Day46 Dizy to Lausanne –

We woke early and got downstairs quickly (well quickly for us anyway). Despite a poor night sleep for me due to some flies and mosquitoes in the room, I felt pretty good after some coffee and bread and toast.

Day46 Morning Update

We left to another cool morning but it was significantly warmer at this lower altitude than it had been the last few mornings.

Swiss sunrise.

The sunrise was brilliant and colorful and lit up Mont Blanc like a beacon in the distance. As our host mentioned last evening Mont Blanc is the “cream on the top” of the summer alps.

Mont Blanc

The morning wove through small suburban villages and corn fields. But for the second straight day the path was mostly downhill so it went quickly.

Eating lunch today under a tree was relaxing but a bit cool with a coming wind. We feasted on grocery store salad and a pasta dish. You can only eat so many sandwiches.

Lunch time

Unfortunately most of the rest of the day was walking through the extensive suburbs of Lausanne. Walking into a city often means walking through industrial areas and poorly kept areas that are often trashy. The walk into Lausanne was no exception. Some of the time it was along a nice creek at least.

After a couple of hours into the city limits we decided to detour from the VF and cut off 5km. We wove our way through the city streets to our destination.

We booked the nights stay at the Jeunotel which is the city youth hostel. This place is huge and felt quite empty when we arrived. That soon changed however when bus-load after bus-load of teens (school kids) began arriving. The place is loud and hopping now.

We’d always intended to mail our tent and a few other items back from the last stop in France. That turned out to be Saturday however so that plan was scrapped. We did manage to get to the post office here in Lausanne however and that chore is done. So we’re officially tentless now. The bonus is that our packs are also lighter just in time for our Alpine crossing in a few days.

As part of our post office trip we negotiated the bus and underground metro services in town. I’m always a bit intimidated by bus lines for some reason. I’ve never had a bad experience, but even in London I tend to avoid them. I wonder why? The underground metro in town is the world’s steepest and moving from the train to the platform is disorienting for a second. Our chore completed we headed back to the hostel.

There is no kitchen here in Jeunotel, but they do offer a cheap meal. I think that will be our destination. The experience here will make up for living high-on-the-hog the last few nights. I’d take a picture but somehow I think an image of cafeteria food might not be worth posting.

Youth Hostel Life

Well, it’s time for bed now. The natives have settled a little bit. Wish us luck in sleeping!

Day45 Jougnes to Dizy – Switzerland!

This morning the alarm sounded at 5:30am and honestly I was already awake. We both share in the writing of this blog, but by that single statement, those that know us have already correctly guessed that this is Mark writing.

Morning Update Day44

We did the daily routine of dressing and packing as quietly as we could knowing that the other guests in the hotel would not yet be awake. Checking the forecast when we stepped outside it would be in the 40’sF (eat your heart out family in the sweltering south -haha) and Allison whipped out her gloves for the first time this trip.

A crisp early morning start.

From the start we knew this was going to be a “different” kind of day. For starters we were going to be entering SWITZERLAND! Yay! Secondly we were going to be going downhill most of the day. That was going to be odd.

Thirdly we literally had no idea where we were going to stop for the night – neither lodging nor even the town. South was our direction but we’d had no luck up to that point finding an opening or more accurately getting a response from people.

So we headed off knowing that we still had our tent if thing didn’t look promising by the early afternoon.

The first part of the day was spent walking through the last small ski villages in southern France. Grassy ski slopes were dotted about as well as hibernating ski school buildings and ski rental shops. This area must be hopping in the winter.

Then came the big event, we strolled down a nondescript street that became a cinder path and suddenly we came to the heavily armed and manned Swiss border full of tank traps, inspection stations, custom and immigration agents waiting to pounce on two unsuspecting pilgrims.

Crossing the border

Well, actually it was about the opposite of that. At the border was an informational placard telling the history of the border and two steles to mark the division of the two countries. Not a soul was around so we crossed the border unnoticed except by a cow in a nearby field.

Next we heard some chanting, or was it hollering, or perhaps? What we heard was hard to describe. A mans voice in the distance was repeating a tone loud and clear but irregular. Between phrases there was a banging noise that was rather harsh and unpleasant.

