Friday, May 8, 2015

Last Half of the Week in the Franche-Comte Region

    Early Wednesday morning I again drove to the boulangerie in nearby Ougney, and after breakfast we headed towards the Loue Valley to stop at some villages along the Loue River. Our first stop was the bustling town of Ornans. The big draw in Ornans is the Gustave Courbet Museum. Courbet was a French painter born in Ornans who was kind of a bridge between classical French painters and the Impressionists. He became quite well-known at an early age and lived in Paris for many years, where he disappointed his father, who wanted him to study law. Unfortunately for him, his political allegiance in the mid-1800's cost him a lot of support, as well as his freedom and nearly his life, and his artistic career as well as his life went into decline in the 1870's before he died in 1877. Eventually his childhood home in Ornans became a museum dedicated to his works, and we spent some time touring the museum. He was an incredibly prolific painter, and the museum in Ornans has an amazing collection of his paintings.

     After leaving Ornans we drove to Lods, another village on the Loue River,  Lods is classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages in France), and we stopped there and had a picnic along the Loue River and then took a walk into the center of the village high above the river.
                                   VIEWS OF ORNANS AND LODS

Coat of Arms of Lods

     We then left Lods and headed towards the Saugeais Valley and the Republic of Saugeais.  The Republic of Sugeais is an independent country, comprising 11 villages, which is recognized by no one except maybe some local residents. It was created as a joke by Georges Pourchet, a hotel owner in the village of Montbenoit, which became the political capital of the Republic, in 1947. Pourchet became its first President, and after his death in 1972, his wife, Gabrielle, was elected President for life by means of an applause meter. We first drove through Montbenoit, which looked pretty dead, and then drove to the economic capital of the Saugeais Republic, the town of Gilley, which was marginally more alive. After leaving the Saugeais Republic, without having been asked to show our passports, we drove to the large town of Morteau. The towns of Morteau and Montebeliard give their names to two types of sausages, which are widely sold in this part of France and known throughout the country. Earlier in the week we had picked up both Morteau and Montbeliard sausages from a butcher in the Besancon market hall, and had them as part of dinner. We didn't buy any Morteau sausages in Morteau, but we did buy a lot of chocolate at the outlet store next to the Klaus chocolate factory in the center of town. Klaus chocolates may be factory-made, but they are very good.

      Morteau was our last tourist stop for the day, although on the drive back to our gite we did stop in Ornans again and picked up something to cook for dinner. The gite has an electric barbeque grill which I used for the first time that night, to grill veal chops. With dinner we had a bottle of the Domaine Pigneret Mercurey Rouge that we had picked up at the beginning of our trip.

     The next morning, Thursday, we drove to Besancon, where we spent the entire day. Besancon is the largest city in this region, with about 120,000 residents, and the Doubs River runs through and around the city in a loop. We spent the morning just wandering around the center of town, and had lunch at a small restaurant. We then headed for what is undoubtedly the biggest attraction in Besancon – the Citadelle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This old fortification, high above the river, is now run by the city, and is home to several museums, a large zoo, an aquarium, and an insectarium. We spent all afternoon in the Citadelle; the insectarium was especially fascinating, and the zoo has an incredibly diverse collection of animals, particularly primates.

                                    VIEWS OF BESANCON

Besancon and Doubs River from the Citadelle

      After leaving the Citadelle we made a detour to the market hall before heading to our car, which was parked just outside the old part of the town. We stocked up on cheese from a great fromagerie, and bought more veal chops to grill. We also found a vendor that had great-looking marinated anchovies, which we bought to have before dinner with a Cremant de Jura from Domaine Desiree Petit.

     On Friday morning, our last full day at the gite, we decided to take a short drive back through some towns we had passed through earlier in the week. We first stopped in Offlanges, which we had visited at the beginning of the week, because I wanted to check out Domaine de la Bougarde, the only wine producer in the northern Jura. In the mid-1800's, this area was covered in vines and well-known for its wines; three quarters of the wine production was sold outside the region. However, phylloxera wiped out the vineyards in the 1870's, and it was only when Domaine de la Bougarde was established in the 1970's and vineyards were replanted that wine production returned. The winery produces mostly vartietal wines with the appellation Vin de Pays de France-Comte from chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, and savignin grapes for the whites; and pinot noir and gamay for the reds. We just tasted the savignin, since it's a classic grape of the Jura, and liked it quite a bit. Since we had done a good job of whittling down our stock of wines, we bought a bottle to have with dinner.

     After leaving Offlanges we headed towards the village of Montmirey-la-Ville, which we had passed through earlier in the week and which has a chateau that we wanted to try to get a look at. We parked in a small lot on the road into the village across from the chateau, and walked in through the open gates. From the grounds we were able to get a much better view of the chateau than we did from the road the other day.  
Chateau in Montmirey
Friendly Chat (Cat) in Montmirey

        We left Montmirey-la-Ville after taking a stroll around the village, and returned to the gite for lunch.  On the way, we stopped to take a photo from the road of Chateau de Rocherambert, which we had seen on our drive the day we arrived at our gite.

     Among the wines we had left were 2 vintages of a Premier Cru Mercurey Blanc from Domaine Michel Juillot, where we had stopped the day we arrived in France, and I opened one of them to have with lunch. Later in the afternoon we took a leisurely drive through some nearby villages that we had not been to yet. Today is a war memorial holiday in France, so most shops were closed and things were generally quiet in most villages.  We passed through one village that had a charming small chateau that we stopped to photograph.

      At the end of the day we returned to our gite for dinner.  We finished off the Royal Seyssel sparkling wine from Domaine Lambert before dinner, and then with dinner we had the Domaine de la Bougarde Savignin we had bought earlier in the day.  Tomorrow is clean up morning at the gite, then it's off to a chambre d'hote (bed and breakfast) outside Geneva for our last night.


  1. I love the election-by-applause-meter story! Hard to believe our vicarious journey is coming to an end.

  2. You've given me the desire to go see the Jura, Franche-Comté, and other regions over that way. Thanks Bob.