A Week in Brunate – Our remaining time

Sat Jun 24 – Wed Jun 28

On day three we went back to Switzerland. The next lake to the west of Lago di Como is Lago di Lugano which lies partly in Italy & partly in Switzerland. In front of the Capolago train station (at Lago di Lugano) is a rack railway that takes passengers high above the lake to Monte Generoso. That is what we had come to do. Spectacular views from the train itself were few & fleeting but from its destination the views were amazing. The landscape is dramatic & on a clear day (still extremely hazy) the distant views would also have been fabulous. The temperature was pretty pleasant when we arrived, at about 9.30, so we did the walk up to the top of Monte Generoso for the 360° view. From there Bellagio in Lago di Como was just visible. There was also a ‘bear cave’ that you could walk to which contains the archaeological remains of over 300 prehistoric cave bears. Cave bears lived & became extinct in the Monte Generoso area 18-20,000 years ago but when we set out for the 30 minute walk we hadn’t gone far when we could see the track for a long way – all downhill. That meant that the return would be all uphill. It was already getting hot & we were above the tree line so there was no protection from the sun. We decided to leave the cave until we return here in cooler weather. 

Train at the summit station of the rack railway

Summit of Monte Generoso (1701 metres) is easily accessible but the landscape is rugged

A narrow track led to a second vantage point

The haze softened the view of the distant hills

Fiore di pietra (stone flower), the visitors centre, sits on a narrow neck of land at the top end of the railway

Lilium bulbiferum, a common European lily with bright orange/red flowers

Panorama over Lago di Lugano with the large town of Capolago at the left hand end

A nevera, the precursor of the modern refrigerator, is found nowhere else in Switzerland. It is where alpine farmers once cooled their milk on snow during the summer months

Unusual rock formation

Beautiful end to a great day

Our fourth day was very relaxed. There had been thunderstorms during the night & the air was a bit clearer so we went for our morning coffee to a cafe restaurant that has a good view over Como. 

This Sunday was the annual ‘Sboccare’, market day, but it did not draw many stall holders or large crowds

I’m not sure what these two young fellows were selling, but one had certainly dressed for the occasion

Morning tea with a view

Afterwards we went down to Como & caught the ferry to Cernobbio, which is not very far along the lake & is on the ‘wealthy’ side. Ebe told us that all the biggest villas & those owned by famous, wealthy people (eg. George Clooney) are on the western side. We bought piadini to take away for lunch & sat in a lovely cool breeze in the dense shade of some large trees looking over the lake. It really doesn’t get much more relaxing than that. Then after lunch & a short stroll through Cernobbio (during which we found a gelateria we had to try) we caught the ferry back to Como & the funicular back home. 

View from our seat by the lake

Almost all the shady seats along the lakeside at Cernobbio were occupied 

Cernobbio 

Boat decorating the park near the ferry wharf

House in Cernobbio 

Portico of the 15th century Oratorio Di Santa Maria delle Grazie 

Getting the funicular was quite a task. It was Sunday & there were people everywhere, including at the funicular station. To buy our tickets & get to the top, which normally took us 10 minutes, took an hour. Thankfully, there was a chatty Irish family in the queue behind us that helped the time pass more quickly. 

On Day five we again went on the lake, this time to Colico right at the top end of the lake. For this trip we paid the extra & caught the ‘speed boat’ which was a catamaran that travelled a bit faster than the normal ferries & didn’t stop at nearly as many places. That got us there in just over an hour & a half. If we’d caught the normal ferry as we had the other days the trip would have taken four & a half hours. I think the small amount of extra money was well worth it. Colico is quite a different town to most of the others along the lake because it’s built on flat ground. We walked for a couple of kilometres up to the Adda river. If we’d wanted to cross the river & continue we would have had to go inland for quite a distance so we returned to Colico. The town itself was not nearly as crowded as those further down the lake had been. It was a pleasant place to be. 

The speed boat at Colico

The piazza at Colico was much bigger than those in the towns on steeply sloping ground

There was a large beach area at Colico

View across the floodplain of the Adda river towards Switzerland 

Natural pond on the swampy floodplain

We decided to return to Como by train. It was a long trip but took us along the eastern arm of the lake which ends at Lecco. The landscape along there was, I think, even more rugged than the Como arm of the lake. 

Clouds were building on the mountains north of Colico

We decided that we’d spend our final day taking a cruise from Lecco. That didn’t work out real well. We got up early to get down to Como, across to the station & around to Lecco in time for the 10.00am ferry. There is only one ferry that leaves Lecco in the morning. All was going well until the time for the train came & went but no train came. Then we had a downpour of rain & the weather really closed in as had been predicted for the day. We decided perhaps it would be better not to do what we’d planned but to just spend a quiet day close to home. 

There was still the promise of rain when we arrived back up at Brunate

Pete strolling down one of Brunate’s narrow streets

Our last dinner in Brunate on a balcony with views both down to Como & along the edge of Brunate

View of Brunate from the balcony of Trattoria dei Bracconieri

Sadly, that has brought our time in Brunate &, in fact, our adventures in Europe to an end. After a night of stormy weather, complete with thunder, lightning, strong winds, heavy rain & hail, today we will pack up & hope for better weather as we make our way to Malpensa Airport to begin the long trip home. 

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A Week in Brunate – Getting there & the first two days

Wed Jun 21 – Fri Jun 23

We left Lausanne by train heading to Como in Italy. The train passed through the towns we had walked through in 2013 on its way to Martigny & it was fun recognising places & having parts of that trip brought back freshly into our minds. At Martigny though, the route diverged as we headed further east towards the Italian lakes. We entered Italy via a long tunnel (no surprises there – Italian trains seem to always be in tunnels) then travelled for some way along the western side of Lago Maggiore & through fairly uninteresting country to Milan. After two more train trips we were in Como looking at the spectacular lake, Lago di Como, surrounded by very steep, tall hills. It was just beautiful – but very hot!

We were not staying in Como but had booked a small apartment for the week in Brunate, a small town 500 metres above Como, which is most easily accessed by a 7 minute ride on a funicular. It is over a kilometre long & amazingly steep, 55% at its steepest which is the maximum gradient allowed. The view over Como & the lake, needless to say was breathtaking. 

There are lots of boats moored at Como & on the hill behind them Brunate sits at the top of the line made by the funicular

There are two cars on the funicular which pass on the middle so that one leaves every 15 minutes. A funicular has been operating here since 1894

View of Como & the end of the lake from the funicular

From the minute we met Ebe & walked into our apartment, ‘il Nido’ (the Nest) with her we knew it would be a great place. She had thought of everything, even having made some biscuits & having left enough supplies so that we would be able to make dinner on the first night without needing to shop. 

Our small apartment, il Nido (the Nest) may well be the smallest building in Brunate

Inside, il Nido was well set up & quite spacious

The bedroom too had plenty of room & opened onto a small yard

The only thing wrong with Brunate was the heat & Ebe said she had an air conditioner that we could use if we would like. She left us & returned shortly after with a brand new portable air conditioner which was set up & turned on for us. 

While the air conditioner was being installed Ebe’s father arrived. Apparently she had told him of our walk & he wanted to meet us because we were “heroic walkers”. He came in, shook our hands, congratulated us & left. It was quite special. 

Perfetto!! Now our week of relaxing could begin. 

Whenever you go anywhere in Brunate it’s either steeply up or steeply down

Street in Brunate

On our first full day, we only went as far afield as Como where we looked at a few of the sights & I had a haircut. That was the highlight of the day. The three ladies in the salon were all delightful. I told them I am learning Italian back in Australia & that led to a great conversation. It was just like chatting in the hairdressers back home except that it was all in Italian & I’m pretty sure they enjoyed it as much as I did. 

Me with the lovely ladies at the hairdressers

Piazza San Fedele, one of Como’s old squares

Part of the 12th century city walls which encircle the narrow, winding streets of the old town. The old town is still called the “città murata” (walled town)

Ceiling of Como’s richly decorated 14th century Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral

One of several 16th century tapestries that decorate the cathedral

The cathedral’s construction began in 1396 & was finished in 1770 with the completion of the Rococo cupola by Filippo Juvarra

Tempio Voltiano (Volta Temple), with statues representing faith & science at the front. Volta, the inventor of the battery in 1799, was born in Como & lived his early life in Brunate

On our second day we bought a day ticket for the ferry that allowed us to travel about half way along the lake getting on & off wherever we wanted to. It was still oppressively hot in Como but out on the water it was much more pleasant. It took us about 30 minutes to cruise to the small town of Torno where we disembarked for a look around & to have our morning coffee. While we were there we walked up a steep, cobbled road that was actually made in steps, so we were very surprised when we had to give way to a truck & then a car, both bumping their way up the steps. 

