Day 3 - Monday 23rd July 2007


Today we visiited Besançon, the capital of the Franche-Compé region nd of the Doubs Departement, about 30 miles to the south of Gray. It's famous for its citadelle, a massive hilltop fortress which sits in a loop of the River Doubs. The citadelle was designed by the military engineer Vauban, who is being feted this year in France - and we eem to have visited several of his designs in recent times: Bergues, Lille, Villefranche-de-Conflent, Collioure...

Although we started to drive to the citadelle, we picked up signs for a park-and-ride scheme and turned back, leaving the car in a shady parking space, and took the bus up the steep, narrow roads to the entrance. Inside the outer entrance was a statue of Vauban above a map of his major works, and (of more interest to the girls) llamas and rheas.

A short, uphill walk took you to the first demi-lune - you can see the strength of the fortifications.

As well as Vauban there was a strong thread on the resistance and deportations during World War 2, this statue commemorating those sent to concentration camps.

Rosie was taken by the mouse inviting us to visit the nocurnal world - she wasn't so keen on the rats that inhabited that world, though the giant hamster was a big hit.

A fortress needs a water supply, and this well house was central in the courtyard. You could see down the deep well.

The citadelle is huge - big enough to house a zoo in one corner between the inner and outer walls. There were lots of primates...

There were also water birds of various kinds, but none as symatreical as these that B found.

And even wild butterflies.

Pygmy donkeys

Tigers (just for me!)

and lions.

From the end you got a view of the river turning to go round the lump on which the citadelle is built, and the old textile mills.

We had lunch at the cafe, under these yellow umbrellas. Lunch was good, if a bit slow, but as we neared the end the sunshine gave way to a heavy shower and we had to move the tables to stay dry. Then a huge gust of wind emptied a puddle of water off one umbrela down B's back - she was soaked and had to go off to the loo to be dried under the hot air hand drier.

Dodging the rain as best we could we climbed onto the walls and looked down over the fortifications.

Posing by the Queen's Tower.

B and I walked the walls while Meld and Rosie visited the museum of France-Compté. We got different views of the river around the hill.

We then met up again at the exit. While we were in the shop the heavens opened again - compare this with the one when we started - and we sheltered for a while. Even 10 metres back into the gateway we were getting wet as the wind drove the rain in. Eventually we made a run for it, getting wet, carrying shoes, and arrived dripping at the bus stop.

The bus was packed with wet people, and seemed to meander more than on the way up, but returned us in due course to the car park - now under water in parts. We did our best to dry off and warm up. We then drove around trying to find our way to Galeries Lafayette, but the complex one-way ystem (and the fact that we didn't realy know where the shops were and it was so wet we wanted to get close by car) defeated us and we headed back to Gray, via a Casino for food and Champion for diesel and a new bed for Rosie.

Back at camp, we were relieved to find the gazebo still stnading, though the groundsheet had blown off the cooker which was a bit wet, but the cold box and its electrics were in tact beneath the table. We made and ate tea, and were rewared by this lovely sky, but we also decided that we should move south in search of better (wamer) weather tomorrow. Next installment from... who knows.