One of the best trips that I ever took was to Dijon, France, although I was really on my way to Italy. I dreamt of eating homemade pasta by the ocean and taking a gondola ride on the canals but ended up in a city that is known for manufacturing one of the fanciest mustards in the world.
When my friend Jenna arrived at my door in Paris, France where I was studying abroad, she was ready to explore Europe together and go on a few adventures. As a young woman, I was prepared to mark a few places off of my bucket list and have a few stories to tell once I returned home to the States. When Jenna suggested we visit Italy for the weekend, I quickly packed my bags without hesitation and told my roommate I’d be back on Monday.
We knew it was easy to visit Italy from Paris with a simple train ride where we could take in the beautiful scenery and read books while sitting inside. Unfortunately, the weekend we chose to visit the country was during Bastille Day in France, which is when the rest of the country seemed to have the same plans of taking a holiday. We were told that the train was sold out, but we decided to take a chance and board anyways in hopes that the conductor would be lenient. To our surprise, we were told we were getting kicked off the train and would have to have to get off at the next stop in Dijon, France. By the time the train arrived in the city, the sun had gone down, and we each had a rolling suitcase to lug around while trying to find somewhere to stay for the night.k
Jenna and I were told that there weren’t any vacant hotels available in Dijon and that we might have to sit in one of the bars overnight until the morning. We were ignorant to how packed the city was with travelers but decided we’d walk the streets until it got too late to explore any longer. We grabbed gelato, purchased a few toiletries in a liquor store, and listened to the wheels on our luggage make noise as we pulled our suitcases along on the cobblestone streets. The streets grew dim, but the architecture was so stunning that we couldn’t seem to stop walking around in awe of the historic beauty that the city still had to offer in the 21st century. From the Tudor-style buildings to the elegant fountains in the middle of each town, we seemed to have stepped into a storybook.
Once it was close to midnight, we finally stumbled upon an old hotel that had one room left. We were relieved to have somewhere to lay our head overnight despite how beautiful Dijon seemed to be. The walls were made of stone in our hotel room, and old flags and paintings were on display on the walls. We didn’t mind, instead reveling in the charm of our unique place to stay.
Stumbling upon Dijon proved to be a happy accident that would allow me to have one of the best memories as a tourist due to the character of the city. For the next two days, Jenna and I couldn’t get enough of the stunning architecture and beautiful copper statues that had transformed into green gems. We walked around the city until our feet throbbed and rested by taking naps in some of the local parks that we stumbled upon each day. We shopped at contemporary stores like H&M, which seemed to stick out like a sore thumb in the midst of the beautiful buildings that told a different story. We ate at cozy cafes for each meal and spoke French to the waiters while appreciating the fact that life couldn’t get better, even if it were just for the weekend.
We may not have explored local museums or had gone sightseeing in Dijon, but as I basked in the sunshine and ate an authentic French breakfast on the patio of a cafe we found, I felt completely satisfied as a traveler. Sometimes the best moments while traveling are ones where there’s a peace and calm, while soaking up the culture of a city and taking a break from the chaos of everyday life.
Getting to meet the locals, trying my best to string French words together, and nibbling on my chocolate croissant is all I needed to feel alive.
I realized that the world offers more than I recognize at times.
When it was time to go home, we hesitated to leave and contemplated playing hooky from school and staying one more day. We realized that it was best to enjoy the memories we had created in the city and head back to reality. Although the trip was only a few days in length, it allowed me to have a desire to take more adventures and avoid having a strict itinerary. Sometimes, the best memories are those that are created on a whim when you’re unsure of what will happen next. I may have never been able to see Italy, but can now look forward to my next adventure next time I’m headed in that direction.
About the Author: Ella Kim
Ella is the Content Manager for trekbible, is a writer and content specialist with a predilection for learning and exploring new places and cultures around the world. With family scattered throughout the U.S. and South Korea, she loves to see cross-cultural influences around the world. Her favorite thing to do on her travels is to taste the local cuisine of each destination.