2019/09/24-25: In Besançon
Besançon is a city we’d heard of when we lived in nearby Ferney-Voltaire in the 1990s. Now we were finally visiting it. We did “day off” errands to buy maps, got Velcro to mend Chris’s rain jacket, and spent time walking the impressive fortress ramparts. We moved slowly through the Resistance Museum, with an audio gizmo narrating our visit in English. I sat down in the final room and wept.
We took a second rest day, spending much time in our comfortable budget Ibis room. Chris’s knee needed more time off after two longer-than-usual days from Breisach, and we were generally weary. We slept, blogged, and Skyped with family. In the evening, we overdosed on BBC World Service. It was raining, and we needed this kind of day.
2019/09/26-30: to St. Martin de Salencey
We set off westward along the Doubs, now familiar and still scenic. We weren’t stocked with picnic food, so at midday we pedalled into a village just off the canal, and found a pizzeria. We ordered the “Formule de Midi” as the place filled with locals doing the same. This meant a pizza main course followed by something called «Café Gourmand». I wasn’t sure what was special about “gourmet coffee”, but we soon decided that “greedy coffee” might be a better name for what arrived. Each of our espressos was surrounded by small servings of three classic French desserts: crème caramel, chocolate mousse, and cake.
We tucked into ours as we’d chatted to our table mate, a young fellow who worked selling the Kuhn brand of agricultural machinery that is manufactured in Alsace. We spoke in French as he described his experiences learning some English within the French public education system. In late primaire the teacher was useless, in collège the teacher was always absent, but in lycée the teacher was brilliant and inspiring. The ambitious lad wanted to work in Australia, where his employer also operates. He was shy about speaking, but said he had no problems reading the manuals which are all in English.
After a night in a Hotel Campanile in Dole, we set off on a grey morning crossing from the river Doubs – in the département of Aîn – to the Saône In Côte d’Or. The Saône has deep locks as it drops to the Rhône. Many of the pleasure craft puttering through locks are converted barges or aging motor craft in poor condition. We saw a sailboat, mast unstepped, German flag, waiting for a lock to move her upstream. We chatted to the owners, visibly seasoned mariners, returning to the North Sea after three years in the Mediterranean.
We rolled into Chalon-sur-Saône pretty tired after a 99 km ride. We’d planned two nights here to better synchronize our arrival at David and cousin Alison’s abode in Burgundy. We were pretty annoyed at the less-than-bike-friendly Kyriad Hotel for making us pay 5 euros per night for a secure private garage with a convoluted entry procedure. On a busy weekend when things are full, one cannot argue. However, one can always grumble. No vélo accueil sticker for Kyriad.
We set out from Chalon on a regional route verte. France has quite a few of these converted rail corridors, and they make a pleasant change from the Eurovelo routes of which we’ve connected segments. As Eurovelo develops, it forms a useful web of pan-European bike infrastructure, but the routes have begun to feel a bit too arterial ….at least for us. Perhaps we need a few more hills and corners? The routes vertes may not add these, but they do have a more local feel. As we sit on the platforms of old stations and assemble our picnics, local cyclists stop to chat. They often ask where we are headed, and we tell them we aren’t quite sure where our next few weeks will take us. They offer us thoughtful and useful local input.
After a night in the turret room of a chateau in Salorney-sur-Guye suggested by David, we had only 14 km to ride to St. Martin de Salencey. We took our time, talking to a local farmer as we examined a large praying mantis on the road.
It was lovely to arrive to familiar faces and to be heartily embraced! Alison took us on a tour of the 1,000 year old Abbey at nearby Cluny. Chris helped David install an enormous rain barrel. They are fabulous cooks, and we ate them out of house and home.
With Alison and David, we had glimpses of Burgundy where a new generation is returning from cities to rural life. There are those of creative careers like our hosts, and others who are taking over farms to raise organic vegetables. The community is actively working to protect the ecological integrity and historic sites of the Burgundy landscape. It’s this kind of stopover that gives us perspectives, and balances our forward motion.