Monday, July 9, 2012


The capital of the French-Comté is Besançon, a city that has been an important military and cultural center since the Roman times. Then known as Vesontio, it is almost completely encircled by the Doubs river and is overlooked by cliffs and the imposing Citadelle. Our visit was largely influenced by the convenient location halfway between Freiburg im Breisgau and home. Upon arrival we stopped at the hotel before heading to the old town. First stop - the tourism center.

The citadel as seen from the Doubs to the east

Luckily open on Saturday, we were informed by a polite guide that the train touristique touted by the Michelin guide no longer runs, as of le gros accident three years ago. That should have been our first hint that our time in Besançon wouldn’t be ordinary... However the tourism officials suggested a boat tour instead, and with fifteen minutes before departure we hurried northeast towards Pont de la République. We needn’t have hurried; over 20 minutes later we finally descended the steep stairs and paid our €11 per adult to board the tourist boat. Seating wasn’t the most comfortable, the commentary was all in French (not that I expected any different), and the tour seemed to drag on as it was a there-and-back not a loop as I had expected. We headed south, passing through locks and towards the Citadel. Passing through a long tunnel and another set of locks under the cliff that is the base of the fortress we emerged back onto the Doubs. Having circled almost the whole way around we turned around, heading back through the locks, tunnel, and locks to return to port. Possibly due to a bridge under construction? Both boys decidedly did not like the return trip as much as they liked the first half.

Yep - the tunnel. Complete with psychedelic lights and sound effects

Once back on solid land we headed towards the Grande-Rue which is an old Roman highway and is still the main road through the city. The street has it all: the Hôtel de Ville, the Palais de Justice, Roman ruins (a 2nd century arch still stands), and 12th century Cathédral St-Jean with an amazing astrological clock.

A church on rue de l'Orme de Chamars

We didn’t make it to the Citadel, partly because of the steep approach, partly due to rumbling stomachs, but I can imagine the fortified ramparts, museums and fortress would be excellent to explore. Let’s just leave it on the “to-see” list, shall we?

Roberts has more than once told me he needs a vacation from the vacation; maybe sometimes I can be a bit ambitious with my planning… And so it came about that the next morning we lazed at the hotel, enjoying a nice long breakfast and some time in the pool in lieu of exploring the area further. I can’t say that I’m disappointed in the decision, it was nice arriving home at a reasonable hour.

Even though the boat tour was a little tedious, the scenery was beautiful

On the trip back to Clermont-Ferrand we stopped to stretch our legs and were pleasantly surprised by another beautiful rest area. The meadow was filled with wildflowers, grasses and blooms in every color stretching along the parking lot. I picked a bouquet while Lauris ran circles to his heart’s content. As this trip actually took place before Jāņi, in this vivid field we found some indication of what our time in Chatenet would hold; also, the reminder that the most wonderful moments on any journey are sometimes simple, unplanned and take-your-breath-away beautiful.


  1. It looks like quite the visit. I'm intrigued, did they tell you what the "gross accident" was with the tourist train?

  2. I love that first picture-- so beautiful, with the tiled roofs and dramatic cliffs!!

  3. Mr.O is another complainer of "ambitious scheduling"; phff! When there's so much to see and do in a new place (you might only visit once) - you practically have an obligation to try to see and do it ALL!


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