Friday, May 3, 2019

The Last Half of the Week in Ornans

Wednesday was May 1, a French holiday roughly equivalent to Labor Day in the United States. Most shops were closed, but the boulangerie in town has had a sign up all week stating that they would be open on May 1, so that morning I took my usual walk there to pick up provisions for breakfast. It really is an outstanding bakery, with a terrific selection of breads, breakfast items like croissants and brioche, and cakes and pastries.

It was the first beautiful day in almost a week, so we decided to take a drive to visit several villages to the north of Ornans. The first stop was Rougement, another of the Cités de Caractere of the Franche Comté region.  Like so many villages in this region, it has an impressive church.  We also saw a sign indicating that one of the buildings was once a winemaker’s house. This part of the Franche-Comté once had a thriving wine industry, until phylloxera virtually wiped out the vineyards in the late 1800's, after which improved transportation brought lower priced wine from the Midi that finished off the wine trade here. Now, there are essentially no vineyards in the area, although I’ve read that a couple of growers are trying to revive vineyards and winemaking near Ornans.

After leaving Rougement we made a short excursion to Montbozon, a small village on the Ognon River with, once again, a lovely church.

We then drove to the larger town of Beaume-les-Dame, which we had driven through a couple of days ago on our way back from the Chateau de Belvoir. Being a holiday, pretty much everything was closed, but that meant that there were few people and very little traffic. We took a walk through the center of town, viewing the church and some beautiful old buildings.

We then headed back to Ornans by way of the village of Mouthier-Haute-Pierre. Mouthier is on the Loue River, and while it is not far from Ornans, we hadn’t stopped there when we were in the area 2 years ago.  It’s another Cité de Caractere, and was one of the most impressive we’ve seen. We parked at the bottom of the village and then walked up though the center to the top. Not surprisingly, there was an impressive church in the village.

Back in Ornans we had aperitifs in the courtyard of our gite, as it was finally sunny and warm. Later on we had dinner outside, the first time we had done that here. We were joined for dinner by the gite owner’s cat. The cat had appeared the first day we arrived, but as soon as he saw us he ran; the owner said he’s very afraid of strangers. However, while we were having dinner he appeared in the gateway between our gite and the owner’s house, sniffing the air and walking towards us. We were having veal chops, so I guess that’s what he smelled. He came over, and happily joined us for some veal.  After dinner we took our usual nighttime walk down to the center of Ornans and the pedestrian bridge over the Loue River.

Thursday was supposed to be a rainy day, so we had planned to drive into the nearby city of Besancon and go to a museum and otherwise spend some time indoors.  However, the day started off with some sun, so we changed our plans and instead drove to the village of Nancray to visit the Musée des Maisons Comtoises, an open air museum of old buildings of the Franche-Comté. It was a sprawling museum divided into different regions of the Franche-Comté, each containing several houses that had been moved from their original locations.  The buildings were furnished in their original styles, with explanations of their functions (such as the cheesemaker’s house and the bread baker’s house) and of the lives of the people who lived there.  It was a fascinating museum, and we spent several hours there.

After driving back to our gite in Ornans we had a late lunch with various cheeses and a rabbit terrine we had picked up at a boucherie in Rougemont the day before. After lunch we took another walk through the town, checking to see the progress the goats had made in clearing their land.  Back at the gite we had dinner, without the cat. Ann made tariflette, a baked dish from the Savoie region made with Rebluchon cheese and lardons (similar to bacon), and with it we had a Petite Arvine wine from the winery we had visited in Sierre, Switzerland.

Friday was our last full day in Ornans and the Doubs department, and in the morning we decided to visit Besancon, the largest city in the Doubs with a population of around 120,000. We had spent some time here a few years ago, principally visiting the magnificent old Citadel high above the Doubs River, which now houses a large zoo, gardens, and several museums. This time we parked in the same area as before and walked through the center of town to the indoor food market, which is one of the finest in France.  We spent some time wandering through the market, and although we were near the end of our trip and therefore couldn’t buy too much, we did pick up some items for lunch and dinner.  We then walked back to our car along the banks of the Doubs and drove back to our gite for lunch.

After lunch we decided to drive up to the chateau ruins high above Ornans.  We had seen lights there at night, and walkers heading up that way, but I wasn’t up for what was apparently a 2 ½ hour walk. However, I saw the Rue du Chateau on the map which looked like it was a driving route up to the chateau, and we decided to drive up there. I had read that the chateau had been destroyed on the orders of Louis XIV, and only the chapel remained. When we arrived at the top, we discovered that the ruins of the chateau was now a little village with several houses and a great view of the Loue River and Ornans.  The chapel, Chapelle St. Georges, was originally built in 1289 by the Count of Burgundy, and after being destroyed, was rebuilt in 1500. It is still in very good condition. Before leaving we took a walk even further up the hill, and got a great view of the chapel and the chateau ruins from above.
Ornans Church From Chateau Ruins

Chapelle St. Georges

Chapel and Chateau Ruins From Above


  1. It sounds as if you've had a wonderful time on your trip. Since I've been enjoying the vicarious travel, I'm sad to hear it's coming to an end. Safe travels home!

  2. Bob, I've been enjoying your blog but haven't had a lot of time for commenting. Hope you have a good trip back to ME.