Our last day in Bourgogne was on the 14th of July – France’s national day. After another delicious breakfast, we loaded up the car and thanked Peter and Jan for a lovely stay. Not wanting to leave Autun without visiting its town, we decided to stop by for a quick visit. Being a national public holiday, most places were closed. Autun is a town with Roman origins and it has a nice open feel to it. We wandered up to Cathédrale Saint-Lazare.
The cathedral stands in the highest and most fortified corner of the town. Construction of the cathedral began around 1120. Its ground plan is in the form of a Latin cross. A Gothic tower, a spire and side chapels were added in the 15th century. This cathedral is well known for its Romanesque sculptures by Gislebertus. The cathedral doors were not locked, but we saw some photographers with professional-looking equipment enter the cathedral, with some official-looking people. Not wanting to be in the way, we decided not to enter. We did stop to admire the massive tympanum on the west facade of the cathedral though.
As we wandered around the town, we could hear the sound of families gathering together and enjoying a meal together (as is the custom in France on public holidays), behind closed doors.
Due to the horror posts I read on the forums about Dijon’s bad traffic conditions with the roadworks, we decided to head off to Dijon early to work out where we needed to drop the car off. It took some navigating but we finally worked it out. With a sigh of relief, we decided to drive out to the town centre to see what was open. We found a parking space without much problems and walked over to the tourist information office. We figured it would be closed like everything else but were hoping we’d be able to pick up a map of the town at least. Imagine our surprise when we found the place buzzing with activity. There were tourists crawling all over the place, and there were people everywhere on the streets. Turns out, tourism is alive and kicking in big French towns even on a public holiday.
We made our way to the old town centre, which is basically a town square outside the palace of the Ducs of Bourgogne. There was an array of restaurants all open for business and bustling with activity. We decided to wander a little further away from the crowd and found a little Italian restaurant in a small alley away from the centre of the action. The food was surprisingly good. There was nothing better than sitting out in the sun, enjoying our simple but delicious lunch while watching the people go by.
After lunch, we decided to explore the town by following the Owl’s Trail. We followed the map we got from the tourist information office and visited the cathedrals and various buildings. The tourist map corresponds to little golden owls embedded into the street, telling you where to go. I thought it was cute. Our explorations ended with a serve of ‘glace’ from a restaurant in the square.
Even though it was early, we decided to head to the train station. Along the way, we got lost and ended up making a huge detour instead thanks to the roadworks. We dropped our car off and decided to look for something to eat around the station. Dinner was rather crappy that night. We bought croissants and pastries from a generic pâtisserie at the train station and we sat outside the train station and people-watched while we ate. Our train didn’t leave till 11:12pm so it was a long wait. Finally it was time to board the train. As we were boarding, the fireworks came on but I was too busy getting the bags on the train that I didn’t pay much attention.