We decided, since there was a four day weekend – we would have an adventure on Saturday.
There are 2 saltworks in the area – we visited Salin les Bains way back in November. We decided to visit Arc et Senans because, with the advent of Mr. Liberty, we have been spending time exploring what is ‘cool’ to do in the Franche Comte. Well, practically every review mentions 2 places, Besancon and Arc et Senans. So, we decided to stop by on Saturday morning (and then hit 3 other sites – in one day – OK – we are overly ambitious – you should be used to this by now).
We got to Arc et Senans a bit after 10 am when it opened. This site was created, initially to help out the overloaded and fuel starved Salin les Bains. The two towns were connected by 15 km of wooden pipes to conduct the salty water. The new site was envisioned as a utopian society. Well, that never really happened – but the beautiful buildings remain to show the attempt. They were arranged in a semi circle and each had a different purpose – barracks, salt barrel makers, governor’s house etc…. Now all the buildings have been transformed into various other things – we saw a hostel, administrative buildings, and art museums, architecture, paintings (Courbet) and information about the salt making industry – past and present. It was fun – but I preferred Salin les Bains. There, they still had original equipment etc… so we could better imagine what it was really like. Around the outside they had an amazing sculpture garden where we hung around for awhile. We really enjoyed this world of blue – the artist was so creative. He used wicker for sculptures, record albums and shotgun shells in another section and even potty seats, suitcases and pieces of an automobile to showcase the blueness of his work. The only thing that was missing was this soundtrack! Zander was amazed – as you can see! They also enjoyed this red bridge over a small swamplike area featuring a giant nose and (not pictured) a giant wicker mosquito. Modern art is so interesting!
Then we left to head over to a village I had read about online – Baume les Messieurs. It is one of the “most beautiful'” villages in France. There are 32000 villages in France and only 152 are “Le plus beaux”. They are rigorously selected, apparently (see http://www.cometofrance.com/page-the_most_beautiful_villages_of_france-en-the_most_beautiful_villages_of_france.html) so it’s not just any old village that gets to be given this designation. We drove on winding roads through the wine country. We were amazed at the amount of grapevine fields, as far as the eye can see for almost the entire drive. I’m glad I don’t drink. Trying to do cheese tasting is already overwhelming – never mind trying to taste all the wines!
Finally, famished, we got to Baume les Messieurs – it is a little village nestled deep in a valley surrounded by limestone cliffs. After a picnic lunch in a stream bed, we headed toward the signs for grottes (caves). Yes, we are hiking again folks! Look at that view!!! This was an amazing place. There was a beautiful river and waterfall. The river bed had many, many little downturns, but the strange thing about them was, they were all made of mud! I think it must change with every storm. Then we decided to hike to the top of the ridge – it took us 25 minutes of heavy climbing. Zander discovered a snake – it was the first time we've seen a French snake – it resembled a giant earthworm to me—maybe 18 inches long. Ahead of us on the trail were some other climbers who apparently had some sort of incident. The firefighters put the victim on a stretcher and carried her right up the mountain – man those guys are in shape. I, after biking 2.5 hours with Andre’ the day before, then having a riding lesson, had very tired legs and could barely get myself up the hill – never mind carrying another person! Once we got to the top, the view was well worth the hike. We spent about 10 minutes looking around and then headed back down the hill again so we could go to the 2:30pm cave tour (the caves were closed between noon and 2:30 – of course – it was time for lunch!!!) Going down was harder than going up – it was so steep and the steps, carved right out of the rock face, were slick and dangerous. All the kids wanted a hand to hold – but the trail was so narrow – it made it very difficult to hold hands – especially with 2 kids at once. But, we all made it down without incident and just in time for the tour as well.
This is the second cave we’ve been in so far in France – the Jura region is full of them – it was very different and fun to see another cave. We saw bats flying around in this one – and it had vaulted ceilings, blind shrimp and lots of different rooms to wander through – Griffin does not like caves – he thinks they are boring. Callie gets too cold and Zander wants to run ahead of the group since he gets bored – so I don’t know that we’ll be doing too many more cave adventures! Pictures didn’t come out well because we didn’t have the ‘real’ camera – only our phones.
Then we spent about half an hour gazing at this moss covered waterfall – it looked like it belonged on a movie set. Griffin loved it – he kept saying “This is a beautiful place. i never want to leave” Here is a shot of Zander with his new haircut and no glasses. (He is supposed to be wearing his rec specs but it is a constant battle – sigh)
Finally we bid adieu to Baume les Messieurs and since time was running short, decided to skip our next destination (the Cascades du Herrison) and go straight to the Source of the Lison (or Lizon – depending on which sign we saw). We passed ANOTHER most beautiful village (which basically looked like it was hanging off the side of a cliff and featured the ruins, right). But, no time to stop – have to see the Lison! This was reportedly much more impressive than the Source of the Doubs and it did not disappoint. As you can see – it just pours right out of a mountainside cave. Zander finally got the chance to launch the paper boats he and I had constructed a few days before. It was a large paper boat, with 2 small paper boats inside, with 2 even smaller paper boats inside those. The idea was, when the first boat got soaked, the other layers would continue to float – lengthening the time the boats could survive. It was fun to launch it but it kept getting stuck! Then the kids tried to play a bit in the water – but it was too cold. Griffin wanted to get out and was being helped by his big brother and sister – unfortunately Zander lost his balance and ended up crashing down the bank into the frigid water! He is covered in bruises – poor guy! I got him changed and then we explored a bit more around the source. Apparently this is such an extensive underground river people regularly visit to scuba dive within it – how awesome is that!! Then we splashed around some more in the water and Andre raced up the hill to see en couffre d’effrondrement (a 5 minute walk for him) while I got the kids dried off and shoes on. This was a large ‘billiards hole’ formed by an underground waterfall. We headed back to the local town for dinner – but – at 7pm on Saturday nothing was open! So we soldiered on to Ornans – a town we hadn’t planned on visiting and had a lovely dinner on the terrace near the river bank. The kids loved that and it looked like such a cute riverside town – I would love to return. In typical French fashion, however, dinner took a couple hours and we didn’t get home until around 10:30pm. This has thrown their schedule off for the past week. I hate how I can’t keep them up for just one night without impacting the next! It’s so unfair! When will they start being more flexible with their sleep? Predictably, we were all exhausted on Sunday and hung around the house all day – Daddie left around 3pm to go to Paris for the XP France conference and Claire and Arnaud came over to play for a few hours – it was nice for the kids to have friends over.