Hello and welcome to the first of six vacances d’hiver vacation updates! My travel companion (who will, from here on out, be referred to as MTC) and I spent the vacances d’hiver travelling to Besançon (FR), Bâle (SWZ), Bern (SWZ), Geneva (SWZ), Annecy (FR), and Lyon, specifically Thurins (FR). Without further ado, let’s get started with part one of the recap, featuring the lovely city of Besançon, France!
Vendredi 9 fevrier 2018
MTC and I left for Besançon from Clamecy just after 14h00. After a relatively painless two-and-a-half-hour drive, we arrived at the charming city of Besançon and got settled into our Airbnb. Unfortunately, MTC was feeling less than stellar and shortly after arriving, he got pretty sick. After spending a little bit of time trying to comfort him, I walked to Lidl, a supermarket that was thankfully very close to our lodging, to pick up some food to eat for dinner. When I got back to the Airbnb, MTC had awoken from his short nap and we ate a light dinner. Given MTC’s sickness, we ended up falling asleep really early (around 21h00).
Samedi 10 fevrier 2018
Thankfully, MTC was feeling loads better when we woke up on Saturday morning, so after eating breakfast and getting ready for the day, we headed out to one of the most well-known monuments in Besançon: the Citadelle!
For those who do not know about what the Citadelle is or why it is important, here is a quick recap: This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed between 1668-1711 and designed by the famous French architect, Vauban.
With a specific military-focused design, the Citadelle was built to protect Besançon during wartime, as the city is the capital of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction because it has been well-preserved and now is the home to two museums, a zoo, aquarium, insectarium, and notarium.
We started out our visit at the Citadelle at the Musée comtois, a museum that allows its visitors to discover the history of what life was like for citizens in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Overall, the museum was pretty interesting! There were a ton of different rooms, all with different themes (the territory and climate, the food/meals of the region, and entertainment, or more specifically, marionettes!). We didn’t spend very long here—maybe an hour—and we were able to visit the museum in its entirety.
After the Musée comtois, we headed to the naturalium, a small museum where you can learn all about biodiversity and the environment. The museum is probably meant for children, but it was actually pretty cool! The museum has a lot of taxidermy of all kinds of insects and animals, which, albeit a little sad if you think about it too much, was really interesting to see.
Up next in the queue, we hit up the aquarium, insectarium, and notarium one after the other, all of which were interesting in their own way! My favorite part was the giant koi pond they have outside the aquarium.
To continue on our animal quest, we headed toward the jardin zoologique. Even though it was really cold outside, we were still able to see quite a few animals, including a very active (and noisy) lion. I’ve never heard a lion roar at a zoo before, but this one just must have been in the mood to express himself because he roared dozen time or so before calming down.
To round out our visit to the Citadelle, MTC and I visited the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation. I knew next to nothing about WWII from France’s perspective, so in that regard, the museum was quite educational for me. On the other hand, I found the museum a bit difficult to visit because there were a lot of pictures from the concentration camps, which were not easy to see. All that being said, the museum was really nice, and I learned a lot about WWII from France’s perspective.
All in all, we spent just under five hours at the Citadelle and it was well worth the entrance fee! If you ever find yourself in Besançon, I would highly recommend reserving half of a day on your itinerary for a trip to the Citadelle.
Next on the travel itinerary was a visit to the Eglise Sainte Pierre and the horologe astronomique. The church was beautiful (as nearly every church in France is) and the clock was so, so interesting!! MTC and I accidentally walked into the room that houses the horologe astronomique in the middle of the guided visit, but thankfully the guide let us stay in the room for the remainder of her tour. Everything about the clock is so amazingly intricate, not to mention beautiful, and it is most definitely worth a visit.
We spent about an hour in total at the church before heading back to the Airbnb. We made a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up dinner foods—I was hangry because we had skipped lunch at the Citadelle—but we made it back to the Airbnb in no time at all. My sisters wanted to House Party (aka, group FaceTime), so MTC settled into our room and chatted on the phone with them for nearly two hours. MTC and I ate our dinner after we hung up from House Party and watched an episode of “Stranger Things 2” before falling asleep.
Dimanche 11 fevrier 2018
After waking up on Sunday morning, we ate breakfast, got ready, and packed up the car before checking out of our Airbnb and heading to our final destination in Besançon: The House of Victor Hugo.
Before this visit, my knowledge of Victor Hugo and his works was limited to Les Miserables, so I learned a lot at the museum.
It is pretty small—we visited the place in its entirety in less than 35 minutes—but interesting nonetheless. We didn’t know this before arriving, but the house is free to visit on Sundays, so if you find yourself in Besançon on a Sunday and are looking for something to do, it’s a great option (However, I would say it’s worth the 3,00-euro tariff on any other day of the week).
We spent about 30 minutes at the House of Victor Hugo before parting ways with Besançon and driving to our next destination: Bâle, Switzerland!
Thanks for reading my first vacances d’hiver recap post and check back soon for more.
Until next time,