I thought this was our ferry coming in – it wasn’t 

Beautiful 19th century Villa Erba, built by Luigi Erba, brother of the prominent businessman Carlo Erba (founder of the first Italian pharmaceutical company), to show off his wealth

Small harbour at Torno

I wouldn’t have thought this was the ideal way to get around a town like Torno

After an hour or so we boarded another ferry which took us to Varenna, the furthest town we could go to on our ticket. It was lunch time when we were there & it seemed impossible to find somewhere cool to eat. I think we chose well though, because while we were eating one of the workers turned on fine sprayers which shot out jets of very fine mist beneath the umbrellas. It made quite a difference to the temperature. After lunch we had a look at the part of the town along the lakeside – it was too hot to climb the steep hills when we didn’t have to. 

Pretty village seen from the ferry

Between two or three of the lakeside towns there is a vehicular ferry

A fast service is offered by a hydrofoil, but that costs more & you can’t hop on & off

Varenna occupied two small bays with a walkway along the water’s edge linking them

You can see the fine mist of water spraying out of the wands in the top right of this picture where we had lunch

There was a small pebbly beach with a few people swimming

Then we caught the ferry back to Como & went home, before going out again for a simple pasta dinner. 

Approaching Como on the return journey

Orbe to Étagnières to Lausanne

Mon Jun 19 – Tue Jun 20

To leave the hill of Orbe we crossed the river over a deepish gorge then descended. To reach Chavornay we followed a cycleway across flat ground beside main road, rising only to enter the town. 

On our way out of Orbe we passed the stately ‘Ancien Couvent de Clarisses’ (Ancient Convent of the Clarisses, from 1427 to 1555)

The Alps were more visible early in the morning when it was not quite so hazy

Past Chavornay we went under the main road then followed a creek as we climbed through woods steeply rising about 170 metres. Most of that we managed before the heat of the day really started to build. 

There were weirs built all along this small river

It was only as we neared & entered Switzerland that the cows wore bells around their neck

As the day got steadily hotter we progressed through a mix of woods & fields until we came to a huge timber yard. It looked like it was all for firewood & there with it was a kiddie zoo with pens with lots of young animals & small farm animals. There seemed to be plenty of young families coming & going. We noticed that Australia was represented – they had two black swans. 

Two Aussies at the small zoo

The next town was Saint-Barthélemy where we stopped for coffee but had coffee icecreams instead – a much better idea. Bioley-Orjulaz wasn’t far along & the walk from there was very hot as there were few bits of shady relief. 

Pete was still taking some great insect photos on his phone

To finally arrive in Étagnières we walked uphill through fields into the town a bit after 1.00pm. The end point for the day was at the railway station which suited us well because we were staying in Lausanne for the night. It was about 30 minutes in the train then caught a bus to our Airbnb place. We stayed with a young couple, Jack & Melrose who have a smiley 7 month old boy called Marcheson. Their place also had a magnificent view over Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). 

We stayed in the apartment on the top floor at the right hand end

The building across the road had an interesting collection of chimney pots

There was also a great view of the Alps, largely clear of snow, from the balcony of Jack & Melrose’s place

In the evening we’d been invited out for dinner. Both times we’d stayed in Lausanne before we’d stayed with Eric, also an Airbnb host. We’d hoped to do the same again this time but hadn’t been able to as his spare bedroom was to have been occupied, but he’d invited us around for dinner. We had a really good night. He’s broken up with the girlfriend that was living with him on our two previous visits so it was a little disappointing not to see her again but Eric cooked a lovely three course meal & we had no trouble filling the evening with conversation. Afterwards, instead of us having to catch two buses home, Eric drove us in his very smart convertible (roof down) Audi. That was not only convenient but very pleasant on a hot Lausanne evening. 

Eric is making the crumble topping for our apple & rhubarb crumble dessert

In the morning we were away at 5.30 to catch a bus into town & the train back to Étagnières to do the LAST DAY’s walk. It was fine & sunny, with the forecast temperature well into the 30s. We had taken our cereal, yoghurt & fruit with us for breakfast which we ate as soon as we found a good spot. 

Breakfast

Small, transparent seed capsules, some with the seed still in them

We were supposed to be on a cycle track but we didn’t see any signs indicating that we were. However, we were fairly sure we were on the right route until we arrived in Morrens. The guidebook simply said “pass through Morrens & bear right on Chemin de la Mèbre”. We were looking out at the street signs but perhaps we were distracted by the cafe & somehow we missed the turn – although I think we’d already passed the turn by the time we arrived at the cafe. Anyway, we reached the far side of Morrens without finding Chemin de la Mèbre so it was time to go to Google maps which confirmed what we thought. It also enabled us to regain the route without having to backtrack. We continued needing to use Google maps because for the first time during the entire trip the guidebook was hopeless, telling us to continue for 4 kilometres when there were actually several turns to be made & intersections totally ignored. The writers must have had a real lapse in concentration when they wrote it. 

The morning tea we had here was worth getting lost for

We came to two huge piles of wood chips, both of which totally blocked the road, & at the second one there was a sign forbidding access but we did as we’ve already done several times, we ignored the sign & continued on without any problems. Soon we arrived at Grand-Mont, which is almost an outer suburb of Lausanne. 

The first of the two significant road blocks

The No Entry sign was pretty clear & there was more than one of them but there was really no other way for us to go

Colourful market garden

Our first view, while we were walking, of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)

After a short rest on a shady seat we walked to the main highway & down through a park to Mont-sur-Lausanne. Then it was through a paddock & down a road to a timber mill. Surprisingly, the route went right through the middle of the mill, then steeply down through a bit of forest & along a creek. Finally we went under the highway bridge & climbed about 120 steps up to the road level. The track only followed parallel to the highway for about 50 metres before turning back into the forest again. It was part of a large area of parkland busy with many groups of school children, families with young children, walkers & cyclists. We stopped at the large cafe for an icecream before we dropped down the steep hillside. 

Our route through the middle of a working timber mill

This wooden play equipment was really popular with the younger children

Several treestumps had been carved into rustic seats or with faces & patterns like this one

The tower in the park was being used for an emergency services training exercise when we were there

The park ended almost right at the cathedral, Cathédrale Notre-Dame, which was our final walk destination. Construction on the cathedral began in 1170 when the ambulatory was built. The construction of the existing church building took place twenty years later & lasted until 1215. It was consecrated in 1275 by Pope Gregory X. It was completed in, well, never – it still remains unfinished today. Inside the cathedral we got the final stamp in our pilgrim passports & signed the pilgrim book telling of the four journeys we’ve undertaken to now have walked, in total, from Canterbury to Rome. Wow! I don’t think either of us really thought we’d make it all the way so we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. 

The two of us at the end point of our journey outside Lausanne Cathedral, having walked over 1000 kilometres

Signing the pilgrim register in Lausanne Cathedral

Pilgrim register & our pilgrim passports

Cathédrale Notre-Dame interior looking towards the door

In the south transept, there is still some faded medieval paint adorning the pillars

The Painted Portal (south portal) is the original structure built between 1225 and 1235. Its restoration was completed in 2007 & it is now enclosed in glass

Old pilgrim staircase leading from the town up to the cathedral

Looking down into the old part of Lausanne from Place de la Cathédrale

We didn’t go off & celebrate though, instead we walked down to the railway station & booked tickets to Como for the next day. A few days ago we’d changed our travel plans for returning to Australia. We had been going to return from London but it seemed silly to fly back there then have even further to fly home a week later, so we’re off to Lago di Como (Lake Como) in northern Italy for a week of relaxation & then we’ll fly home from Milan. 

After our visit to the railway station we had lunch in a shady park close to where we were staying

We decided to go out for a nice evening meal by way of celebration. When we first stayed with Eric in 2012 he had recommended a very nice restaurant serving authentic Swiss cuisine, Cafe Romand. We decided to go back there. It had changed. It was much more cafe-like & the food was not special or authentically Swiss at all but the meals were big. Neither of us managed to get through them. Never mind, we were happy & returned to try to have a good night’s sleep in the hot, humid conditions before beginning the final week of our holiday. 

Pontarlier to Jougne to Orbe

Sat Jun 17 – Sun Jun 18

When we left Pontarlier at 7.00am I was very pleased that it was a cool morning – my tick bite still looked pretty nasty although it wasn’t itching too badly when we left &, in fact, it didn’t trouble me all day. The medications must have worked well. We walked out of Pontarlier along the river on a track through bush & continued close to the railway & the river until we met a road. 

Track through the bush near Pontarlier

With the river still close we looked across to another old château, Château de Joux, keeping watch over the narrow valley. On the rocky outcrop on the other side of the valley was Fort de Joux. It would have been a daunting task to try to break through between them. Although we walked up the road towards the château, our best views of it were from below as we didn’t quite reach it before we turned off & plunged down a very steep track towards the town of Les Angles. 

Château de Joux controlling the hilltop

Family of tahrs beside the château wall

Fort de Joux was barely noticeable as it lurked on the rocks

Looking back at Château de Joux in the sun & Fort de Joux in the shadows atop the craggy cliff behind

We just skirted along the edge of that town then moved onto a railtrail. That was a bit disappointing because we were ready for a coffee & a rest. However about 800 metres along the trail it came close to a main road & there was a cafe so we got our rest & coffee after all. 

