We chose to stay at the Chateau de la Dame Blanche because there was absolutely nowhere else to stay in the vicinity. The auberge in Cussey was closed down and we needed somewhere between Bucey and Besancon. So, not quite your average billet for pilgrims, but the Chateau was in a convenient location.

The annex building where our room was located

When we booked we were told they had a wedding that day and offered a set 5 course supper. Having pondered whether we really wanted that, we decided to go for it, along with the restaurant’s selection of wines by the glass for each course. The whole meal was delicious and beautifully presented, as we’d hoped, and it made up for the lack-lustre meals we’d had on our birthdays at Bar-sur-Aube. Well, that provided an excuse anyway!

The wedding celebration which was taking place at the other end of the building seemed to be a low-key and quiet affair. The restaurant was actually about three quarters full and it seemed pretty much like business as usual.

When we returned to our room in the separate annexe, however, it was far from quiet. The adjacent livery stables were in the middle of a two day event and there was much noise and shouting going on well after eleven o’clock despite our protestations from the upstairs window above them, which were completely ignored. So much for staying in expensive hotels and requesting a quiet room!

View of the livery stables from our bedroom window

It was just as well that breakfast is served later on Sundays, plus when we awoke it was raining, so our enthusiasm to get going was further dampened. One of the weather forecasts suggested the rain would stop by late morning, whilst the other said it would rain until afternoon. We hoped the first one would prove correct.

We finally left just before 11am, after explaining our project to a Swiss couple and assuring them there was no way we could walk the 18 km into Besancon in less than an hour! It was raining lightly as we left in caghoules with rain covers over our rucksacks. However, the rain was persistent, and the drivers determined to soak us some more rather than slow down or go around us. There was a lot of stick waving necessary to keep them at bay. One car actually hit Tom’s lekki pole, so determined was the driver to push through!

Our first opportunity to shelter from the rain was under a motorway bridge. Tom missed the gilet-jaune stencil on the road sign, so keen was he to get under the bridge. It’s the first time we’ve seen any reference to the gilet-jaune movement. Just around the corner our path headed into woods, taking us away from further conflict with car drivers.

By this time we were getting unpleasantly wet and decided to don waterproof trousers as well, soggy though our shorts were by then, so as to keep the insides of our boots dry. After a while, rain running down bare legs gets under gaiters and down into socks and boots! At least we had a good tarmac path to walk on. At about an hour after leaving the hotel we were due for a rest and found a church closed as usual, but at least this one had a small porch we could huddle under.

While Tom was swapping his trousers around the right way, Julie spotted a red squirrel running up a tree and then disappearing over the churchyard wall. Much too quick for a photo! At the same time the rain eased off a bit, giving us a view down the valley.

After walking through the village a further climb up along a railway line with a sheer drop off the other side brought us out into fields and a bridge over the railway, allowing us to head further southwards.

At the railway bridge we stopped for another rest, and decided that as the rain had eased off we would have lunch now. In fact Tom decided to remove his waterproof trousers as well, to really tempt fate! Just before we left a man the other side of the railway seemed to be shouting after his dog, but when no dog appeared and what he was shouting wasn’t what you’d say to a dog we decided to move on quickly.

Half way up the hill there were some young cattle and one was brave enough to allow Tom to swish away the flies around its eyes. The others were just too timid. As the clouds were lifting we began to get a view back to where we’d come from, though the clouds were still too low to identify anywhere specific.

Coming down into Miserey-Salines

At the top of the hill we passed the cemetery at the edge of the village of Miserey-Salines and dropped down into the village itself. The church, and everything else, was closed.

Fun and practical sculpture outside the village hall

Down a hill and back up the other side we entered woodland and then a park with labelled specimen trees. Sadly an ash tree had recently fallen across the path and was showing signs of die-back.

By now we were clearly within the suburbia of Besancon, passing Ecole Valentin and then up over the next ridge to Montboucons. From here there was a fabulous panoramic view across Bescancon and beyond. The topography was getting distinctly more pronounced. With the air now quite clear following the morning’s rain, Tom thought he could just about make out the Alps in the very far distance through his binoculars – the distinctive shape of the Matterhorn and the Mont Blanc Massif to the right of it. Difficult to say for definite but it was certainly in the right direction.

The adjacent VF sign said it was still 5kms to Besancon centre!

There followed a long trudge through a commercial area, including offices of KPMG and Grant Thornton. Why are these names so pervasive?

Onward over ridge after ridge we slowly made our way towards the old city. Some of this was actually quite run down. As we approached the river, however, there was a distinct change for the better.

Then, at last, we crossed the River Doubs into the Boucle, the loop in the river in which the old city and our hotel are located.

River Doubs

High and low points if the day? Well much of the morning passed in a wet and misty haze, which is probably best forgotten. At least it wasn’t cold. As for the highlight, that had to be seeing the Alps for the first time (if that’s what it was).

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