Following the City Trail of Owls, Horses, Faces or …..
“La chouette! La chouette!”, chants a cute blonde three-year old as she hops from one owl medallion to the next. The metal owl medallions set into the pavement (sidewalk) in Dijon, France, mark the Owl Trail of Dijon’s notable sights. We follow her happily for a block or two.
Many cities and towns around the world have city trails marked in various ways—painted lines on the streets; medallions, featuring an important person from the town’s history or a town icon, set into pavements; special numbered sign boards on the sides of famous buildings. We’ve come across a number in France; here is a sampling.
—Dijon’s Owl Trail uses the owl, the icon of the city inspired by a small owl carved into the wall of the wonderful Notre Dame Cathedral.
—Outside Chartres we find mosaic stone plaques set into pavement in front of the cathedral. They depict a pilgrim on the way to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle and the symbol of that famous pilgrimage, the coquille St-Jacques (scallop shell).
—In Cluny, Burgundy, with the remains of the amazing Cluny Abbey, we find this goat-like animal on a pyramid. I never did find out what the significance of this is.
—In Clermont-Ferrand, central France, there are 4 city walks, each with their own medallion to follow. In Clermont there are three; one is Pope Urbain 11, who gave a speech in Clermont in 1095 that initiated the First Crusade; one is Vercingetorix, a Gallic chieftain who united the Gauls in a revolt against the Romans during the last phase of Julius Caesar’s Gallic wars; the other is Pascal. Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, physicist, inventor and writer, was born in Clermont and conducted some of his experiments from the nearby volcanic domes.
—In Montferrand, the twin city in Clermont-Ferand, we follow medallions of Comtesse G (or Countess Brayere), who gave power and permission to Montferrand around 1195 to become a city in its own right.
—In Sancerre, southern Loire River, we follow a red line painted along the narrow streets.