Thursday, February 25, 2010

La Citadelle

The Citadelle is probably Besançon's most famous landmark. The center of Besançon is surrounded by the Doubs river which forms the city into a "boucle" or a loop. The Citadelle is situated on a hill that separates the joining of the river. It's natural form created a strategic protection against invading neighbors. Julius Caesar, himself, commented on Besançon's shape in 58 BC:
" ... the river Doubs surrounds almost the entire town, as though traced with a compass. …the gap left by the river, no more than sixteen hundred feet wide, is closed by a high mountain in such a way that both its sides touch the river banks. A wall encloses the mountain, turning it into a citadel and connects it with the town". He made these observations during the Gallic Wars. At first a temple was built on the hall during the Roman empire. The ruins remained until the construction of the present day Citadelle int he 17th century.

When Louis XIV took over the Franche Comté region, he commissioned Vauban, the reknown architect at the time, to fortify the city against invaders. The possession of Besançon was juggled between Louis XIV and the Spaniards during the construction of the Citadelle. Besançon finally became a part of France in the late 17th century. After 30 years of collective work of all of the city's habitants to build the immense fort, construction was finally completed in 1711.

For the years to come, the Citadelle was used as a fortess, barracks, and even a prison during the wars to come: the Franco-Prussian War, the French Revolution, WWI and WWII.

During the Second World War, the Nazis occupied Besançon and took control of the Citadelle. It was used as an area for executing the resistants of Nazi occupation in the city.
In 1944, the Americans took control of the Citadelle and returned it to the French. The French Army then took over until 1953 when they gave it up to the city of Besançon. Since, it has become a museum.

Inside the Citadelle, there are a number of different museums and sites to see including:

- A Vauban exhibit
-Natural History Museum
-A Zoo which includes animals such as: monkeys, lions, kangaroos and more!
-The Resistance Museum (not for young children)

Having visited the Citadelle many times, it's always a joy to return to visit all of the museums and sites again and again. There's always something new to learn and to visit because there is so much history. My personal favorite site is the Resistance museum. Although it is very graphic, there are many photos, letters, and several objects and possessions of the Nazis and the Jewish prisoners dating from the war. It's very well put together and it brings out a lot of emotions.

Visit the official website to learn more about the Citadel.

(Thanks to the official Citadel website and to Wikipedia for the facts)
(Photo taken from the web)

Monday, February 22, 2010


For the past 3 weeks I've been working an average of 11 hours per week. This work schedule isn't too much different from when I was an assistant, which in other words means that I have too much free time and not enough things to do to keep me occupied . Ok it's nice that I got to spend time with Christophe who was on vacation for the past two weeks and to spend time with the puppy instead of leaving him alone for a few hours at a time. But this is getting ridiculous. I'm waiting on a few classes to start but until then, I'll be twiddling my thumbs, watching the same music videos on Virigin 17 again and again and glancing outside to see how crappy the weather is. The weekend I've been keeping busy and taking the puppy out for long walks and seeing friends. Yesterday we finally had a sunny, cool day in Besançon. Naturally everyone went outside to take the weekly "promenade de dimanche". I wish I just had some large amount of money set aside so that I could go away for a week to Florida or some other warm destination. I hate this weather. I don't know if I can live my whole life in this kind of climate. A tropical island might be my destiny.
I know that I could come up with several different projects to work on but when I have this much free time, the time just seems to drag on and I'm not motivated to do anything. And as I'm not working a lot, the next month's paycheck will be itty bitty so I need to be careful about what I do.
My father suggested that I write about the history of Besançon and about the sites here. It's an obvious idea but I just never did it before. Not only will this be good for readers who would like to know more about this city but it will give me something to do! So for next time, I'll have something posted about this wonderful city!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Joyeux Saint Valentin!

It's Valentine's Day in France! I can't say that this holiday is any different than in the US. Restaurants are packed, stores are decorated with red and pink paper hearts, and boyfriends give roses and gifts to their girlfriends. Most french couples celebrate this holiday (to my knowledge) but there are many cynical couples who decide not to celebrate because it's a made-up, commercialized holiday. Christophe and I decided to semi-celebrate the holiday. We went out to eat at a Chinese buffet last night (yum!) and invested in some new dishes for when guests come to eat at our place. Yay, no more sad looking plates.

In other news, I don't have a lot of hours this month at work so my paycheck will be looking pretty sad. BUT, I just bought myself a cute little agenda to write all of my hours and weekly plans in. I have a little obsession with being organized and a small thing like this makes me happy. I'll just have to fill in my free time with other activities.

And winter is not coming to an end any time soon in France so I might as well try to make the best of it. The puppy is helping me get my butt out of the apartment and we've been taking long walks in the snow. This week I'm going to try to get to the pool and get back to salsa classes. I know, I've been saying that a lot but I'm really going to try this week. Hopefully my agenda will help to motivate me. If it's written down, I'll have to do it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

InterNations: Community for Expats

I want to promote a new website called InterNations. This is a great website that connects expats from all of the world. You are able to meet other expats in your community, learn about local events and even ask question in your specific regional forum. I've just signed up for the Strasbourg community since I live fairly close and I'm hoping to meet other expats in the area. This site is designed much like Facebook and easy to navigate. I recommend it to anyone who would like to network and meet expats in their area!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

La Percée: Part 2

We had a great time at la Percée yesterday! The only negative thing was that it was a little too cold to be drinking outside for 6 hours straight, but hey, that's the tradition. When you pay your entrance ticket, you receive a wine glass and 10 "dégustation" tickets. With these tickets you can try different types of wine including Macvin, "Arbois Savignon (delicious!), Vin Jaune, Crémant, and other types of regional wines. I wasn't too upset about not being able to finish my tickets because I remember the feeling the day after from last year. Christophe is experiencing it now. He's got a huge headache and he's still in bed. I'm not too upset that I volunteered to drive. I still got to taste a lot of wine but instead of going crazy, I drank slowly. Here's a few pictures to recount the day.

Inside one of the wine caves waiting to be served

Poligny: look at all those drunk people!

Delicious Escargots! mmm!

Santé! Cheers!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

La Percée du Vin Jaune

It's that time of year again. Everyone in Besançon and in the Franche comté are talking about it. It's the Percée du Vin Jaune and this year it's located in Poligny in the Jura where Christophe teaches!
This is the annual festival where everyone drinks great wine until they can't stand up any longer. What a great tradition. Thankfully the organizers have thought about a small danger called drunk driving and have organized several trains that will directly go to and from the event. Unfortunately for us the last train available leaves Besançon at 9am we arrive in Poligny at 10. and the caves don't even open until 12! I have volunteered to the be the DD (designated driver) but I'm sure i'll regret it when everyone around me will have a happy buzz. I remember last year, after 3 hours my feet were so cold that I couldn't feel my toes anymore. I don't think I'll need to stay outside for more than 4 or 5 hours. That should do it. Plus one of our friends is doing us a huge favor and watching the puppy. I was thinking of bringing him along but I don't think he's ready to be in the middle of thousands of people. It will probably overwhelm him. Plus he still runs up to every person he sees. I would never be able to lift the glass up to my lips to taste because I'd be holding him back from jumping on people.

Not only is there great wine but there is delicious regional food as well! I'll have to be careful and not overdue it with the food as I tend to do. I love eating! There's nothing better than a great glass of Arbois with some comté and morteau sausage with potatoes. Yuumm. I'll be sure to post pictures when I come back on Sunday!