As we drew closer we began to suspect that this was no chant or holler, but rather a rhythmic call by a farmer to his cows. The banging noise was a wooden spoon on an old pail. This farmer was coaxing his herd out of the barn, down the street and into the field. He’d blocked our advance by a thin rope and of course the string of cows. As he passed he bid us welcome and bon marchez. Our only remaining obstacle was the large carpet of recently laid cow manure across the street. Folks, let’s just say, there was no way to avoid it.

Being in Switzerland took some getting used to. Gone were our familiar VF signs and the red and white stripe. In there place were a myriad of signs for various trails and paths all with times instead of distances posted. We did however find our path marker.

Tunnels along our wooded path

Emerging over a hill we were both surprised to see the outline of the Alps in front or us. “Surprised” is not really the best word. When I saw them I was both shocked and terrified at their size. A shiver literally ran down my back at the enormity of the range so clearly in front of us. It stopped me in my tracks.

First view of the Alps

After walking along a beautiful but steep revine following the river, we followed a cinder and hard packed clay path through forests that were peaceful and cool. Here we stopped for lunch and decided to get serious about a plan for tonight’s lodging. We tried a few numbers, again to no avail. We then noticed a posting for a farm guest house in the village of Dizy 2km off the prescribed path.

One quick call later and we’d nailed lodging, and dinner at a family farm. BINGO.

Our 28km walk for the day ended with a steeply downhill stretch just before the town of La Sarraz followed by a climb back up into Dizy.

The place we lodged.

The farm reminds Allison of her grandparents farm in PEI. The sell a lot of produce at a roadside stand in front of the house and of course they have cows. The house seems to be a revolving door of friends and family as well as farm hands.

Postscript: I don’t often brag about any one accommodation. Most have all been wonderful and our hosts have been awesome. But if you are in the area, you HAVE to take this small detour and make this Ferme (Gite de la Venoge) in Dizy stopping point. Great, and I really mean Great, home cooking.

Silvana and her Father in Law – Dizy

Day44 Pontarlier to Jougne – Taking it to the border

Morning Update Day44

Well, here we are folks, about a mile from the Swiss border. We’ve very nearly walked across another whole country.

It seems so odd to be here in a way. France, particularly the latter half of it (once it dried up a bit) has been wonderful. The food has been spectacular. Almost everyone has been generous and kind.

There are many places to which I’d like to return and spend more time. But a pilgrim must March on. Well, a pilgrim that has a 90day Shenghen VISA does anyway.

Today was supposed to be a short day but we made it long by choosing some more scenic routes and very honestly taking some wrong turns. In this part of France there are tons of intersecting hiking trails and many are labeled as the VF. We were never lost, just not on the trail we’d intended at times.

Chamois sighting

Uncle Robin would be so glad to know that we spent a majority of our day walking through cow pastures hanging out with the cows (quite literally). The mountains are breathtaking! Our other animal sightings today included ibex. There must have been six munching grass on a hillside just below a chateau. How picturesque is that!

Chateau in the background.

After eating lunch in a little ski village, we began climbing. That seems to be a recurring theme these days. This particular climb actually involved switchbacks, thank you. I was leading and then I rounded a corner on a switchback and magically Mark had teleported himself in front of me on the path. The turkey had just climbed straight up the mountain.

Conquering the Jura’s

<Mark>. I loved that little prank. The look on Allison’s face was priceless. There was that moment of … “oh, there is another hiker on the trail” followed by “wait, that’s Mark…but wait, he was behind me”. It was great.

We also encountered a little whimsy. Two mailboxes caught my attention. I have to admit my favorite was the cow. I think Dad will agree with me.

Creative mailbox
Creative mailbox
Pilgrim Dude

Anyway, we landed at our hotel in the border town of Jougne (pronounced ‘Zhune’). We celebrated our crossing of France with a mixed up menu of trout with mushrooms and pizza.

Tomorrow will be a long 20mi day. We haven’t done one of those in quite a long time. It will be tough. Oddly, after a morning climb into Switzerland, the route will be mostly downhill…or so we hear.