The early part of the railtrail was sunny but the day was still cool then so it was very pleasant

Bar ‘La Fontaine Ronde’ was a welcome find close to the trail

As we continued along the railtrail the forest became almost exclusively fir trees & it was easy walking until we came to a section that had been recently gravelled with very large pieces. That was much harder on the feet. A little further along was a stack of rail lines that had been taken up. Still further were more stacked lines on a carriage on rail line still in place. 

Stones this large & loosely packed make for tiring walking on both legs & feet

It was still very stony & hard to walk on & the concrete sleepers were too far apart for us to walk on them. They ran out & then there were wooden sleepers that were at a perfect distance apart for walking & only a few were missing. It was a bit like a journey of discovery because at a road junction there was a train engine (which looked like a snowplough) with carriages further down the line. We stopped for a rest & a look (but not for too long because it was still quite cold in the shade), then found still more old train on a siding further along. 

End of the line – in more ways than one

Pete ready to remove any snow we might encounter

Part of the railway is still used as a tourist railway but only later in the summer I think. There was a large outdoor bar that looked ready to go – except there was no beer or wine. Everything was so interesting that we somehow missed our turn where we were supposed to leave the railtrail & head up the hill. Very disappointing (??) – we had to stay on the level trail all the way to its terminus at Les Hôpitaux-Neufs which was only a couple of kilometres from our destination of Jougne. 

I think Pete would be waiting a long time if he wanted a drink

The first ski runs of the trip

Pretty rural countryside

At the end of the railway in Les Hôpitaux-Neufs there was a very shiny steam engine & a line of equally shiny carriages just waiting for tourists to come. There was also a small park so we stopped & had lunch with the steam engine behind us. 

Shiny steam engine ready for the tourist season

The train’s carriages were brightly painted & in equally good condition

It took no time at all after lunch to reach Jougne where Hôtel la Poste was at the far end of the town. We had a very nice meal there & while we were struggling to interpret the French menu the fellow at the next table offered to help. We thanked him & said that we’d survived for two months walking in France without being able to speak French. It was a good opener for conversation & it turned out that he & his wife were also walking the Via Francigena, from their home in eastern France to Rome. They were a very friendly couple who were pilgrims numbers 7 & 8. We didn’t stay chatting after dinner because we all wanted to have an early night to be ready for an early start again in the morning. 

Our view of the old part of Jougne as we walked through town

Its usually easy for us to figure out which is our room when looking from the outside

We didn’t see René & Martine in the morning because we left earlier (6.45) than they were intending to & our paths didn’t cross again.  

We left Jougne on a very steep path, initially down stairs then a newly gravelled & rolled road. If it hadn’t been heavily rolled it would have been extremely slippery to walk down so we really struck it lucky. 

Wooden water trough outside an old church at the bottom of the steep hill

This was a special day because, after spending two months walking across France, this was the day we crossed into Switzerland. That meant that we only had three more days to walk, including this one, to reach Lausanne. 

Once we’d descended the hill, we had a gentle walk along the valley floor. It was only a few kilometres until we reached the Swiss border which was marked simply by a small sign & a border stone.  

This is the very modest marker of the border between France & Switzerland. It has France carved on one side & Suisse on the other

This, I suspect, is an even older border stone that has been replaced by the more ‘modern’ version

Switzerland, as everyone knows, is hilly (or even mountainous) so as soon as we crossed the border it was uphill straight away. We got a bit of a break half way up though because a farmer had just finished milking his cows & was walking them back down the road to their paddock. Uphill was roped off to keep them from going the wrong way. The cows were very interested in us & we were glad of the wood stack that was providing a bit of a barricade between us & them. There wasn’t much uphill & after we’d done a bit more there was some level & most of the rest of the day was downhill. 

These girls, & many more, wanted to come in even closer to check us out

After walking along a road for a while we turned onto a track with a ‘Voie Romain’ (Roman Road) sign. Having been disappointed before by only being able to see vague remnants of a Roman road or none at all, we didn’t get too excited. This one, stretching a few hundred metres, was fabulous! Into the rock deep ruts had been carved which can be compared to modern tramlines but instead of metal rails, wheel ruts were cut into the road surface to help guide the carts. This route was used to haul Salt from the French mines of Salins-les-Bains & Arc-et-Senans over the Ballaigues road track to western Switzerland & Bern. It was wonderful to see it. 

The rocks were very uneven but the ruts made a more even track

There was a long stretch that has been excavated with wonderfully preserved cart ruts

Our first Swiss village, Ballaigues was at the end of the excavated section of Roman road & not far past there we got our first, very hazy view of the Alps. Also about there we began our descent, steeply down a concrete path. We stopped in the pretty village of Les Clees lying in a valley. It looked like we might have just about finished descending. Not so, we had a long way to go through the lower Orbe gorge which took us almost right to the town of Orbe. The track remained in the forest high above the river so we didn’t even see it until we left the gorge at its end. The track was busy as it was a Sunday & the locals seem to be keen walkers. 

Fortunately, this was about as close as we usually got to major roads

This was the easiest mountain to see on the horizon

We passed one couple sitting on a seat in the hot sun having their lunch. A little way further on we found a seat in a nice shady spot for our lunch. While we were eating, the couple from the sunny spot arrived. The husband was lamenting that they’d stopped too early & missed such a good spot. He didn’t notice that his wife behind him had begun to sway & stagger, veering towards a steep drop off the side of the track. We shouted a warning, Pete kept trying to alert the fellow to the problem as he jumped up & rushed over. Fortunately the man realised just in time for him & Pete to grab hold of the woman & lower her to the ground on the track, saving her from possibly a very grave outcome. After sitting for a few minutes the woman got up & they walked on. We didn’t think she looked very steady on her feet at all but we didn’t see any signs of any further mishaps when we walked after them some time later. 

Shady lunch spot in the Orbe gorge

I remember seeing these flowers when we walked across the Alps on a previous trip

Wooden bridge across a deep gully

Wooden sculptures of Eurasian beavers (genus Castor), reintroduced into the Orbe gorge area in 1973

The old town of Orbe sits on a hill so we finished the day with a short, sharp climb. The B&B we were staying in was on the main town square, Place du Marché, which made it very easy to find. It was very comfortable & at the back had a balcony that looked over much of the newer development on the lower land at the base of the hill. There were also the Alps in the distance but they were still barely visible through the haze. Evelyn & Gilbert, a couple about our age, gave us a warm welcome – we were their first Australian guests – & we had a drink with them after we’d settled in & cleaned ourselves up. It’s always nice to get to know our hosts a bit. 

We occupied the ground floor of the narrow yellow building

The land we could see from our balcony was taking on the hues of summer

Then we had a wander around the close area of the town. There is a great deal of history preserved there, which we had no time to see. A settlement has existed at Orbe for a very long time. It was first mentioned in about 280 as Urba, there are Roman mosaics preserved in a villa & by the Middle Ages it was an important town sitting on the road over the Jougne Pass & at the junction of two major transportation routes, one from the Jura Mountains to the Alps while the other ran from the Rhine River to the Rhone River. Orbe Castle was built in about 1168 by the lords of Montfaucon who owned the town at that time (& until the end of the 16th century). In 1233, they added the round keep which today is open to visit. 

Grand Rue

Street in the old part of Orbe

The castle keep was not open when we were there

The front arcaded area of the Hôtel de Ville was the 15th century covered market

The exterior of the church was very plain except for the magnificent bell tower

This was not quite what we expected to find on the church ceiling

Elegant tower in the heart of the old town

Narrow street between tall buildings

Orbe also has some more recent noteworthy claims. It claims to be where instant coffee was invented & there certainly is a big Nestle factory there. It also claims to be where the coffee pods were developed – I’m not so sure that’s something to be proud of. It was an interesting town where we could easily have spent more time. 

Shop window display, which was accompanied by a copy of a patent notice from 1938, presumably for the process of making instant coffee – it was written in German

Mouthier-Haute-Pierre to Pontarlier

Thu Jun 15 – Fri Jun 16

We decided on a very early start to the day, getting up at 4.30. There were two reasons for this: firstly, there were storms predicted for the afternoon (but didn’t eventuate) & we didn’t want to be walking in them & secondly, we had over 900 metres of climbing to do & we wanted to do it in the cooler part of the day. Our departure was delayed a bit though because I found a tick in my leg that was buried right in & we had great trouble getting it out. We ended up breaking it to pieces with the tweezers (& probably squeezing every last bit of its poison into me) & then digging the last of its head out with Pete’s pocket knife. We still managed to get away by 5.20 so we didn’t do too badly & the tick bite didn’t bother me at all during the day. 

With all that ascending to do the first thing we did was to walk down a considerable way to the river. Then we followed it upstream, out of town & into the forest where we almost immediately started to climb up a steep hill. After a few hundred metres of steep climbing we met a road & went just as steeply back down to the river where there was a couple of small hydro power stations. 

