Friday, June 10 Dole-Besancon
Another warm and beautiful day. Maggie began the day in shirt sleeves which speaks for itself. We continued our ride across the mid-section of France using Euro Velo Route 6 along the canal and river. We are in the Rhone-Rhine region along the Daubs River, pronounced “Dew”, and the Rhone-Rhine canal. The first part of the day was spent in the flatland farm country where the crops are mostly grains and large cornfields. The corn is likely feed corn for the livestock. The grain is used for bread which is a staple in the French diet.
In our efforts to find places to have coffee in mid-morning and afternoon we noticed that many of the villages that we rode through did not have any services. No bar, no tabac, no bakery, no butcher shop, and no place to stay. We also noticed that there is very little human activity visible in these villages.
As we approached Besancon the topography changed dramatically from flat river bottom, fertile land as far as the eye could see to hillsides, some with rock outcroppings, on both sides of the river, similar to the terrain that we expect to see when we enter Germany and ride along or near the Rhine. With the exception of the Loire, the rivers we have been riding along flow north to south. This includes the Rhone and the Daubs. The Rhine flows south to north.
When we got to Besancon, the outstanding feature was the Citadelle which is a 17th century fortress sitting on a ridge high above the valley floor.
It has 3 museums and about 15 acres of land. We will leave our panniers and bikes at the hotel and take the bus up the hill for a 15 minute ride to it tomorrow before we head out to our last stop in this area of France before Germany.
Tonight is the first game of the European Soccer championships, although we saw very little fanfare here in Besancon. The French team is the host and as such gets to play in the first game. There is fear that the French team will lose and be out of the tournament.
Saturday, June 11 Besancon to Baume-les-Dames
We started the day a bit early in order to visit the Citadelle and still be on the road by about noon. The Citadelle was so large and interesting that we ended spending a full 3 hours there before heading back to our hotel to load up and get on the road. It started raining on our way down from the Citadelle.
We chose to tour the Resistance Museum which also included quite a bit of the history of the rise of the Third Reich and not an awful lot about the organization of the Resistance in France. There were many brief explanations and blunt and gory photographs of Resistance fighters who were captured, tortured and executed. It was stark and sobering. We spent a lot more time in this museum than we had intended, but felt it necessary to learn as much as we could about this very grim chapter in history.
While eating our lunch in the lobby of the hotel we met an Australian couple who were walking from Canterbury, England to Rome, Italy. They had hiked the Camino across northern Spain in the past. Unfortunately, Janet had developed a problem with her heel so she and her husband Peter have been holed up here for the past 6 days waiting for her heel to to heal. They have decided to give it more time and will take an overnight train to Utrecht, Holland, to visit friends in hopes that a longer period of rest will help.
We took off about 1:30 in full rain gear once again. The ride was through some “canyons” bordered by hills on both sides. The hills are beautiful and densely forested. It only rained lightly off and on until we were in Baume-les-Dames when the heavens let loose. We took cover for about 10 minutes but then forged ahead to our B & B, which was at the top of a 14 degree hill. A cruel circumstance in pouring rain. Our host looked very sympathetic when she answered the door to two soggy bikers. We had one bedroom in our hosts’ home. It was very nice, but there was no living space for us except the bedroom. The info at the B & B said they’d make dinner upon request. The cost was 250 Euro per person. It didn’t take long to decide to walk down the steep hill to grab dinner at the cost of about 30 Euro altogether which was more in line with our budget.
Sunday, June 12 Baume-les-Dames to Montbeliard
It had rained all night and was still raining when we got up. Our B & B served the typical French breakfast. Croissant, baggette, plain yogurt, juice, coffee, butter and jam. The hotels that we have stayed at charge 7 to 10 Euro for the same thing. Some offer cereal and hard boiled eggs, but they usually charge up to 15 Euro.
The rain continued as we rode off down the steep hill back through the village. It let up around noon and didn’t start up again till late afternoon. The rivers are once again looking very full.
We had taken off this morning without a lunch plan, so bought bread at a small town before everything closed for Sunday. The bread shop was about the only shop open. We couldn’t find anyplace for a coffee/ lunch stop, so went into the local cafeteria in a town further down the bike route. It seemed that half the over 60 population was there. Since we had bread we just bought local cheeses and had our usual cheese sandwiches with café au lait.
