Thursday 26th July
Besançon to Montbéliard: Time Unknown, Approx. 100km
“The first thing I did that morning after saying goodbye to Nelly and Julien was head up the steep hill to the citadel. It was the one thing that Nelly said I could not leave without visiting. Besançon is nested in a loop formed by the river Doubs (also known as an ox-bow, thanks high school geography). Protected by a river all the way round and a massive hill to the south it’s an ideal location for a fortification. On the massive hill to the south, a citadel was built. It is huge and imposing sitting high on the hill and looks like something from out of lord of the rings.
The first thing I did was walk along the walls, this is my favourite part as you really get a feel for what it might have been like back in the day. Oh and the view was absolutely staggering. I saw the river twist far below and next to it the path I had cycled on the day before. I took many photos in the hope that one could portray just how amazingly beautiful the view was.
The last place I expected to see a lion was in a French citadel on top of a hill overlooking the town of Besançon, but there I was looking through a cage at a motionless lion, having a nap in the shade. In the enclosure next to it lay a tiger also motionlessly sleeping in the shade. You see, a portion of the citadel has been converted into a zoo and a rather unimpressive aquarium. While I thought the concept was a bit strange, it was actually quite nice.
I headed back into town to find a cycle shop to replace my old odometer. I don’t know what it is, but things are starting to break on me; first the odometer and last night my blow up pillow I discovered, has a slow leak. They only had expensive ones so I decided to go another day doing mental calculations of road signs.
It was super hot. I only left Besançon at noon and the sun was so bright that it formed a thick haze in the air wherever you looked. Putting on lots of sun cream I continued to follow the winding river relishing every twist in the valley that provided shade.
I was couch surfing again, and I met up with my host, Stijn, at the Gare. It has been a long day in the sun and I only arrived in Montbeliard at 8pm. We dumped my stuff at Stijn apartment and then went to a cafe to have drinks where we were joined by another couch surfing host who lived in the area.
Stijn is from the Netherlands and is an incredibly nice guy. Very respectful and friendly. He has done a lot of traveling around Europe and South America and his apartment is full of maps. After drinks, the three of us went back to Stjin’s apartment for a delicious French-ish pasta meal, with Dutch and Italian influence. Stjin gave me a very nice Dutch beer to sample, from a monastery down the road from his house in the Netherlands. We chatted for hours about travelling, sport and different cultures. Before we knew it, it was after 12 and time for bed.
Oh I also crossed the 2000km mark. While I’ve only done just over 1100km in France so far, taking the 900 odd kilometres from my UK tour, it adds up to over 2000km.”