There are a bunch of places on our ‘must-get-to-while-we-live-in-The-Europes’ list, including Rome, a hiking holiday in Portugal and hopefully a glimpse of the northern lights. There are also places on our ‘easy-drive-from-Luzern’ list: enter Besançon.
Located on a bend in the Doubs River, and the capital of the Franche-Comté region, Besançon has been kicking around since Roman times. Due to its proximity to the Alps, it held military significance over the years but is most famous today for its watch industry and delicious comté cheese. You might guess which of these two had our focus (hint: we’re still running late for everything).
Still trying to perfect our weekend away game, we opted to leave on Friday night rather than first thing Saturday. We hit the road as Hotel finished work, driving across Switzerland, briefly through Germany and then into France, springtime light lingering despite the rain predicted to continue falling all weekend. We pulled into town quite late (late only by my rigid baby-routine standards, and reasonably early for every other person on the planet) and caught dinner in town, while our girl worked on catching kisses from her father.
Saturday started, happily, with pastries and a break the rain. We seized the opportunity to walk through the Besançon’s old town up to the Citadel, about half an hour’s stroll. The town itself is delightful: winding streets and garden filled squares, wrapped up by a richly flowing river.
And Roman ruins, of course. These Corinthian columns flank an ancient aqueduct, an area that was later used as a Roman theatre (which we mistook for Besançon’s amphitheatre, completely incorrectly as it turns out).
We walked up through the medieval Black Gate…
…past the astronomical clock of Saint Jean (located inside this cathedral, the clock has over 70 dials which indicate times, tides, sunrise and set, orbits of the planets and much more over the span of 10,000 years. Given my loathing of the regular chiming of bells in Rotkreuz, I am terrified to imagine the havoc such a beast could wreak)…
…and through the outskirts of town to the Citadel.
An old fortress perched atop the hill, the Citadel now houses gardens, several museums, an aquarium, an insectarium, and a zoo.
It seemed slightly troubling that out little Australian had her first roo sighting in rural France, but it didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest.
Like many people I generally find zoos inhumane and depressing, and even though I want to encourage Ads to continue roaring like an adorable little lion when she sees them, such creatures aren’t supposed to be in cement enclosures in cold, rainy France. We didn’t last long, preferring to wander the site and climb the wall to get a view out across the town and river.
Shortly after this, the spring rain started again. Hotel and I were a sorry sight, running back into town with brollies in various stages of explosion, soaking ‘waterproof’ jackets and a rogue plastic covered pram in which our oblivious baby slept happily away.
One of the (many) errors we’ve made on our weekends away is not to have planned meals, preferring instead to chance upon cute eateries or being happy to wait for a table at places we’d like to visit. For some reason we seem to think we are still travelling like it’s 2014 (i.e. pre baby). This time, happily, we researched and booked ahead which made all the difference. This restaurant was reviewed as having excellent food, as long as one could stomach the decor. Knocking back local specialities such as morels and chicken cooked in yellow wine and a local take on quenelles, we barely noticed the stuccoed walls adored with varying sizes of bells.
Sadly our little mademoiselle must have, as she was not at all interested in delicious French dining, insisting that we take it in turns to walk her around the block in the rain, learning how to splash in puddles.
The rain subsequently set in for the weekend, and although we did our best to make the most of our time in town, it was hard to get out and about in a permanent state of dampness. Coupled with the fact that our princess has apparently discovered a pea on the bottom of her travel cot, resulting in two wretched nights of sleep (for us – the little terror owned the bed while we lived in fear of waking her with the slightest of movements) we cut our losses the next morning and headed back to Luzern, happily in time to catch the end of the street food festival happening at the end of our street.