Monday, January 16, 2006

D2: dijon-ier

I went to Dijon for the second time on saturday. The last few weeks haven't been the best here, honestly. The weather has sucked, as it undoubtedly sucks nearly everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, though, it's been foggy. Excuse me, I mean FOGGY. This is how I learned that the french say "it's like pea soup!" too. Well, do we really say that? Perhaps I think it's part of the American vernacular just because it's mentioned in the stop-motion animated version of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
Naturally, it's cold here, as well. The temperature is similar to the chicago area. Chicago has the wind (ugh), but the fog does a number, too. The fog makes the cold more liquid and icy, sliding underneath your hat, down your sleeves. You still feel like your eyes might freeze and fall out of their sockets, but perhaps slightly more slowly.

Ok. Sorry. Nothing's more dull than complaining about the weather. I'll stop.

(Similarly, Tim, expect a long treatise on why Two Weeks' Notice is the worst movie I've ever seen, in your next letter.)

Returning to my original point, I went to Dijon. During the week, I called Catherine and suggested that we meet there for the day. It's only about an hour-and-a-half trip for me, which is short enough for a day trip. Actually, it's only an hour of travel time, but there's always a half-hour wait at the transferring train station. We both arrived at 9:30, and lucky us, it was a beautiful, clear day.

Dijon is a very, very pretty city. It's a pretty weathy area, which you can sense simply from the number of places to go spend all of your money. The center of the city is a pedestrian shopping area. Obviously, there's trade-offs living in any country; similarly, some places really do things better. For example, America has Netflix. This truly is an amazing thing and, frankly, it will be years before other countries catch up. On the other hand, France (and many other places in Europe) has pedestrianized city centers. Oh, and universal health care. And free public unversities.

Part of the reason health problems like obesity and heart disease is less of a problem here is because people go out and walk around more often. In the country, it's very common for me to see whole families or elderly couples spending the afternoon walking. Hell, I spend the afternoon walking. There's a lot of clearly marked trails, which are very easy to access. In the cities, the cities (so far, I've seen it in Montpellier, Dijon, Lyon, Montbeliard, Belfort, and Besancon) have large areas with no cars. This also means large outdoor markets, sidewalk seating at cafes, space for the christmas markets or carousels, etc. Additionally, many of these cities are built on rivers, which means that they also have long riverwalks. It just makes it easier for people to be outside, walk around; to spend their free time outside, interacting with other people.

It was nearly as busy on saturday, a cold day in January, as it was when I went on a beautiful warm fall day in early October. Part of the reason why it was so busy is the sales; however, the sales in Dijon mean that you can get a chandlier for 300 euro instead of 500. A good deal, yes, but only for those who are currently in the chandlier market. Or antique couch market. Or the fur coat market. I often don't find myself in any of these markets.

We still had a wonderful day walking around the city. We even treated ourselves and got a real lunch. Oh, AND we went to the cafe to get hot chocolate. It was as good as I had hoped. We spent the day window shopping and seeing the city. It's a town of many different architectural styles and lots of adorable storefronts.

This is the large cathedral in town. It's got a whole lot of little men and gargoyles sticking out:

Yesterday was even nicer outside. Like last sunday, it was clear and warm. Like spring. I'm convinced this is just to taunt us, as today we've returned to the crappy weather. There was no reason to be outside, so I went to the grocery store in the morning, then spent the rest of the day inside. I've been working on a pair of socks for a friend who is a guy (one of you reading this, most likely) and it's made me come to this conclusion: we should resume the practice of binding feet. There's really no reason that peoples' feet should be this long.

Finally, a happy MLK day to all of you. If there's a special on public radio today in honor of the good doctor, I recommend listening to it. It hasn't failed to fascinate and humble me for the last several years.


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