It’s funny that after spending a few years in Santiago de Compostela-the end of the Way of St. James- we’ve moved to a city near the beginning (so technically, you could say I’ve done the camino backwards, right? Ok ok, not really, and to all the pilgrims who have made the trek lots of respect and buen camino!) Last year we made the hour and a half drive from Dijon to visit Vézelay, a tiny town on a big hill overlooking the green countryside, whose claim to fame is being one of the starting points of the Way of St. James.
Arriving at Vézelay, I was enchanted by the lovely stone and tiny main street that serpentines through the town. Walking up the hill we passed tiny shops with whimsical signs, perused the dusty treasures in a few antique shops and enjoyed a buttery sable cookie. Walking up the hill towards the main square and abbey, we were reminded by the scallop shell symbol of the way of St James found throughout Vézelay, that in medieval times the faithful would start their journey to Santiago here with a prayer and many preparations, and head down the hill from the abbey and to the west. Today the city is still famous for the beautiful church with stunning white columns and bright arched windows.
But today instead of making your way to Spain from the abbey, most people stay an evening to enjoy a gourmet meal at one of many restaurants and a stroll through the many art galleries that the city has become home to. The calm and relaxation added to the history of the area is breathtaking. An afternoon (or longer!) in this tiny village is a lovely way to get to know Burgundy and la France.
**Travel Tip! When making your plans to take a day trip to any small village in France, I recommend going any day but Sunday. While Sunday seems like the perfect day to escape town since most shops are closed in the city, you’ll also find most shops, restaurants, and bars closed as well in the villages. To get the most out of your visit plan to go on a Friday or Saturday- although you may have some crowds, you’ll also have a greater variety of restaurants, galleries and shops to enjoy.