Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ice ice baby

Day 196 26.01.13 Besancon


Well last night certainly was the coldest so far. We awoke to find ice on the INSIDE of Van Diesel’s windows!  We tried to get the heating on only to discover the gas seems to have frozen to the sides of the canister and refuses to come out.  Getting up from under the covers was a chore to say the least!   We got up eventually and wrapped up warm before heading out to get to know the town. 

Unfortunately the main thing you notice in town is the roadworks.  There are barriers up everywhere marking where work will take place for the new tram system which promises to be finished by 2015.  There are plenty of refurbishments taking place to the buildings too so lots of scaffolding.  All this certainly detracts from the look of the town. 

Many of the older buildings are made from a light beige stone and a pastel blue stone.  I assume it’s all from a local quarry and it gives a really nice cohesive look to the main square. Sadly aside from this there was obviously a great deal of building work that was done in the 1970s as lots of ugly block like buildings break up the more inspired designs. 

On our wanderings we discover the old Roman remains of the aqueduct and theatre building although there’s not a great deal left!  Further up the hill we find the cathedral which is once again covered in scaffolding.  Inside however we are very pleasantly surprised by the extravagant altar decked with gold framed paintings, huge stained glass windows and carved cherubs.  There are numerous grand prayer rooms off to the side and the organ player treats us to a practice session as we walk around. 

Elsewhere in town there are some rather plain churches and a large number of fountains.  Lots of the fountains are switched off for winter and those that aren’t have icicles hanging off them!  Perhaps if we’d visited the town in summer without all the work going on we may have a more pleasing opinion of it but sadly at the moment it seems a little lacklustre and rough around the edges.  There’s a lot of graffiti and a number of the fountains have been defaced or damaged in some way (although Neptune does look pretty funny with glasses!).  It’s a real shame because the heart of the town, nestled in a loop of the Doubs river has the potential to be picturesque and charming.

After a while we head back to the van for lunch.  It seems like we have seen most of the attractions Besancon has to offer.  We had planned to go up to the citadel on the hill to scramble around the walls and visit the zoo but sadly it’s just too cold!  Any sensible zoo animal would be hiding inside from this cold and heading up 100 metres in this chilly weather seems a silly idea!  Instead I must admit we plumped for the warmer option of an afternoon in the mediateque.  There was a queue waiting for the doors to open, great minds (and freezing cold minds) think alike!

We got back to the van to find the gas still refusing to work – perhaps its running out?  Either way there’s no cooking hot food and its incredibly cold!  We head out to a nearby takeaway and order ourselves a ‘sandwich americain’ each, which turns out to translate roughly in English to ‘heart attack sandwich’.  Layers of beef (?) patty smothered in cheese, just what we needed!  Next its time to dive under the covers and watch a film before bracing ourselves for a heating free night in sub zero temperatures.  In case you ever thought we were sane here’s proof you were wrong!!!

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