June 17, 2003 - Besancon 93km/55mi**

europe2003 PII, Day 4
17June03, 93km/55 miles**
Besancon FR

The author of the French national anthem, “The Marseilaise” was born in 1760 in Lons-le-Saunier, and if we could, we probably would have sung it this morning. Temperatures were to be coolest (mid-80’s) and distance shortest of the trip to date. Here’s the happy group stocking up at our 8AM departure time.

In order you see Lisa, Bob, Susie, Jean-Francois (Sylvie’s dad – green shorts), Sylvie, Ann Marie, Sylvie’s Mom – not a rider), Steve, Dave and Charlie. For reference, here’s Sylvie & Dad.

The terrain was much the same as yesterday, big hills along the foothills of the Alps. Here’s three action shots, Lisa, Dave, then Lisa again (you can tell by the red helmet) which give you some idea of the scenery.

We split up into two groups. Sylvie’s dad, Jean-Francois, is a great rider and kept Bob and Steve pumping all the way to Beasancon. Charlie, Lisa and Dave made it all the way too (I think) on a more casual pace. Susie was uncomfortable with the steep uphills and 40mph/56kph downhills and rode only part way.

The riders will remember this day as the day of the long, long shallow/fast uphill, the roadblock/detour, and especially for the last 6km, which were blisteringly fast and steep along a hill/mountainside heading into the gates of Besancon. We arrived at our 13th century chateau/hotel in the old town in a great mood.

There was a lot of happy, animated picture taking in the 12 room chateau/hotel courtyard.

Besancon has been a strategic site since the days of Ceasar. An oxbow curve of the Doubs River runs almost completely around the city, which is then surrounded by 7 hills. Here’s a view of the city from the river today.

(A little different from rivers in America…) Various fortresses were built on those hills ranging from the medieval Chaudanne to the famous Citadel, built by Vauban after Louis XIV’s armys conquered the city in 1674. Steve, Charlie, Susie and Bob hired Jerry, the taxi driver, to take us up to the fortresses for some views of the city.

Besancon’s is also known as a center of commerce and of Christianity, having been converted to the faith by St. Ferreol and St Ferjeux in 180AD. After 30 years of preaching in the area, they, like many of their contemporaries, were beheaded, but the city kept the faith in a big way. We wanted to see the Musee des Beaux-Arts et d’Archeologie and the watch museum, but both were closed on Monday and Tuesday.

So we said bye to Sylvie’s parents, and found a fine neighborhood restaurant for a last dinner in France, with as usual, Sylvie doing the translating.

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profile of the day: Lisa “the Giver” Renstrom. Lisa is a mother (of Alex), step mother (Tom), wife (Bob), environmentalist (Sierra Club, Catawba River Keeper, Rachel’s Network, Voices and Choices, the Raptor Center, the Knight Foundation…), intellectual athlete who is kind to small children, old people, injured animals, plants and inanimate objects. She’s contagiously happy and enthusiastic, all the time. Turning 40 didn’t slower her down, it speeded her up. She plans to save the planet and all of us in it. Now. Forever.

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