Looking back up to Hôtel La Cascade as we descended towards the river in the half light

Early morning mist on the river

Hydro power station at the bottom of the gorge

It was from there that the real climb began on a track up the magnificent steep-sided gorge of the Loue. The track was narrow with lots of ups & downs, but generally a lot more up, & at the start of it was a warning of flash flooding, possible even in good weather. The automatic opening of the dam can create sudden swells & rapidly rising waters. We had one light shower of rain while we were there but the canopy of the trees was so thick that we could see the rain over the river rather than feel it on ourselves. There were beautiful river views as the water tumbled its way downwards but mostly they weren’t the uninterrupted views that are good for photographs but views through the trees which are lovely just for looking at. 

The Loue at the bottom of the gorge

Pete on the wet, sometimes slippery track 

I’m dwarfed by the tall trees in this more open part of the forest

The track here was level but the drop was steep

This was the clearest view of a waterfall that we had

Another glimpse of the river

It took us several hours to reach the small dam at the top of the gorge & above that the source of the Loue – a large cave at the base of a tall horseshoe-shaped cliff from which the waters spill. We cold not get right to the mouth of the cave though because it was securely fenced off. 

The dam at the top of the gorge

Calm waters of the lake created by the dam

A lot of water flows from the cave

A few hundred metres up the road which most people would use to get to this point, was a cafe restaurant. It was not quite open but there was a lady who looked like she was working towards opening. She saw us looking hopeful & let us in. We had coffee & crepes, a welcome little bonus. 

Cafe ‘Chalet de la Loue’

From the cafe there was another short sharp climb through the forest & I discovered I had another tick. I felt this one bite so it was easy to remove & really left no mark at all. I can’t believe how many there have been over here!

As we knew would happen, we left the forest to walk in the sun. It was really steamy, especially on the steep bits, of which there were still quite a few with one stretch more than a 13% slope. That is very steep when you’re walking & we were glad of every bit of shade we came to. Finally the walking levelled out but the flies were really annoying. You’ll be pleased to know back in Australia that we are not the only country with annoying, biting flies. This was by far our worst day for them, probably because we were so damp & sweaty, but really they were just an annoyance not a real problem. 

Small chapel, Chapelle Notre Dame, on the hill was the first sight as we left the forest

Very big cauldron of colourful flowers at Ouhans

We found another new orchid

When we finally got some fairly gentle slopes to walk on there was nowhere to escape from the sun except for under our small umbrellas

Our first view of Pontarlier, which sits in a broad valley in the heart of the Jura mountains, was from a lookout. To reach the city the rest of the walk was beside roads, making it seem long & even hotter.  

Distant view of Pontarlier at the right in the photo

By the time we arrived we were ready for a shower & a rest but, like so many we’ve stayed in, the hotel, Hotel Restaurant Le Morteau, was closed until 6.00pm. We did the next best thing – had an icecream & found a cool cafe bar to sit in & wait, trying not to go to sleep. Thinking the hotel might open early we wandered over that way but no, it was still closed so we walked to the river & sat there for the remaining time watching people enjoying its coolness. 

Porte Saint-Pierre, the last surviving element of the fortifications that once surrounded the town

Coat of arms of Pontarlier on Porte Saint-Pierre

Main street in the heart of Pontarlier

On the dot of 6.00pm we arrived at the hotel & checked in. It wasn’t the flashest place we’ve stayed. It was small, had ragged towels with black marks on them & a shower that just pointed at the back wall unless you held it but it was good to be there, freshen up & relax. 

Hotel Restaurant Le Morteau

Not wanting to go far or eat much for dinner, we found a creperie close by. Good choice! It was very casual, the waiter was bright & friendly & most importantly, the food was good too. 

My salad with chèvre, prosciutto, pear, walnuts, mint & lettuce was accompanied by a crisp galette

Pete’s salad of chicken, tomato, walnuts, cheese, egg, chives & mint was also accompanied by a galette

The next day, Friday, was another rest day & that was fortunate because by then my tick bite that hadn’t bothered me at all the previous day, was huge (about 18cm across), swollen, sore & very itchy. As soon as the pharmacy opened we went to try to buy something to help. The pharmacist told me I needed to go to the hospital & get a prescription for antibiotics. He didn’t say why but perhaps it was because of the relatively high risk of Lymes disease over here. So off we went & the whole experience was pretty good. Within an hour we’d been to the pharmacy, the hospital & back to the pharmacy to get the medication. 

Hospital chapel wedged in between other hospital buildings

I’m really glad it was a rest day because walking was very aggravating to it. Consequently we did very little but relax. I don’t feel like we missed much though, Pontarlier didn’t seem like a particularly interesting town. Its main claim to fame is that it is the home of absinthe. It did allow me to catch up the blog a bit. It gets a bit far behind sometimes if I’m too tired or if the wifi is too weak or not available to load the photos. 

When we were making our way to Hotel Restaurant Le Morteau we could see this very narrow structure along the street

The narrow structure was the preserved facade of the 15th century church that preceded the present église Saint-Bénigne

Nave of église Saint-Bénigne

The 18th century organ was restored in 1984 & looked magnificent & was classified as an Historic Monument in 1977

One of the notable works in the church is this 16th century polychrome wooden sculpture of a dead Christ

The stained glass was added in 1974. Most of it I didn’t like but this window & the rose window were rather beautiful

In the evening we returned to the same restaurant & this time opted for galettes. They were just as good as the salads had been. 

This Breton crepe tasted way better than it looked with cheese & bacon between two paper-thin crepes topped with mushrooms, tomato, caramelised onion & an egg

Ornans to Mouthier – Haute-Pierre

Wed Jun 14

We were up & away a bit after 7.00. Before leaving town we called in at the boulangerie, bought bread, strawberry tart (for me) & big flat biscuit covered in choc bits (for Pete). Then we crossed the footbridge & headed upriver. On our way out of town we passed the house of Coubert (the famous pre-impressionist painter). It was nice level walking all morning because I think we were still following an old railway route even though the guidebook only tells us we were following it later on. 

Looking back along the river to Ornans

Weirs are very numerous along the river

One of the 18th century stone bridges

Two people stopped to talk to us. The first was an old fellow who was gardening. He talked to us in French & wished us Bon voyage – I don’t know what else he said, we couldn’t understand his French. The second was a Swiss/German man running. He spoke English & was a teacher with about 15 Swiss students he had to get back to. 

There was even a picnic table for us to sit at to eat our pastries as we watched the river flow past

Near the village of Vuillafans we passed a lovely camping area set amongst the trees beside the river with plenty of people making use of it. Our route took us through the part of Vuillafans near the railtrail. We decided to cross the river in search of a morning coffee. We found a great little bar cafe with a beer garden with big shady trees – a perfect spot.

Hotel des Voyageurs, a good place for coffee

When we crossed back to join the route there was a colourful group of canoeists on the river. It looked like it could have been a high school group. Back on the old railtrail there were two tunnels, both blocked, so we had to bypass them. One we bypassed by going down & around, the other we climbed up & around. 

Canoeists at Vuillafans 

Older lady in Vuillafans – all dressed up with nowhere to go

There is an enormous amount of wood stored throughout France & we’ve wondered what it is all used for

Pete asked this fellow (note the phone for translation) what all the cut wood is used for. Only for heating was the answer

Crystal clear waters of the Loue

One of the blocked rail tunnels

About 20 min later we arrived at a 2nd group of canoeists. They were all teenage girls about to shoot down the weir, one kayak at a time, with a supervisor/boat turner standing on the weir directing them. Pete videoed them all as they came through & I photographed them all. Just to add a bit more to the excitement a dog ran out across the weir barking at them until he got sick of it. It’s a pity we didn’t get to talk to anyone from the group because I’m sure the girls would have loved to have been able to see themselves. 

Getting a helping hand to go straighter into the chute 

Last one down the slide with the instructor

In & around each village along the river was evidence of old mills. There were three types of mills – timber, flour & oil. There were many weirs with diversion channels, old mill wheels, buildings with water diverted through beneath them & there were signs describing how the mills worked. One sign even described how the mill wheels could be raised or lowered to suit the prevailing water level in the river. 

One of the old mill buildings with a weir helping to funnel a stream of water into it

By the time we arrived at Lods the day was very warm & humid so we were pleased when we found a picnic table & chairs in the shade close to the river to eat our lunch. That was the last of the cool though. 

Lunch in the shade at Lods

View of Lods across the river from our lunch spot

After lunch we crossed the river & climbed steeply through the town then continued climbing up a grassy path up the side of the hill. Any breeze seemed to be blocked by the hill. Finally we reached the top of the path & climbed an extra hill. Below us was our destination, Mouthier-Haute-Pierre, a very welcome sight.

