it that one of its stone relief sculptures, an owl is a good-luck charm: visitors to the church touch the owl with their left hands to make a wish. On my way there, I passed in front of Grand Théâtre de Dijon.
Dijon is home to many museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon in part of the Ducal Palace. It contains, among other things, ducal kitchens dating back to the mid-15th century, and a substantial collection of primarily European art, from Roman times through the present.
I stayed in Dijon for new year’s eve, in a large warehouse where we spent the whole night eating and dancing, as a family.
Trip to Paris
Facts about the city:
There are 1,803 monuments, 173 museums, and also 450 parks and gardens in the city.
There are on average 10 film or commercial shoots in the streets of Paris each day.
There are at least three replicas of the Statue of Liberty in Paris. The most famous of them exists on an island in the middle of the Seine and looks towards her sister statue in New York.
After new year’s even, we went on a short trip to Paris for two days, before returning home. We went to Paris by car: my sister Zeza, my brother Manel, his wife, his son (my lovely nephew Maxime), Isabel’s eldest son (Phillipe) and I. We stayed at a small two star hotel called Cécil Hôtel.
This trip to Paris was memorable! I remember walking up to the Eiffel Tower at night. The view from up there is really stunning! It was very cold but for those who had never traveled before, like me, visiting the Eiffel Tower was a remarkable moment. The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champ de Mars. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, who built the tower.
Constructed from 1887–89 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world.
The tower is 324 meters tall. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. The top level’s upper platform is 276 m above the ground – the highest observation deck accessible to the public in the European Union.
We then strolled down the Champs Elysées where we saw all the luxury shops. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an avenue 1.9 km long. It is known for its theaters, cafés, and luxury shops, for the annual Bastille Day military parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France cycle race. It is one of the most famous streets in the world.
A trip to Paris cannot be complete without visiting the Arc de Triomphe. This arch stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l’Étoile — the étoile or “star” of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues. The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
The next day we took a boat cruise on the river Seine. I loved seeing those beautiful bridges and the Notre Dame Cathedral! The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in the Catholic Church in France, and in the world. The cathedral treasury contains a reliquary, which houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics, including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.
We visited a wax museum called Musee Grevin. Very interesting! It contains 450 characters arranged in scenes from the history of France and modern life, bloody scenes of the French Revolution, movie stars, and international figures such as Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Shah Rukh Khan, and Pope John Paul II. New wax characters are regularly added to the Museum. Figures include Zinedine Zidane, Monica Bellucci, Isabelle Adjani and Nolwenn Leroy.
After this fantastic trip to Paris, I returned home. I remember being scared, because it was the first time I was going to be on a plane, and I was going to do it alone, not knowing where to go at the airport and not knowing how to speak French. But it all went well, and I think it was here that my uncontrollable desire for travel started!
Did you like this post about my trip to Paris and Dijon? If you want to check any of my other adventures in France, you can read this post about a trip to Marseille, and this post about a road trip in the South of France.
Check other posts about my travel adventures in the Travel section of my blog