Charline, Jules, me. At the summit of the citadel in Belfort.
For those of you who don't know, my lovely region of Franche-Comte is divided into four departments: Doubs (where Besancon is), Haute-Saone, Jura (where Saint Lupicin is), and the Territory of Belfort.
For this weekend adventure, Charline led us into the Territory of Belfort, a department I hadn't visited before. Friday, May 7
I wasn't sure I was going with Charline because I had been sick the past couple of days. I went to the doctor Friday morning and she said I had a "gastro", which I guess just means a gastro-intestinal virus. She sent me to the pharmacy, and after taking the first doses of medicine, I started to feel better. Charline convinced me to come for the weekend since I was starting to feel better.
Originally other friends were supposed to come, but plans fell through. Aurore had to go out of town, Christophe was doing his internship in Strausborg, Jose was going camping, and Pauline was in Paris. With tactile skills rivaling that of Caesar, Char and I convinced Jules (who is by nature a flip-flopper) to come with us. We weren't sure he was actually coming until he was strapped in
Notre Dame de Ronchamp
in the car, haha! And thus commenced out one hour drive to Beaucourt, Charline's town.
The weather was supposed to be terrible all weekend, so we decided that we would dedicate the weekend to eating well! That night we did it up all fancy! Jules prepared his pasta with salmon and trout in a cream sauce while Charline and I set the table with the best dishes, silverware, and three glasses each. (One is for the aperitif, one for water, one for wine.) With 40's jazz in the background, we had our apero, the main course with a good white Alsacian wine, and then brought out the cheese. We'd bought Mont d'Or and Felicien especially for that night--yum! Mont d'Or is a very particular cheese that is made withe a rim of pine sap (you find this variation in several cheeses of the region). It has a powerful taste, but it's delish! We ate our cheese and bread and then had a nice tea afterwords. Stuffed, Jules did the dishes while Char and I straightened the table and got a movie ready to place in the living room. We finished the evening by watching Woody Allen's "Match Point". Saturday, May 8
It stopped raining long enough for us to have a light breakfast outside and take a walk through Beaucourt. My favorite part was the cemetery which buts up against the woods. Cemeteries really interest me. I've always liked looking at the names and dates and imagining what people's lives would have been like. In France, I've liked looking particularly at the graves of soldiers dead in WWI. This period in French history has always caught my attention, and I was particularly struck by the grave of a couple buried together where the husband had died in 1916 (age 18) and the wife lived until 1979 (age 78). I imagined how sad it must have been for her to live 60 years longer than her husband. I read somewhere that the first soldier to die in the line of fire during WWI was killed right outside of Belfort.
Saturday was also a holiday in France--the day that Germany surrendered in WWII. So there were a lot of French flags out on display and war memorials that were decorated.
We hopped into the car and headed to Belfort, where we walked around and saw
the famous lion at the citadel. It was done by the same guy who did the Statue of Liberty. Since the weather was still holding out, we decided to visit Notre Dame de Ronchamp, the chapel by Le Courbusier. We drove about 30 minutes and reached the summit of a mountain. By the entrance to the chapel property there was another war memorial, commemorating the day when the chapel had been liberated from German possesion. Since Belfort is so close to Alsace, it saw a lot of action in WWII, and Ronchamp in particular was a hill that kept getting taken back and forth from French to German hands.
The chapel itself was captivating. As a space, it is very empty and cold-feeling inside. It really speaks of a 1950's modernist mentality with secular sentiments. As we walked in, we saw that there were about 10 nuns conducting a service for themselves and singing. Their voices filled the space and created something truly magical.
After our adventure, we headed back to make crepes! I sauteed some mushrooms, Jules made a wheat flour batter and a white flower batter, and Charline did the table and served the cider (fermented
outside the entrace of the chapel property
cider, popular here, where they have lots of apples in the fall). Then we re-heated the crepes, adding our chosen fillings in (cheese, ham, mushrooms). The fun part is taking turns making everyone a crepe--it creates a close, family atmosphere. The French often do this at meals. Someone will take it upon themselves to fill everyone's glass. And when your glass is low, they'll ask if you'd like some more and fill it again. This is something I've found to be very important to the French: working together, but also treating your friends and family. Classy, no? I'm glad to say that this silly American finally learned her manners in France!
After our "crepes sales" (savory crepes) we made dessert crepes with the white flour batter. Charline and Jules cooed over their "beurre, citron, sucre" crepes (butter, lemon juice, and sugar), and after my Nutella crepe, Jules made me one. HEAVENLY. After we were full of crepes, we watched "Casablanca" and called it a night. Sunday, May 9
We woke and it wasn't raining at the moment, so we had more crepes for breakfast on the terrace! But then it started raining, and it continued
driving back to Besancon. Montbeliard cows!
all day, so we were house bound. We had a very low key day hanging around the house, playing cards, listening to Otis Redding, and watching a BBC special on dinosaurs (Jules and I share a love of dinos, but Charline was bored to tears, haha)! We'd decided to extend the weekend and leave Monday, so there was no rush. We also watched a film called "Pret moi ta main" which was good. It's great now that I'm so fluent in French that I can watch films without subtitles and understand everything! yay! For dinner it was chicken and rice with grated carrot salad! We also ate pate and mini pickles--yum! Jules topped it all off with more Alsacian wine and bowls of mousse au chocolate which he and I'd made that afternoon! IT WAS SO DELICIOUS. After a tea infusion it was time for bed! Monday, May 10
Rain, rain, rain. We picked up the house, and had a brunch of fried potatoes with raw ham, mini pickles, goat cheese, carrot salad, lettuce salad, and ham pate. Amazing. Then Jules delicately devoured the rest of the Mont d'Or--he loves it because it's from the town he
was born in. Then we finished it off with more mousse au chocolate from the day before. We headed out around 3pm. Since it wasn't raining too hard, Charline suggested we take the longer route, because it's more scenic and highway costs 7 euro. We didn't have anywhere to go, so we cruised along the quaint French roads. Finally the clouds lifted and there was a little bit of sunshine, making a cheery ending to our relaxing country weekend!
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