The start of a steep ascent from Lods

Photographing a butterfly was a good reason to stop during our climb

Pete found another bug to photograph

La Vierge de Sainte-Foy, built from the ruins of an old chapel, looks down over Mouthier-Haute-Pierre

The view over the town from the hill of La Vierge de Sainte-Foy

Different areas within Mouthier-Haute-Pierre have different styles of architecture

A second building style within the small town

15th century painted statue, Notre-Dame de Brey, in the church

We arrived very hot & sweaty at our hotel on the side of the hill to find it open & to find that our room had a lovely view down to the river. After cleaning ourselves up we went back upstairs to the terrace where we passed the time until dinner time which was also about the time when it began to rain accompanied by a bit of thunder & lightning. We went to bed hoping for a fine day to follow. 

We had a very nice room at Hotel La Cascade with a wonderful view

Part of the view from our room

The restaurant was fairly expensive but the food was good (lamb with herbs & 7 different fresh vegetables)

Dessert was both delicious & interesting, the chocolate torte being accompanied by fruits including red currants & a physalis, known here as ‘amour en cage’, which I have never seen before

Besançon to Trépot to Ornans

Mon Jun 12 – Tue Jun 13

From Besançon there was a 230 metre climb up the hill, there were another 400 metres to climb during the day & the weather was predicted to be quite warm so we left before 6 o’clock. We walked up through Porte Noir & past the cathedral then turned right, climbed a bit more then had to go back all the way down to the river. To get there we had to go down a path that was barricaded but we simply walked around the barricade & continued. At the bottom end of the path at the base of a flight of stairs the barricade was totally blocking our progress. We were not going to climb all the way back up so we had to climb over. That didn’t do Pete’s phone any good – it fell out of his pocket & now has a crack in the glass covering the camera lens. 

Some of the distance we’d come up only having to go back down again

The citadel really looked massive from this angle

Walking along by the river we passed two tunnels, a road tunnel & a canal tunnel, built between 1878 & 1882. They cut off the whole loop of the river making travel times considerably shorter. 

Looking downstream along the Doubs

Canal tunnel beneath the citadel

All too soon we turned left, very steeply uphill. The path went pretty much straight up the hill, crossing the road several times on the way. Eventually we arrived at Chapel des Buis with a good view of the citadel & wider Besançon. I thought we were at the top but we weren’t. 

This was just the beginning – there was a long way up still from the top of the steps

The beautiful chapel of Notre-Dame des Buis was built between the 17th & 19th centuries on the site of a 13th century hermitage

We kept climbing but not steeply to the Monument de la Libération (WWII) from where there were better views over the city & citadel as well as a view towards the hilly, forested country we were heading towards. We had gained 230 metres. 

‘Notre-Dame de la Libération’ at the Monument de la Libération

View over Besançon from the monument

The view in the direction we were walking was forested & hilly

Of course the only thing to do when you reach the top is to descend. This we did steeply on probably the roughest track there’s been so far. The track levelled out & widened as we followed a ridge through the forest but which track to turn onto to leave the forest was difficult to determine. We didn’t get the right one but with very little extra distance we ended up in the right place, a busy roundabout where we had to cross the highway. 

Track through the forest

The village of La Vèze was not far from there & while we were resting on a bench beside the road a fellow pulled up in his car to ask us if we were walking the Via Francigena & was it difficult. We told him that the most difficult thing was not being able to speak any French. He said that maybe one day he would do the walk too, wished us well & went on his way. We did too, continuing on a mix of minor roads & tracks through the hills as we climbed fairly steadily towards Trépot.

At the entrance to La Vèze was this bright display advertising the national meeting of the 2CV-Club-de-France (they are Citroëns) to be held in the town in 2018

No sooner had we seen the sign than we saw a 2CV6 Special drive past

We had only two other encounters before we arrived. The first was with a large aggressive dog. Thankfully we both had our walking poles out. Those & Pete yelling at him dissuaded him enough for us to get past. Then, on a very minor agricultural road we stopped to watch a young hare. It must have been too young to know to be scared of humans. It lolloped right up to us – within 60 centimetres of my foot, looked at us then slowly hopped into the paddock. 

Initially the hare was at the top of the hill further away than this

….. but he decided to come for a closer look

….. and came even closer

….. then sat by my foot out of camera view before calmly moving towards the field

….. where he sat again & watched us

We continued along the road & found a spot for lunch at picnic tables outside a small, isolated chapel, St Maximin. Beside it was a 270 year-old oak tree.

Lunch by the chapel

It was not far from there to Trépot; just down a slope between the trees, over a stile, across a paddock, over another stile then along the road for about a kilometre & we were there. 

Down the slope

Over the stile

It’s quite some time since we had to walk through the middle of a farmer’s paddock

La Ferme 1839 is a beautiful Gîte/Chambres d’Hôtes, an old stone building in which we had a large bedroom, dining/lounge room & lovely verandah. Trépot is a tiny village so our walk around the town didn’t take us long, particularly as it was a Monday. The village has a small bar restaurant, open every day but Monday & a cheese museum which wasn’t open either – only on Sundays. There was one thing there that we haven’t seen anywhere else – an automatic boulangerie. It had several different types of bread & lollies available for purchase & boasted about being open ’24/24, 7/7′. 

La Ferme 1839, a lovely place to stay

Outside the Musée Fromagerie – it’s a fair sized pot

This boulangerie doesn’t have quite the same appeal to your senses as the shops that emanate wonderful smells & mouth-watering images

Squirrel, tahr & boar carved from a tree stump still in situ

After our 10 minute walk we returned to La Ferme 1839 & relaxed until dinner time at about 7.30. We sat outside on our verandah & tucked into cold calzone from the night before followed by little tubs of pretty ordinary coffee desserts. It wasn’t the worst meal we’ve had but it was well down amongst them. 

Dinner on the verandah

Next morning while we were downstairs having breakfast (with the best plain yoghurt I’ve eaten for a long time) Gerard, our host, suggested going along a road for about 2 km from Trépot then following an old railway route all the way to Ornans. His wife, Claude, showed us on Google maps on the computer where to go. That was much easier to see than it was on the phone. Once we’d seen that it was easy to follow the route on the phone. Pete made screen shots of all the way & we decided to give it a go. 

With our hosts, Claude & Gerard as we were leaving

Big, beautiful poppies in one of the well-tended gardens of Trépot

Early in the morning the beards on the wheat crop were all covered with tiny dewdrops

The dew gave the crop a lovely soft grey hue

We found the intersection with the railtrail without any difficulty. It was a great track – it had a fair bit of shade & was level. The surrounding country quickly became quite rugged with a deep gorge beside us, but there were so many trees that photos were impossible. 

We may not have been able to see right down into the gorge but that didn’t mean that the scenery was poor

There were lots of butterflies to try to photograph too

Added bonuses were the abundance of sweet little strawberries along the trail & a 180 metre-long tunnel, Tunnel de Plaisir-Fontaine. After the tunnel we made use of a seat in the shade beside the track for a snack & a rest. 

Entrance to the rock lined Tunnel de Plaisir-Fontaine constructed in about 1884

It was very dark in the middle of the tunnel but as we all know, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel

About 4 kilometres from Ornans we crossed a road & from there on the railtrail was sealed – not as nice but still quiet & lined with damp, mossy forest. We crossed the river on a magnificent old stone viaduct & only left the railtrail at the edge of Ornans where it ended. 

Lush vegetation in the cool, moist forest

The viaduct is a similar length to the tunnel

The arches of the viaduct over the river Bréme are 25 metres high

We then found ourselves walking in the full sun. What a different temperature it was – hot! We found some shade for lunch, sitting on a stone wall in the industrial estate then continued our hot walk into town. We saw our hotel with a sign saying it is always open. This we thought would be good, no waiting for hours to get in. However, it was an automated system, all instructions were in French & it seemed like you had to put a credit card in to proceed. Our room should already have been payed for by Ferdinand (our Airbnb host who booked here for us because he couldn’t host us). Other guests arrived & all they could tell us was that someone would be here at 7 pm – it was now 2 pm so that was 5 hours away!!! 

Arrival in Ornans

I was concentrating on getting the worst of the signage covered by the fountain that I didn’t realise the trout was about to eat a street lamp

This picture is composed better

I tried to ring Ferdinand but couldn’t raise him. Five calls were made back to my phone but none of them would work either. We were standing out the front wondering what to do when a car pulled up & we were asked if we had a reservation – it was the owner. He was just passing but came in & checked us in. How lucky we were!!

What a pretty town Ornans is. It is nicknamed the little Venice of France-Comté. The Loue river is crossed by two 17th century arched stone bridges & from the footbridge we could see one of them & its picturesque old houses built on stilts overhanging the waters of the river. The large main square, Place Gustave Courbet, is named after the pre-impressionist painter who was born & spent much of his life in the town. It has big shade trees & a popular bar. 

