to Sunday 17th
We have enjoyed a city break over the last three days. The old town of Besancon nestles in a loop of the Doubs River, surrounded by hills and dominated by the rocky outcrop upon which stands the impressive citadel designed by Vauban. We spent a day exploring the well preserved citadel which houses several museums covering the history of the citadel, local life and a museum of French Resistance and Deportation. The citadel was occupied by the Germans in the Second World War and 100 Frenchmen were executed within its walls for being part of the french resistance. The citadel also has a small zoo, insectarium and aquarium.
We had a day exploring the city itself which is very charming. It was home to many famous people; Victor Hugo was born here as were the Lumiere brothers who invented cinema. The city also has a rich clock making past. Our first port of call was the Astronomical clock housed in St Jean cathedral. It took two years to build and was completed in 1860. We arrived in time for the 12pm “tour”. The clock is housed in a small room and
just before it struck the hour, a lovely young french lady told us all about it. She apologised that the talk would be in french but made a real effort to translate some of it for us, she was so sweet. We were lucky because at 12 pm, Jesus rises from his coffin at the very top of the clock and stays there until 3 pm when he returns to his casket. There are saints that come and go on the hour as well as 57 dials that show everything from the time in international cities, calendars, movement of the planets, eclipses and the tidal height in various french coastal towns further embellished with small ships being tossed on the waves. It has to be wound by hand every day and still controls several other clock faces around the cathedral. A true work of art and fascinating. We had lunch out. John had a selection of the local sausage, ham and cheese and I had a méli-mélo (mishmash) of tomatoes with salad. It tasted a lot more exciting than it sounds with a whole variety of different types and colours of tomatoes.
Our campsite is a tram ride outside
the city and is lovely but it is a bit like camping between the East Lancs road, Manchester to Liverpool mainline railway and Barton airport.
On the Sunday, we cycled into the city along the Doubs river and took in a few sights we had missed the day before, mainly the Time Museum. The museum is housed in Granvelle Palace, built in the 1500’s which makes the building as interesting as its exhibits. The most prized exhibit is the Leroy 01 assembled in Besancon in 1899 and deigned the most complicated watch in the world until 1989. I learnt how quartz revolutionised time measurement in the 20th
century, something I hadn’t ever given any thought to!
June to 22nd
We are back in the mountains, Les Hautes Vosges. The campsite is beautiful and very tranquil after the last one. On arrival we had a short walk on the "path of the goats". It took us past the amazing wooden Théâtre du Peuple, built 1895 by Maurice Pottecher as part of his vision to ensure access to the arts and culture for all. When we went past, it sounded like rehearsals
were underway for the summer run of performances.
Our walk on Tuesday took us past the source of the Moselle River and through the forest to the summit of Le Drumont at 1200 metres high. We had lunch at the top watching paragliders circle the thermals and admired the stunning vista.
On Wednesday we cycled down the Moselle valley and up the Moselotte valley on what was an old railway line and is now a Voie Verte. Whilst we ate lunch, we watched a group of men (old and young) play giant skittles. We cycled a total of 103 kms today, not that much to some of you but it was about 40 kms too much for me on what was the hottest day yet of our trip. Despite drinking loads of water, John’s throat was so dry he couldn’t speak when we got back. A couple of cold beers soon resolved that.
We had an easier day on Thursday and did a shorter walk up to the statue of Sainte Barbe who looks down on the village. The story goes that in 1944, the church was destroyed except for a statue of the Saint. The local
priest promised that if Bussang was spared, after the war, he would erect a statue to Sainte Barbe on the highest mountain overlooking the village. The statue was inaugurated in October 1948. The hillside was covered in wimberry bushes in full fruit. John and I had our usual discussion about the difference between wimberry and bilberry.
Big walk on Friday. It started with a short cycle ride to the next village of St Maurice sur Moselle and then a steady climb to the Ballon de Servance at 1160 m. After dropping down to the Col du Luther and the Col du Beurey we stopped for lunch outside one of the mountain refuges before climbing to the summit of the Ballon d’Alsasce at 1247 m. The top of the hill is a ski station in winter and a popular tourist spot in summer. On a clear day you can see Mont Blanc, the Eiger and the Jungfrau to the south and the black forest to the east.
June to Monday 25th
Turkheim / Colmar
The campsite is at Turkheim. Everywhere you look there are vineyards. Turkheim sits at the entrance to the
Munster valley and the remnants of its fortifications hint at its historical strategic position. Its turbulent history is reflected in a mixture of French and German sounding street names and architecture. The pretty multi-coloured medieval buildings are the stuff of jigsaw pictures. It’s clearly a popular area, by the end of the day the campsite was full. There has been a big initiative in recent years to restore a once thriving stork population to the area. It is clearly going well as there are huge stork nests full of chicks everywhere you look. You can hear them clacking their beaks to let their chicks know there are returning with food. We have seen at least four nests in the short walk from our campervan to the campsite entrance. There are signs up in the toilet block requesting you don’t feed them bread as they are carnivorous.
On Sunday we cycled into Colmar and had a wander through the town. It is very beautiful with more multi-coloured medieval houses and little canals. Very picturesque – took lots of photos.
On Monday we cycled up the Munster valley and explored the small villages and towns along the way.
We are camped at Mosheim just to the west of Strasbourg. We are pitched next door to a very friendly couple called Graham and Chris from the north Cotswolds. It’s the most sociable we have been this trip. Today we cycled along the canal into Strasbourg. We went to see the European Counsel buildings, the European Court of Human Rights and the European parliament, all very impressive. After lunch we wandered through the old town which is effectively an island, admiring the astronomical clock in the impressive and massive Notre Dame cathedral. Again beautiful medieval buildings make for a very picturesque and photogenic city.
We had a short cycle ride this morning around the area taking in some of the villages and towns. We ended up at the Fort of Mutzig, a huge underground fort build by the German King William in the late 1800’s. You can do a 2 ½ hour guided tour but it would have meant hanging around for an hour so we decided to give it a miss this time. This evening we had a walk into Molsheim. The main square was gearing up for a night
of bingo and beer. The town was where Ettore Bugatti built his first motorcars.
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