The Mountain Goat of Besançon

(The fog at Arc et Senans this morning)

We’ve had a couple of grey chilly days but the forecast for today was sunny. Then I opened the blinds and we were surrounded by fog – very beautiful but not sunny. So I dressed in layers again. We were heading for the city of Bresançon (just east of Dijon) and in particular the citadel, another Unesco Heritage Site. We arrived at the aire at about 9.30am, parked up and headed off for a coffee. The aire is in a great central location right beside the river Doubs and the tram line. I don’t know where the tram goes but I am looking forward to finding out.

(Here’s the river Doubs and you might be able to spot the tram lines on the left)

There were plenty of little coffee shops dotted along the old streets, we picked one and afterwards I went off in search of the citadel. the fog had lifted and it was getting a bit warmer, I was starting to regret my layers and long trousers as I followed the signs up a very steep hill. Fortunately, I always bring a rucksack so I stuffed my furry fleece inside and pretended I was enjoying the view until I got my breath back. Of course as soon as I got my breath back I was enjoying the view.

(I walked under this gate, erected in 175 AD (that makes it 1,843 years old!) to honour Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It’s still used, the bus to the citadel goes through here. There was a bus?!)

The citadel used to be a military academy but now it has museums and exhibits and even a zoo. The bit I was most interested in was the walk around the walls. You might remember from our trip earlier this year in Portugal that we kept finding old walled cities and I was learning to enjoy walking fearlessly on high walls. Well, would you believe I’m like some class of a mountain goat now thanks to all that practice in Portugal. Plus the walls here are very safe – they have two railing one on each side.

(Some of the many steps)

It was definitely worth the climb. The views of the river were amazing and I hope you will be very impressed with the altitude and the fact that I was able to take pictures when I got up there… If I could have taken off a few more layers I would have because by then the sun was the hottest it’s been for days and there’s no shade on a citadel wall. I just had to perspire gracefully.

(There’s a little park inside the first gates and I took this picture to remind myself. It smelled so much like autumn at home, kind of damp and kind of fresh. That’s a good smell!)

Coming back down to the town was so much easier and it was lunch time so I rang Denis and we met at a little restaurant, I’d spotted on the way and ordered the dish of the day. While we waited I drank a pint of water while fanning my very red face with the guide-book. It’s a generalisation but I’ll say it anyway – the French smell great. They really do. We, on the other hand, don’t alway smell great. Me in particular, today – definitely not smelling my best. It might have been kinder to go back to the van and have a quick shower. Unfortunately, the French are also sticklers for time and it was now 1.15pm and lunch would be completely over at 2pm. So no shower.

(Look how high up I am! I walked all the way up from that river. Definitely hit my steps goal today )

It was a small restaurant, very cosily decorated with lots of crafty things hanging around. There was just one person serving. She didn’t seem to notice the malodour (I looked that up and it applies…) and was in fact very helpful in explaining the dish in halting English. It was the kind of place where you could believe her mother was inside in the kitchen cooking. And if she was then her mother is a very good chef, the meal was superb (that’s actually the word the French say whoever I say, trés, trés bon so I think I’ll start using it to improve my French.)

(Here’s the view from the wall towards the city)

There were calamari rings, a huge artichoke (I tried to eat all the artichoke – it was my first artichoke, now I know) amazing garlic potato slices, cooked red peppers, green salade (that’s the French way to say salad) with a dressing I would like to have again and fluff eggs (never heard of before, but that’s what the lady called them.) I love French food and because of the amount of garlic on the potatoes the whole embarrassment about smelling a little off, is gone…

We both reek of garlic, Mairead.

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