The afternoon continued our ride down the canal path. We got into Montbeliard about 4 p.m. and went directly to our hotel which was in the center of town on the walking street. It is quite old and very charming. Its charm is matched by the people it has working the front desk. They could not do enough for us. Since it was Sunday afternoon, we knew that there probably were only a few places to eat that might be open if we were lucky. The woman at the desk gave us the names and locations. We walked around and checked out the old city. It is the sight of the oldest protestant church (Lutheran) in France, which, was undergoing substantial renovations and was closed to the public. As with almost all of the smaller cities in France that we have visited, there are any number of buildings in the center of town that were built in the 1800’s which are striking. We never tire of discovering and photographing them. There is something fascinating about half timbered buildings that sag or bulge and have been standing anywhere between 150 and 500 years. Since we are seat of the pants travelers these treasures are usually a beautiful “surprise”. After nearly 70 Km of riding then walking around the old town, we sat down at the Hotel bar and enjoyed the local wine.
We had a most delicious crepe dinner at one of the restaurants recommended by the desk person. Ed’s was called the “Penicillin” for good reason. The thing was loaded with fabulous blue cheese. Got back to the hotel in time to see most of the second half of the European cup soccer game.
Monday, June 13 Montbeliard to Mulhouse
It was raining when we got up, but stopped before we took off at 9:30. Unfortunately, shortly after we hit the road it started raining again and did not let up until noon. We had been looking for a place to get out of the rain and get coffee, but despite many tries, we had been unsuccessful. Although some of the villages had many houses, none had any services, which meant that their population had to travel to go to a bar or get groceries. We finally found a large store with a café about 12:30. It was a Walmart type store selling many diverse things. It was interesting because it was the only place in that town with any services, but it did stop raining and lunch gave us the opportunity to dry off and warm up a bit.
Of special note today, we saw 28 herons and were quite close a few times. Note the heron on the right side of the picture standing on a post near a boat named “Colorado..” (If they knew we were coming, why didn’t they leave the door unlocked?)
We also saw a doe with twins, the first wild life other than birds that we’ve seen this trip. The waterfowl however are crazy along the rivers/canals.
Early in the afternoon both the terrain and the character of the area we were riding in changed. We had left the vineyards and hilly country back to more flat land producing grains. The homes also changed. We are entering the Alsace region which has a mixture of French and German heritage and culture. There is a definite switch to Swiss-German history so many of the houses looked like chalets with balconies and a lot of wood on the facades. They could easily have been in Switzerland or Bavaria. We saw more flowers and flower boxes decorating the yards and houses. At one point we went past a series of locks along the canal (Rhone-Rhine) that lowered the canal dramatically. It may have been a coincidence, but the temperature rose noticeably. We pulled into Mulhouse, (pronounced Mulhaus, the German pronunciation) about 4 m, found a large sports department store and bought camping gas for our stove, then located our hotel. The GPS guided us to both places without difficulty. We walked around in search of maps for Velo Route #15 and some wax lubricant, but were not successful. Route #15 heads north on the French and German boarder along the Rhine. We also visited the tourist office and got some maps and brochures about the city. Dinner at a Kabab and back to the room for the night and more European Cup soccer on TV. This was our longest day yet with just over 70km.
Tuesday, June 14 Mulhouse
We started the day by hopping the tram to the outdoor and indoor market. The outdoor market was a lot of clothing sold by and to people in Muslim attire (women) and a huge section of fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. The indoor part is almost all meats, cheese and vegetables. Most food markets include stalls selling fish whose smell permeates the entire are, but there were no fish stalls here. We had gotten to the market early so it was not crowded. From there we hopped another tram to the City Automotive Museum for which we had decided to spend the day in Mulhouse. We were not disappointed. They advertise that the museum has 400 classic European vehicles, the largest collection in Europe. The place is huge, well lighted and the free audio guide is excellent. It was a good thing we had not planned seeing any other sights because we got to the museum at 11:00 and didn’t leave until after 4:30. The vehicles on display are amazing. The collection was started by 2 brothers one an ex-banker and the other who was a ruthless textile manufacturer. Together they accumulated great wealth and started collecting a few cars and got the bug and had the resources to acquire whole collections in order to get 1 or 2 that they really wanted. They had a fascination with Bugatti autos and have the largest collection in the world along with many, many others that came from companies that have either been acquired by other companies and ceased to exist or simply ceased to exist mostly for financial reasons. All of the vehicles have been restored and are in running condition. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We picked up picnic dinner on the way back to the hotel and finally opened the bottle of blackberry liqueur that we bought in Chegny last week. We are smiling and happy due to our purchase.