Ornans on the Loue with one of the stone bridges spanning the river

Houses built on stilts over the river

Place Gustave Courbet was cool on a hot day

Across the river is the original 15th century Town Hall, a very attractive stone building & the 16th century Church of Saint-Laurent, built on the site of an earlier church. It reportedly houses a superb bust of Christ that is attributed to Bernini but it was closed so we couldn’t get in. We recrossed the river on one of the stone bridges. Walking back past the present Hotel de Ville with lovely stone arcades we noticed a calligrapher’s shop. We asked if he would write in our pilgrim passports. He did & then refused any payment – another small act of kindness. We had an interesting dinner at Restaurant l’Oriental on the other side of the river, both deciding to have a couscous meal. I had lamb & chicken, Pete had chicken. We were served a plate with the couscous to serve from, chicken or chicken & lamb on another plate each, plus a big bowl of the vegetable stew – Choukchouka. There was also a little pot of chilli, but one little taste of that was enough for me & enough for Pete not to try it. It was an interesting, tasty meal. 

Self-carving sculpture

Arcades of the present Hotel de Ville

Dinner

Ornans lies in a valley beneath tall cliffs

Cussey-sur-l’Ognon to Besançon

Sat Jun 10 – Sun Jun 11

Just out of town, early in the morning, we saw 2 deer grazing in a wheat crop. Both of them saw us but neither ran off so either we looked harmless or they were enjoying the wheat so much that they thought it was worth taking the risk. When we’d passed them we turned & walked on narrow track through the forest where there were lots of brambles trying to grab hold of us but not too fiercely. 

Early morning mist in the valley behind the farmhouse

These were just some of the fungi growing at the base of this tree

We emerged from the forest near the town of Geneuille. It had both a cafe & a boulangerie so we made use of both – coffee first then we bought treats at the boulangerie (chocolate croissant for Pete, strawberry tart for me) which we carried with us about 100 metres to the edge of town & we found a step to sit on at one of our favourite places – the lavoir.

Pete’s just about finished his chocolate croissant 

Once we were under way again we got about 100 metres past the lavoir before we came to a lake. A swan was sitting on the grass beside the lake looking very regal with her 5 ‘swanlings’ (the word ‘cygnets’ didn’t come to mind quite quickly enough so they’ve been swanlings ever since). Another 50 metres further on was a man preparing to fly his radio-controlled model aeroplane. We spent quite a while there watching him. The path then led us around the lake. There we had to try to read several signs about the plants, birds, butterflies, frogs & regeneration of the landscape. Consequently it took us an hour to walk a single kilometre. It’s just as well they don’t all take us that long!

Swan & ‘swanlings’ at the lake

A successful takeoff, which seemed to be a lot easier to achieve than a successful landing

Watching this ultralight was one more thing that slowed our progress

Lake that is central to the conservation area

Our next leg was on a track beside the TGV (very fast train) line. One went past – whoosh & it was gone. I didn’t even have time to get my camera out, which is probably no great loss because they just look like any other train in a photo. 

Once we crossed the railway we turned towards a line of forested hills. The climb wasn’t as bad as we thought it might have been. It was shady, long & gentle, and although it was beside road there was a wide grassy verge so plenty of room between us & the traffic. 

One simple arrow can give quite a bit of information

From the crest of the hill it was all downhill to Besançon, initially through a large homewares retail/light industrial area with supermarkets, a McDonald’s, etc. It was a long walk into the city centre. 

From the top of the hill looking back

Finally in front of the railway station we turned through a park with some of the old fortifications of the city evident. Before we entered the city we had lunch on a park bench in the shade looking at Tour Montmart (Tower – probably 13th century) built on the highest part of the city walls. 

Tour Montmart, built in the Middle Ages & converted into a powder magazine when Vauban redesigned the city’s defences in the late 17th & early 18th centuries

To enter the oldest part of the city which lies within a horseshoe bend on the Doubs River, we had to cross the river over Pont Battant. It is situated where the first bridge was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It was the only bridge until the 17th century, was partly destroyed in 1939-40, was rebuilt in 1953 then again in 2014 when it was made very wide to accommodate turning trams. Then it was only a short distance to the end of the day’s route in Place du 8 Septembre, the city’s central square with the Hôtel-de-Ville (1569-73) & a large church (but not the cathedral), Église Saint-Pierre, facing it. It wasn’t far from there to Ibis Centre Ville, our hotel. 

Buildings lining the Doubs

Unusually, in the main square was a large pond & bushy trees providing a lovely outdoor space

We thought this was an interesting innovation – a colourful chewing-gum board near the rubbish bin 

Besançon roofscape

We had a modern room with plenty of space

After settling in there & having a rest we set off for a short wander through the town. We were spending the following day in Besançon so we took it very easy. The places of interest that we found were:

  • Place de la Revolution which was choc-a-bloc with market stalls, selling the same uninteresting cheap clothes, shoes, gimmicky toys & other assorted stuff as we’ve seen elsewhere.
  • The school where Louis Pasteur studied for his baccalaureates. He was born nearby in Dole.
  • Back in Place du 8 Septembre we went into Église Saint-Pierre. It was very dark.
  • A bar where we could sit outside in a cool spot for our pre-dinner glass of wine
  • Dinner at an Italian restaurant, Via Roma, sitting outside in Place de la Revolution.

Weekly market in Place de la Revolution 

Monument with bust of Louis Pasteur outside the school he attended for 4 years & where he was schoolmaster from 1839-42

The school was given the name Victor Hugo on the death of the writer, also born in Besançon

Église Saint-Pierre was founded in the 4th century. The present church was built from 1782 to 1786. The height of the bell tower is explained by its role as belfry of the Town Hall & so bearing the municipal bell & box of the watcher

Dark interior of Église Saint-Pierre

When we got up on Sunday we walked down to the covered market to buy some food for breakfast. After breakfast we had decided to walk to the 17th century citadel, a Vauban masterpiece, UNESCO World Heritage listed since 2008. It covers 12 hectares as it stands guard more than 100 metres above the city on a rock outcrop that closes off the meander in the Doubs. To get there we followed part of one of the historic walking routes through the town. It took us past Palais Granvelle, built from 1532 onwards, which has housed the Museum of Time since 2002. Next was the library. It was the first building in France designed specifically for that purpose in 1808. 

The house where Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, was born has been preserved in recognition of the man who is considered to be France’s finest poet. The Lumière brothers, inventors of the technology & the commercial exploitation of cinematography were born in same square. Their house is no longer standing. 

Victor Hugo’s birthplace

The nearby Square Castan has the remains of a Roman theatre & vestiges of the Arcier aqueduct’s water distribution tank. Castan, who the square was named after, was the archeologist who, in 1870, unearthed these things. 

Re-erected Roman columns in Square Castan

Excavated tunnel associated with the water distribution system

Then we walked on towards the cathedral through Porte Noir (the Black Gate), a triumphal arch built around 175 AD in honour of Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome at the time. Carvings on it are mostly mythological but there are also plant motifs & battle scenes. The gate attests to the gratitude & loyalty towards Rome of the Besançon people.

Porte Noir has lost 3m in height – more than 1m is buried beneath the road & the attic which supported the imperial statue is missing

Porte Noir carvings are suffering a bit from their age

Through the gate is Cathédrale Saint-Jean, built between 1127 & 1161, and in the 13th & 18th centuries. It has a harmonious combination of Romanesque, Gothic & Baroque styles.

Cathedral bell tower

Part of the richly decorated interior

The real ascent to the citadel began from the cathedral. After a steep climb up the road there were about 200 steps to get to the entrance. Once inside there was another steep path up to the main part of the citadel. The rewards were fabulous views over the town & the river from the battlements (after more climbing) & some interesting exhibits in the citadel’s buildings. We vIsited the foundry, insectarium, aquarium, space about biodiversity & the Museum of French Resistance & Deportation. It displayed some quite horrifying images & seemed to be very comprehensive in its coverage but all the descriptions were in French & of no use to us. A free audio guide had been available in English but we decided against getting one. If we’d had one, I think the visit would have taken us considerably longer. There is also a zoo & noctarium that we didn’t visit. 

Centre of Besançon’s 17th century heart, contained within the loop of the Doubs marked by the green trees

Another loop of the Doubs containing a largely unpopulated hill

Entry to the citadel

Central part of the citadel

Part of the surrounding high stone walls

Statue of Vauban. The text translates to “VAUBAN This bronze statue, the work of the franc-comtois sculptor Pierre Duc, represents the Marshal of Vauban (1633-1707). The work, installed to commemorate the tricentennial of the death of the engineer of the King, pays tribute, at the same time, to his immense work as a fortifier, with a sense of tactics and adaptation to the terrain, and to the major mark he leaves at Besançon”

These striking members of the scarab beetle family are from Africa

They had some Aussie representatives in the insectarium including this Spiny Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)

There were some very cute frogs housed in the insectarium also

Hot & hungry we decided it was time to head for home & to stop at the cathedral on the way. Being Sunday we hadn’t been able to go in on our way up to the citadel. Now mass was over so it was not a problem. One thing I particularly wanted to see there though, was the astronomical clock. Sadly it is only able to be seen as part of a tour, for which we were not there at the right time. It was built between 1858 & 1860, has 57 faces, over 30,000 parts & 11 movements. It provides all sorts of information: calendars, the movement of the planets, eclipses, ….. oh well, maybe next visit?

