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
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