Day43 Mouthier-Haut-Pierre to Pontarlier – Gorges and Elevation

Starting off on a crisp morning.

Some trouble this evening with uploading images so despite the beauty, there will be few images and no video until we get home. (Post Via note: It’s all here now)

The expensive night at the hotel ended early with our 5:45 alarm. We’d left the window open to help our clothes dry and woke to a chilly room. The temperature had dropped into the high 40’s overnight. Good thing we had several blankets.

We decided to raid our food supply for breakfast. We feasted on an orange, and what passes for a breakfast bar and energy bar here. They are incredibly tiny and mostly sugar. I do miss our protein bars back home on these occasions. That left us with 1/4 baguette, four slices of cheese and one energy bar each. Slim pickings. But at least Mark’s pack was light.

So we left our key in the door to our room since that is how we found it. A hotel with an unmanned reception 24 hours a day….Maybe that is normal here, but it sure seems strange to me. Anyway we were on our way.

Boy, what a start! We climbed and climbed and walked in the woods around the Gorges de Nouailles (Noodle Gorge). It was absolutely beautiful!

Climbing up the gorge

We did spend most of our morning climbing up the gorge. There were some terribly narrow paths with sheer drops. The Source of the River Loue was so spectacular.

Once we climbed above the river the world seemed so quiet. But do not worry, we continued to climb.

At the village of Ouhans we’d hoped to stop to get some lunch supplies. There was no evident store in town however but there was a pretty but small chapel located on a hill adjacent to the town. It was the Notre Dame du l’Engles. It was very beautiful inside.

Chapelle Notre Dame Des Anges

Our lady of the angels

Danger Danger Will Robinson!

The climb was relentless. We walked through forests and roads that were so steep there were warning signs for cars about the gradient of the road. Finally we could see the top come into sight. We were running on fumes and needed to eat and sit down for a few minutes. So we nibbled on the rest of our food provisions for lunch which was not much. But it was all we had: a piece of bread, cheese, a few nuts, and a breakfast bar.

Logging operations

While we were preparing our lunch a car drove by, stopped, and backed up. A gentleman who lives nearby just wanted to chat with us. It was a kind gesture. I am continually amazed at the kindness of the local people here in the south of France. He was a retired Air France pilot so Mark enjoyed talking Aerospace with him.

We ended our journey with a suburban entry into Pontarlier. It was nondescript except for the chance encounter with a Decathlon sports store.

At our youth hostel for the evening we finally had the chance to meet and talk with the pilgrims we’d met a few days ago. It made for a delightful dinner. We cooked up some food we’d bought at the local market (cassoulet, peas and sausages) and boiled some eggs for lunch tomorrow.

Well that’s it folks. Tomorrow is our last full day in France. We travel to Jougne on the Swiss border. I’ll end this with one last artsy shot from the Gorge

Day42 Foucherans to Mouthier-Haut-Pierre – Beauty beyond measure.

Our night ended yesterday with a note from Gilbert. He hoped to see us again and I responded with an invitation to walk with us today. I woke to a message saying he’d love to join us.

So we woke and readied ourselves with breakfast and the usual packing. At 7am Gilbert arrived and away we went.

The trail was mostly flat and wooded and for a time followed an old rail line. Off the side of the path was a rare natural phenomenon that we likely would have passed by but at Gilbert’s suggestion we detoured off the path and down a steep grade to see an odd site. The trail led to a hollowed out rock gorge that resembled a sink hole. It is a geological oddity because of a play of hydraulic pressures and underground caverns and their interaction with a nearby stream. The water here actually flows in different directions depending on the rainfall. It was fascinating and beautiful.

Some way further along the path we came to a long dark creepy tunnel. No light came through so we stepped into the darkness. Fortunately as we progressed, automatic lights flickered on to show us the way. We made spooky music sounds in the echo chamber of the tunnel.

The region is renowned for its water sports in the mountains stream la Loue. Fishing and kayaking are very popular and we saw several campsites as well. You can understand this when you see the beautiful scenery.