Just 17 of the  57 faces of the astronomical clock are shown on the pamphlet

One good thing that happened on our way home was our choice of cafe for lunch. We both had salads & both were delicious. Mine was a toasted chèvre salad & Pete’s was a tomato & buffalo mozzarella salad. 

Toasted chèvre salad

Tomato & buffalo mozzarella salad

Then finally we did go back to the hotel, after all, it was a rest day. We couldn’t rest for too long though because we had to prepare for the next two days. We needed to buy food for breakfast, lunch & dinner for Monday because we’d been told there was no shop in Trépot. Therefore, we also needed lunch for Tuesday (breakfast was provided at the Chambres d’Hotes). One problem – in Besançon, although it’s a city, virtually nothing in the centre is open on a Sunday afternoon. We found one little corner store near the hotel but we didn’t like the look of anything much there. Google told us that there was another little supermarket about a kilometre from the hotel which opened at 3.30, the time the other one closed. We decided to take the risk & wait for the other one to open. It was a good decision. They had everything we needed for a breakfast & two lunches. Phew!! We’d decided to order a takeaway pizza to carry with us for Tuesday’s dinner. 

We turned into a narrow lane & discovered that someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to brighten it up, knitting covers for just about anything that could be covered

Now we really could relax. We strolled back towards home along the river reaching the riverbank at the Centre of the Arts & Culture, an attractive structure built in 2013 by Japanese architect Kengo Kumo. Shortly after that we were plunged back to the 17th century as we passed the Bregille Bastioned Tower (1687-89). On the river was a group of rowing boats. They arrived at a lock at the old city flourmill built in the Middle Ages (& closed in the 19th century) on a small island in the river. At the lock Pete helped a lady from one of the boats turn the handle to open the manual gate. She told him the group was from the Dutch national rowing association. There were 32 of them – 4 per boat & they do this sort of thing every year, rowing on average about 30 km/ day. It was an encounter that added another dimension to our day. 

Centre of the Arts & Culture

Dutch rowers arriving at the lock beside the old mill

Pete helping to open the lock

Coming through the lock

We had time to relax again for a while at the hotel before going out for our usual pre-dinner drink to a bar called La Fontaine. It was expensive, we paid 11€ for a glass of wine each plus a 40 cent surcharge for the privilege of sitting outside – with all the smokers. 

For dinner we walked across the square to Restaurant Vésontio where I ordered Saltimbocca & Pete ordered Risotto la Forestier. Both were pretty good but nothing special. When we’d finished we ordered a takeaway calzone for tomorrow’s dinner & walked the long way home after another full but reasonably relaxing day. 

This woodwork is on a 13th century convent that operated as a hospital & later as a shelter for abandoned children. The richly carved wooden arcade, decorated with Middle Age designs actually dates from the Renaissance. We found it on our way home from dinner

This picture is for you, Kate O’Mullane, they look quite similar to, but smaller than the one you have

Beaujeu-Saint-Vallier-Pierrejux-et-Quitteur to Gy to Cussey-sur-l’Ognon

Thu Jun 8 – Fri Jun 9

There was a lot of walking on roads today but still it was an interesting day. We saw two deer within the first few kilometres which always puts a spring in our step. The roads were very quiet & we started talking about the other pilgrims we’ve seen on this trip (only 6) & the pilgrims we saw on our last trip between Vercelli & Gambassi Termi, which took us about 41/2 weeks to walk. In that time we saw 42 & Pete has a list of who they were & where we met them. He gave me hints & I tried to figure out who they were. I did pretty well remembering either where we met them, where they were from or what they looked like. It certainly made the kilometres pass quickly. 

We found some big logs that provided a very comfortable place to rest our legs

Later in the day we were talking about what we might do after we arrive in Lausanne in a couple of weeks. We got so involved in our discussion that we missed a turn & had to backtrack a couple of hundred metres. We hadn’t really thought much about after the walk before we left home. I think that secretly neither of us thought we’d get to the end so we didn’t want to think about that part of the trip. Now we have decisions to make! Anyway, back to the walk. 

There were a few villages along the way, Saint-Broing, Nantouard & Choye. Saint-Broing & Nantouard were both small but Nantouard did have a château that we thought might be spectacular. We’d seen pictures of it on the internet totally surrounded still by a circular moat. We were very disappointed. The building itself was unimpressive & not much of the moat was visible so it was impossible to get an idea of its circular nature. What was needed was a bird’s eye view. 

House in Saint-Broing with a very pretty garden

The lavoir in Saint-Broing had fresh water running into it & appeared to be in good working order

The first church we saw with a roof covered with these shiny, coloured tiles was in Langres. Many of the churches in this region have bell towers capped with the tiles, each one with a different pattern

These cows were having their feed supplemented even though the pasture looked rich

The stores of hay at this farm were enormous, enough to feed a large number of cattle throughout a long, cold winter

Choye was the largest town of the three & we were hopeful of finding a cafe there but the lady in the one remaining tiny, poorly stocked shop said that the last bar cafe closed a couple of years ago so we were out of luck. 

Choye may not have had a cafe but it had one large mansion

For the final few kilometres into Gy we were off the roads. In one place we had to walk between a corn crop & a barbed wire fence then when we turned out of that we were on an overgrown grassy track. I don’t think too many people have come this way recently! After that we followed a dirt road right into Gy but stopped to have our lunch in the shade of a tree beside a vineyard before we reached the town. 

Not everything in the countryside is that wonderful verdant green any more, some of the crops are taking on more golden hues as they dry out approaching harvest time

The heads of wheat look plump & golden but there is still green in the stems & the grains are soft – too much moisture to harvest yet

This would be the most rustic VF sign we’ve seen this trip

Sometimes we wonder what the farmers think of having pilgrims walking through their crops. Although judging from the overgrown exit route, not too many pass through 

Delightful picnic spot

About a kilometre past our lunch spot we arrived at Gy. It looked to be an old town, run down, with a Chateau – at the top of the hill of course & of course we climbed up to have a look. It is possible to visit the château but not at the time we were there so we just had a look from outside the locked gate & descended back to the town to find our hotel. Back in town everything was closed – the Hôtel de Ville where we had hoped to collect a stamp in our pilgrim passports, the bar cafe nearby, & Hôtel Pinocchio where we were booked in. We had 3 hours to fill in before it opened so we wandered back down the road to the only place we saw where we could buy a drink & sat there reading & talking until it was time to check in. This time Hôtel Pinocchio was open. It was a lovely room overlooking the hotel pool & the weather was hot – if only I had my swimmers with me!!

Gy looked tired & unloved but that may have been because we arrived during the lunch break when everything closes

It took a big effort to climb the steep stairs to the château which, according to the notice on the wall, has existed here in some form since the 13th century. The present château dates largely from the late 15th & early 16th centuries

The room at Hôtel Pinocchio was large, bright & comfortable except that, like so many others, it had no topsheet & blanket but only a doona which has almost always been too hot

This pool, seen from our window, looked very inviting

A couple of Pinocchio stand proudly in the hotel foyer while another sits on the counter

For dinner we went only as far as the pizza restaurant next door. 

Our walk from Gy to Cussey-sur-l’Ognon was quite a contrast to the walk to Gy. To Gy we had travelled largely through farmland. To Cussey-sur-l’Ognon the walk was largely through forests. The weather was also a contrast. Instead of hot & sunny it was cooler & showery. 

It wasn’t raining when we left Gy by a steep path up past the church & into the forest where we walked for a couple of hours. Although we saw no animals & few flowers, it was very peaceful & a lovely walk. 

Steep, narrow street which led us up to the church

Houses up near the château & the church were a different style to those in the lower part of town

Rooftops near the château 

In an area where wood had recently been cut & not yet properly stacked we noticed that a VF sign & a cycling sign had both fallen victim to the loggers. We stopped there for a rest but no sooner had we taken our packs off than it started to rain so we packed up again & continued on. The rain stopped almost immediately. 

The forest was very dark in some areas

For Pete this is a very common view of me

We sat only very briefly on the recently sawn logs in the woods

Signs fallen victim to the logging

After we emerged onto the road we still walked largely through forests. It was about there that it started raining again so we put on all our gear. That made us really hot so we ended up walking with our big raincoats just worn like capes & carrying our small umbrellas instead of wearing the hood. That was much cooler.

At one point the road was barricaded because the bridge was under repair but we managed to get across, very handy because I think the detour would have added a few more kilometres.

We took advantage of the protection offered by the road barrier

Another VF sign about to be lost, this time to natural causes

Looking down to the village of Gézier as we approached it

 The rain didn’t last all day & stopped while we were having another rest/snack in the shelter of a lavoir. By the time we arrived in Cussey-sur-l’Ognon it was sunny & hot. How quickly it can change. 

As we crossed the bridge at the edge of town our hotel was in front of us – La Vieille Auberge. It was a character-filled old building & was open so we checked in, just in time before it closed for several hours. 

