Though the most famous gargoyles are on Notre Dame de Paris (thanks, Victor Hugo and Disney), one finds gargoyles on most French cathedrals, and Dijon’sNotre Dame Church is no different. This unusual, square-faced cathedral, commenced in 1230, is a medieval masterpiece. In fact, it contains no less than 51 gargoyles (nearly all mere decorations). Though Notre Dame de Dijon dates back to the Middle Ages, the gargoyles were only carved in the 1880s (around Hugo’s time…). 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 usurer (money lender), who was killed by a falling stone gargoyle on his wedding day. Gargoyles have long held both the fascination and horror of their audiences. While the original purpose was simply to drain water away from a wall, they quickly evolved into displaying grotesque and fantastical designs. The term itself comes from an French word “gargouille,” meaning “throat” (think “gullet”). The idea of the gargoyle is said to have came from an ancient French legend from Rouen, in which St Romanus conquered a terrible winged dragon called La Gargouille who was both long-necked and fire-breathing. Upon slaying it, the city burned La Gargouille’s body but its fireproof head and neck would not burn, so they mounted it on the church walls to ward off the evil spirits (though you’d think that’d ward off good spirits too!). Thus, the idea and name were adapted for fanciful drains sprouting from France’s soaring cathedrals, and Dijon’s gargoyles don’t disappoint: all 51 are fascinatingly fantastic, bizarre, eye-catching and grotesque.
Pro tip: The church 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! Also, follow the owl symbols on the ground to discover Dijon’s historical heritage sites.
X marks the spot – or maybe it just marks a row of charming houses in Dijon, built in the infamous wattle-and-daub style. But what really is wattle-and-daub anyway? In use as a construction method for some 6,000 years (and still popular today due to it being low-impact technique), such buildings are created by weaving a braid of wooden strips called wattle, then daubing them with a sort of caulk made of soil, clay, sand, straw, and other ingredients. Thick wooden beams are then factored in as supports to the structure, and together, they form sturdy, isolated walls. Sustainable and relatively easy to do, houses erected in this style are also just so charming. Dijon, Strasbourg, Stratford-upon-Avon, many Germanic villages and more exude such charm because of the high predominance of wattle-and-daub structures. Charming and beautiful, it would seem that fairy tales are alive and well in Dijon – one can just imagine one of those windows popping open and Belle or Rapunzel smiling out!
Known for its mustard, we often forget that this name also signifies a charming French town. Dijon is a maze of cobbled streets, wallpapered with wattle-and-daub striped facades. Dijon does not have the splendour of Paris, the bouchons of Lyon, or the coziness of a Provincial village. What it does have instead is the gentle calm of the countryside mixed with the elegance found in French cities; small town quaintness found with French splendour. Another bonus, it is at the entrance of the Beaujolais (known for its splendid red wines), on the route that carries traffic north-south, with gastronomy capital Lyon not too far away. One of the symbols of the town is an owl (inspired by a sculpture of an owl found on the cathedral; touching it supposedly brings luck); but now, it is your guide to the city. Follow the little owls all over town to discover Dijon’s charms!
It’s more than just mustard, folks! Yup, Dijon is a town in central France, and okay yes, it is known for its mustard. But why? Well, back in the 1850’s, a certain Jean Naigeon muddled around with the traditional mustard recipe and created this wonderful new product, which became a hit. Today, Dijon mustard is world-renowned (though the mustard does not necessarily have to be produced in Dijon). But aside from the mustard, Dijon is still something special. The town itself, set in the heart of the wine-growing region of Burgundy, is adorable. Tudor houses, Gothic churches, sweeping palaces, and bustling markets line the streets. Cafe tables dot the sidewalks, sunbathers dot the gardens. All in all, Dijon is a peaceful, beautiful place…where there just so happens to be a lot of mustard!