Tasha & Kiri's Winter En France travel blog

Belfort Lion by Bartholdi

Besancon rooftop of Museum of Time

written mainly by Kirianne...

We stopped for a few hours in Basel train station, but didn't get to see Doro.

We continued into Franche-Comté region to Belfort just for a couple of hours to see the town’s main tourist attraction: a great red sandstone lion built on the cliff just below the citadel. Luckily we were able to leave our big backpacks at the train station, thanks to the kindness of the Chef de la Gare. (You can no longer leave baggage in a locker in any train station, due to the terrorist threat, but he was sympathetic to a foreign traveller with a big backpack who wanted to take a walk around his town.) The lion is built (designed by Bartholdi - of Statue of Liberty fame) from red sandstone blocks imported from the mountains outside of the town, and the steps up to it are made of the exact same stone to match the lion. From the lion’s feet we had a great view of the town and the old ramparts that had protected the old city and the chateau at the top of the cliff above the lion.

We then traveled on to Besançon where we were staying the night. When we got to Besançon it was dark and we were quite tired. Our hotel was right near the train station, just across the road. It was quite plain from the outside, but inside was a totally different thing. The front desk and lobby were new; the roomy room was a French sort of chic, with wonderfully comfy beds and a totally awesome shower, and sliding glass door out onto a large balcony overlooking a courtyard with a large fountain. Very classy! After our picnic-style supper with provisions picked up in Belfort, we slept well that night - except that our room was way too warm for the big poofy duvets.

The breakfast was amazing: full spread with fresh croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice. The big windows of the breakfast room looked out to the courtyard and fountain. We felt pampered and also reluctant to move on again already (one day of travelling had tuckered us out!) and so we decided we had to stay another night! Besides, it seemed, from reading the guide book, that there was quite a lot that we were interested in seeing and doing, and a short half day wouldn't be enough.

So, we made some phone calls and changed our night's accomodation plans and, after a leisurely start to the morning, we walked into the old town and up some steep little rues and a series of steps to the citadel which, sadly, we discovered was closed for the first half of January. Unfortunately, most of the museums that we had wanted to see are in the citadel and so they were also closed. We did have an amazing view from the hilltop where the citadel is so that was worth the climb, I guess. We weren’t able to see the astronomical clock in the Cathedral St. Jean, either, because - as you can probably guess - it was closed for January. We did go to the ‘Musée du Temps’(Besancon's fame is in watch-making) although the large amount of French to read on our first full day back in France was a little much to take in. It was very interesting seeing the Foucault pendulum, and we saw the earth turn an inch or so beneath the pendulum. There was also a good view of rooftops, and hills/small mountains in the distance, from the windows at the top of the tower that housed the pendulum. We also went to the ‘Musée Beaux Arts’ and saw many amazing paintings as well as some Egyptian mummies, but we didn’t go near the mummies!

Another adventure that day was trying to find a new plug adapter because - and this is the kind of thing she would do, as most of you know - Tasha was in a rush packing up from our extended stay in Konstanz, and when she unplugged the laptop she pulled out the plug but left the adapter in the socket. After asking at the hotel, at the ‘Office de Tourisme’ and also at a travel agency, we got good directions to a few possible stores where we might find something - which we did.

That evening we searched for a restaurant where we could get "typical" regional food. We decided on ‘La Tour de la Pelote’, one of the old stone defence towers that sides the Doubs River and has now been turned into a large restaurant. It wasn't far from our hotel, and it ended up that it was a wonderful choice and we had a great dinner. The main floor, where we ate, was decorated with old spears and shields, and other things medieval that had been used in the tower. The vaulted stone ceiling made acoustics interesting. There was a real fire in the hearth and the sink in the washroom was carved out of the stone wall! And the food...! We had a great, long dinner and were almost full just after eating the first course! The waiter was new in France we guessed; he originates from Romania, and was still having a little trouble with French. Tasha made friends with him and, as there were not a lot of people for him to wait on when we arrived, he gave us a special tour of the upstairs which was not being used that evening. There was a spinning wheel and some other decorations upstairs that were quite interesting. We had a really French meal and spent two and a half hours eating! Sadly Tasha had forgotten to bring the camera along but was able to draw a small sketch and the waiter took a photo of us together... but we haven't gotten it sent to our email yet!

The next day we were leaving Besançon but our train didn’t leave until mid day, so we went for a walk along the Doubs River. It had been quite flooded when we got there, but it got even higher overnight. The walkways along the river were covered in water and it was rising up along the stone walls. All the rain in the Jura mountains...

We then got on a train to Tonnerre, via Dijon.

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