Weir on the river Ognon

These quirky pot-people decorate the lavoir at Cussey-sur-l’Ognon

Cussey’s lavoir is large & elegant

La Vieille Auberge, an attractive old ivy-covered building

We both had a sleep then went for a walk around town – which had nothing really going on so we returned to our room at the auberge. The room had one problem – no electricity so nothing worked – lights, TV (which we wouldn’t use anyway), air conditioning (I’m not sure lack of power was it’s only problem) or power points to charge our phones & camera. We had to wait until after 5.30 when the bar downstairs opened before Pete finally found someone to rectify the problem. 

The family who run place were very nice, but none of them spoke any English. We were welcomed by a big friendly lady, her bigger husband looked after the bar & their even bigger son, well I’m not sure he did anything. Once the bar opened we went downstairs for a coffee. Foolishly we sat outside – it was on a narrow footpath on the busy main road at the bottom of a hill with a sharp bend. We felt like we were almost in the traffic & we could barely hear each other with the traffic changing down gears & either accelerating up the hill or decelerating as they approached the bend coming down the hill. 

For our glass of wine we moved inside then for dinner we moved again to the terrace out the back where we were served excellent meals to finish our day. 

My lamb shank with lots of different veggies

Pete’s giant prawns with rice & veggie mould

Champlitte to Dampierre-sur-Salon to Beaujeu-Saint-Vallier-Pierrejux-et-Quitteur

Tue Jun 6 – Wed Jun 7

It was raining gently but steadily when we woke up but had stopped an hour later when we went down to breakfast. We paid & walked outside – raining again, so we sheltered under the awning while we donned our rain gear. Only a few hundred metres into our journey we took a wrong turn. It fitted the description in the guidebook except that the VF arrow was white which indicates the direction for pilgrims walking away from Rome. The yellow arrow seemed to be pointing the wrong way. After we’d walked about 200m the track turned back towards town centre & we knew we’d gone wrong so we backtracked & continued further on the road till we found the correct turn. 

Wonderfully rustic VF sign – but the arrow is pointing in the wrong direction, or so we thought

The correct route was beside this once lovely old stone wall

The substantially off-road section from there was mostly on a grassy track roughly parallel to a disused railway. We returned to a very small sealed road to enter Neuvelle-Lès-Champlitte where we stopped at the lavoir to eat our chocolate muffins out of the rain. By the time we’d finished, the rain had stopped & it was windy.

Pete on the grassy track with the forested embankment of the disused railway beside him

Tunnel under the old railway

The tunnel we used was narrow & very dark

The old lavoir (communal laundry) in Neuvelle-Lès-Champlitte offered protection from the rain & a place to sit

We devoured a couple of chocolate muffins while we relaxed in comfort

The route continued on very quiet roads for a while then we turned onto a bush road only for 1400 metres. In that distance we saw two deer – still exciting for us – one fleetingly & one on the track that looked at us before moving slowly off into the bush. Farm roads took us on to the small town of Montot. It was lunch time & seeing as it was cool & still windy, the bus shelter made a good, protected lunch spot. It even had hooks on which we hung our raincoats to dry. It was then back to farm roads the rest of the way to Dampierre-sur-Salon. 

Cliffs are something we’ve seen very few of in the very gently sloping landscape

Houses in Montot

A top lunch spot with protection from the wind, somewhere to hang our wet coats & a good seat

Old tower opposite our bus shelter in Montot

Just past the church as you enter Dampierre-sur-Salon is a massive hotel, totally out of proportion & totally the wrong style for the town. Our host for the night, Philippe, told us it was built by one of the two large metal fabrication plants in the town as a show of its importance. It has changed hands regularly since it was built because there is not the clientele to sustain it. They did make good cappuccinos with crowns of chantilly cream – we had two each while we waited to be picked up by Philippe whose Chambre d’Hotes, ‘Le Moulin de Tincey’, was about 10 kilometres from the town.

The huge hotel looming in the background behind the old buildings of the town

Hôtel de la Tour, totally wrong in the town of Dampierre-sur-Salon

Philippe was a lovely man with reasonable English. He suggested that we might like to go with him later that afternoon when he had to pick something up. He would drop us at Château de Ray-sur-Saône & collect us again on his return journey. It sounded great! He said we’d probably have half an hour or so before he had to leave. He was waiting for a phone call. I decided to have my shower & had just stepped out when he called & said we needed to leave now! I threw some clothes on & was ready in no time. 
Off we went in his van – they seem to take the place of utilities over here. He dropped us at the château & said he’d happily wait for us when he returned. We didn’t want to keep him waiting so we had a fairly quick once around the grounds. The château itself wasn’t open to visit but there was good signage about the history of the various parts of the château & the lands around it. We returned to the gate not long before Philippe arrived back to collect us – perfect timing. 

Château de Ray-sur-Saône took on its present appearance in the 18th century however the two towers existed as part of a 15th century castle (but have been rebuilt)

Tour de la Porterie was one of the 15th century gateway towers

This linden tree was planted in the château grounds in 1609

Tour d’Amour, one of the two relics of the medieval castle

Philippe & his wife Christine

 We were surprised to find that the key ring for our room was a VF pilgrim because Moulin de Tincey is quite a way off the VF route

Soon after we arrived back at Le Moulin de Tincey the rain that had been threatening for a while began to fall & continued most of the evening. In the evening Philippe & his wife, Christine, introduced us to a local aperitif made with Pontarlier Anis (45% alcohol) + Sirop Rieme Sapin (pine syrup) + water. It was ok but I’m not rushing back for more. Philippe & Christine live upstairs & after our drink they retired upstairs & brought our dinner down to us. It too was different to what we’ve had before with a Montpelier sausage, ‘salade’, potatoes & Cancoillotte, a runny cheese which was good with the sausage, plus bread of course. For dessert there were two enormous pieces of still warm rhubarb pie so we shared one piece & packed the other for morning tea the next day. We did a similar thing at breakfast, packing the baguette for lunch because there was other bread & croissants that were sufficient for us for breakfast. 

Our plan had been for Philippe to drop us back where he had collected us in Dampierre-sur-Salon but we decided that since it would have only been a 12 kilometre day that we’d walk from closer to Moulin-de-Tincey. Philippe suggested that walking along the Saône was very nice so we decided to give it a go. Without knowing exactly where we were going we asked him to drop us at Seveux. We began walking there beside a canal which cuts off a big non-navigable loop of river. Close to where we began the water flowed through the Savoyeux Tunnel, built in 1840 & 643 metres in length before rejoining the river. We followed the river without any problems back almost all the way to Dampierre-sur-Salon where we enjoyed another cappuccino at Hôtel de la Tour (the oversized hotel) before we picked up the official VF route again. 

Philippe explaining to Pete where we should go

The path we decided to follow along the canal

Entrance to the Tunnel de Savoyeux

Walking from one end of the tunnel to the other the tunnel seemed long but looking into it was very deceptive

The Saône is quite a wide river

They are a bit small but there is a doe & her fawn crossing the track

One of the two large metal fabrication plants in Dampierre-sur-Salon

The sky looked very threatening & as we walked along a small road a few big spots of rain began to fall so all the rain gear came out, overpants & jacket. The rain stopped almost as soon as it started but it was still cold & windy so we left our rain gear on. 

We followed quite a circuitous route that did a couple of big zigzags to cross the river then we followed beside the river around a 4 kilometre loop. There were cherry trees lining the path for the entire 4 kilometres but all the ripe cherries were well out of reach. That was one thing the windy day came in handy for. It had blown quite a lot of cherries off the trees. The ones that were caught in the long grass were undamaged so we helped ourselves to them. They were small but sweet & juicy. There were a few pleasure craft on the river & we had lunch in a spot where we could see them as they passed us by. 

How can we get the cherries, they’re all so high up?

Most of the trees had an abundance of fruit on them

Cherries caught on the grass just waiting to be eaten

One of the boats cruising slowly along the river

After lunch we continued along the river then a canal that cut off another section called Derivation de Vereux. After a lock & the rejoining of the canal to the river we left the river to walk into Beaujeu-Saint-Vallier-Pierrejux-et-Quitteur to Maison d’Odile (Airbnb). My feet were sore & tired by the time we arrived, I think because the route had been virtually all on bitumen – hard & unforgiving. 

A friendly bunch on their boat

At last we could see the town of Beaujeu-Saint-Vallier-Pierrejux-et-Quitteur in the distance

Maison d’Odile was a funny place. We were let in by Odile’s adult daughter who just left us standing in the entrance hall to wait for her mother to arrive after being phoned. It didn’t take long for Odile to arrive. She showed us to our room & left. We didn’t know if we were free to use any other rooms in the house or not & we had no front door key so we wouldn’t be able to get back in if we went out, so we just stayed in our bedroom & relaxed. We had dinner, which we had brought with us, in our room too – veggie quiche & tomato with left over bread from lunch, followed by chocolate tartufo – a pretty good meal. By 10.30 we were asleep. 

Our room at Maison d’Odile (complete with bassinet)

Dinner was actually pretty good