Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chateau du Joux et les Grands Sapins

So, on Saturday morning we picked up our rental car and hit the road. Our plan was to see a real castle (since the Citadelle is more of a fort), have a picnic lunch and then go see the grand forest of Jura. It was great to finally have some wheels - the freedom to see a lot was wonderful. The French countryside is gorgeous. One of the interesting things about it is how few houses there are. There is all this farmland but you don't see farm houses dotted all over it - only fields and then small towns with clusters of homes. The farmers just walk or drive out to their fields but live all together - very different from the US.

We arrived at Chateau du Joux after about an hour of driving. It was really amazing how much the kids hated the car ride -they have really gotten used to buses in a short time - and used to getting where we need to go very rapidly! This is one of four gates into the castle - it was over a moat and had a levered drawbridge that could be shut by only 2 soldiers - the next level of moat was covered by a wooden foot bridge - easy to burn down when the enemies got too close. There were all sorts of amazing defense mechanisms at this castle - one of them was stone stairs with wooden landings - when the bad guys got to the landings they could easily be removed - these are called 'ha, ha''s - which is I guess what you would say when your enemies fell to the ground. Here is a shot of Zander standing on top of a battlement - this castle stands directly on the best route from France to Switzerland and was very important strategically - the owners grew very rich charging everyone who went by. In later years it became a prison for important prisoners. They often had windows and fire places - and in one case - a prisoner even got to go out hunting in the nearby woods - his father had him imprisoned for spending too much of the family money! Griffin is observing the ancient wooden potty used by a famous Haitian liberator that was imprisoned and died here. Maybe he can pick up some tips.... This tour was great because there was an English language guide and the tour guide spoke English very well. Also there were only 2 people on the tour besides us and we got to see everything up close - the guide even let Zander try to lock the doors with these giant keys. There were many legends in the castle as well - it was a castle since medieval times (when it was made of wood, not stone) and the lord of the castle went off to fight in the
crusades - well - after a decade or so the lady of the castle, Bertha (understandably) figured the lord was dead and took up with her childhood friend. When the lord returned he had the man killed and hung from a tree in the forest and he stuck Bertha into a cell so small she couldn't even lie down to sleep (Griffin is imprisoned in it in this picture) - the only time she was let out was twice a day to look out the window at the dead body of her lover... cool! Below are shots of a model of the wooden

version of the castle and a side view of the moat - did they ever really have any water in these moats we wonder? If they did - what happened to the people whose houses were down below??? We got a chance to go down 212 stairs into the dungeons and see one of the deepest wells in France (water was so many meters down the guide dropped some water into it and we didn't hear the splash for about 30 seconds - awesome!) then we left the castle and had our picnic.


I purchased a book of easy hikes for families around Besançon - this was billed as a trip to les grands sapins - or the giant firs - well I have always been obsessed with the redwoods (yet another life goal) and thought it would be great to see some sort of French version of this. We drove about another hour to get there for what was supposed to be a 40 minute hike.
We saw lots of really amazing nature - (although the trees were not as giant as you would expect from the billing- unfortunately - they seemed like normal big evergreens to me, albeit completely covered in moss). The land is fecund, SO lush and green

that you can barely see the forest for the moss! Any biologists out there that know what kind of mushroom or fungus this coral-looking one is??? We had a great time - but it took 2 hours - not 40 minutes. These signs were all over the place - warning you to stay on the path because there are falling branches. How this would help I'm not sure - do the branches avoid the path???? Here is a great shot of Zander in his new coat - he wants to make sure you all can still recognize him! Then we had to head back home - got a bit lost here and there - the regular roads are mixed up with logging roads - it seems that the loggers can come in and harvest trees randomly as long as they replant with new trees. Anyway, we figured we had gone the wrong way when we saw this dead end ahead of us! We pressed on though, finding some swings (a rarity in France) hidden along the way (the kids were thrilled) and seeing a bunch of French hunters towards the end (scary in any country). André had to drive through the dark - and in France they don't always put lines on both sides of the street - but, in the end we made it home safe and sound in time for leftovers for dinner - all part of our plot to see things without spending money (as much as possible.)

1 comment:

Chelsea said...

I like your family picture. I am amazed by the adventure that your family take. I don't know if I would be that daring.


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