There are places near where you live that you somehow overlook. Franche-Comté is only a short hop across the border from where I live, but I had never visited it, passing swiftly through it to southern France on sundry occasions. We sat at the same table with two people at a farmhouse restaurant, and the man was from our partner city Besançon, which he said had quite a beautiful old town. After some research, we realized that the region had quite a lot to offer and was close enough for a short vacation without having to travel great distances.
I searched for travel guides, but the fact that I could not find any in English or German was an indication of how overlooked the area is. I found one in French, which did not have a lot of information about the different sites and villages, but it was useful for finding camping sites and hiking trails.
Our first stop was Notre-Dame du Haut located practically in the middle of nowhere. Its stunning chapel designed by Corbusier is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The location at the top of a hill with views to all four sides provided the inspiration for the design.
It was being renovated at the time of our visit.
On the road along the Doubs River
Besançon, the capital of Franche-Comté, called the “greenest city in France” thanks to its numerous parks and gardens
The Porte Noire, Roman triumphal arch
The Citdadel towers over the city built by Vauban from 1678 to 1771. Vauban was a French military engineer who built numerous fortresses. Statue of him at the entrance:
View from the ramparts
Water was drawn from well 132 meters below. A man walked in the wheel to lift buckets of water.
We stayed in a fancy hotel and hoped to dine in their restaurant. Unfortunately, it was closed the evening we were there, and so we went to a restaurant highly recommended by the hotel receptionist. The food there was okay, nothing special, with the specialty being the French national dish “Steak-Frites”.
We mainly traveled to Franche-Comté for the landscapes and hiking, so our next stop was Ornans. The campsite there was less than ideal, so we continued on the road along the Loue River to the next village where we found an idyllic site occupied only by one other couple.
We drove to Mouthier-Haute-Pierre the next day to hike to the source of Loue River.
At the spring/source
There was a dam shortly below there where water was automatically released when the hydropower plant downstream needed more power. As a result, the river could rise suddenly and substantially without advance notice, so that bathing in the river was prohibited.
It was quite a hike, 5.6 km each way, up and down, with steep drops on the trail sides at times. When we arrived back in town, a village festival was underway and a friendly local enthusiastically described all the sites worth seeing in the region to us.
A Canadian from Quebec brews beer there, and of course we had to try it.
Short stop the next day at Ornans
We headed toward Baume-les-Messieurs, our navigator taking us over approx. 20 different country roads. Baume-les-Messieurs, called one of the most beautiful villages in France in a steephead valley is almost surrounded by limestone cliffs approx. 200 m high.
The Abbaye Imperial is the main attraction in town, built in the 9th century.
The town’s population numbers fewer than 200, but there are thousands of tourists each day in high season.
I guess people get thirsty here, although “soif” could also mean “desire” in addition to “thirst”:
On the road again toward the Cascades de Herisson, a typical Comtois steeple, many examples of which we saw on our travels.
Quote from Wikipedia:
““This kind of steeple is incorporated into the entrance of the churches restored mainly during the eighteenth century after destruction in the Thirty Years’ War in that country and French conquest in 1678. The cloister vault with raised sides (“dôme à pans relevés”) and the polychrome glazed tiles on the roofs are typical characteristics of this regional church architecture.”.”
We had hoped to hike the Cascades de Herisson, but had not taken into account that we arrived there in the middle of a four-day holiday weekend. I struggled along a long line of French to get to the first waterfall, which was very close.
But the masses discouraged us from going any farther.
We had hoped to spend our last night in the region in a nice hotel, but everything in the region was completely booked. Alas, we returned home sooner than planned but with great memories of a great short trip.