We passed through the beautiful village of Ornans home to the famous painter Gustave Courbet. Courbet led the Realism movement of the 19th century made way for the Impressionist movement. He insisted on painting “only what he could see” and rejected the formal rules of the romanticism of the past generation. His pictures however are dark as was the end of his life – spent in exile in Switzerland.

The village however was picturesque, dotted with bridges and cottages at the riverside and framed with chateaux and the cliff faces of the mountains behind.

As we wound our way along the river we had great and extensive conversations with Gilbert. He would say I did all the talking and Allison all the listening. This will come as no surprise to those that know us. To be fair, Gilbert is a crest conversationalist as well and we heard many of his stories. We covered many subjects including physics, religion, politics, global warming, as well as our personal lives, etc. The kilometers flew by.

Gilbert and his key

Gilbert left us at Vuillafans after walking a full 21km. He met us at the next village after retrieving his car and gave us a nice gift of bread and some local cheese. For his overwhelming kindness and generosity as well as spending so much time in meaningful conversation, Gilbert received a Key. Gilbert, I hope you will use the key I gave you to open that door we spoke about.

The village of Lods

Most of the day was on level terrain, but as soon as Gilbert left us it turned steep. And after our second visit from Gilbert it turned steeper still. What a way to end the day.

We ended up on the gorgeous village of Mouthier-Haut-Pierre. We were unable to get in touch with the alberge so we’d made reservations at a hotel. When we arrived however there was no one there. Thumbs down to who have twice left me in the lurch with regard to hotels. I dare anyone to try and reach someone to help them. Very poor customer service.

Some good fish in’ here.

After waiting about an hour a worker at the attached restaurant showed up and helped us get into the hotel and to our room. It has an amazing view.

The view from our balcony

What a day. I took so many pictures because of the gorgeous scenery. I hope you enjoy this sampling.

We ended the night with a very fancy dinner at the hotel. We really have to stop eating like this but last night we cooked a stir-fry for ourselves so I guess it is ok!

Day41 Besancon to Foucherons – up and into the woods

Rest days are a blessing and a curse. Our bodies and minds really appreciated the rest day, but starting up again sure is hard. You’d think with toned muscles and a nice rest that you’d be invigorated and ready to go, but the opposite is true – it is for us anyway.

Morning update Day41

The morning started our chilly and the streets of Besancon were all but deserted when we headed out early this morning. We were there shortly after the doors opened at the earliest rising bakery – pun intended.

But today all we wanted was some bread for our lunch. We had a steep start right off the bat, so we didn’t want to load up with food. There was a grocery in the town ahead that we’d be passing just about lunch time and we had been forewarned by our next host that we needed to bring dinner and breakfast with us.

Leaving Besancon my hip and feet were complaining right from the start and the thought of a climb was not exciting me. I think Allison was also hesitant. But as we walked along the River prior to the climb I couldn’t resist the beauty of the morning. It was cool and crisp. The Doub River was flowing swiftly and the sound was like heaven to me. Looking up, the Citadel towered above us. It seemed insurmountable, but we knew that’s exactly where we had to go.

We turned the corner away from the river and the climb came at us like a steam train. I honestly don’t recall my pack feeling as heavy as it did this morning. My hip groaned and my knee complained. A second later I looked up and Allison was a good 50m ahead and above me.

But as I warmed up and my body gave into the reality that play-time was over I started to feel better. Soon, in a clearing I was astounded to see that we were looking down at the Citadel. It looked so small and “ordinary” from that vantage point.

The Citadel from above

The rest of our day was like this. Steep climbs followed by long slow descents, slowly gaining altitude.

I am making this sound like a final day on Everest. In reality we’ve climbed steeper and more difficult climbs and more will come in the next weeks, but today was just unusually difficult for some reason.

Woodland photo op

About 2/3 the way in we stopped for a break. As we were sitting there Gilbert stopped to talk to us. He is just recently retired and loves to walk in the quiet of nature. Now here is someone who would love long distance hiking. He did say that the Camino Français is too crowded for him. So of course we had to tell him about the VF. He was amazed that this trail went right through his town. We said our goodbye and Gilbert continued on his way. Just before we were going to pack up, Gilbert comes jogging back to say he has a friend who might be willing to provide us lodging for the night. He called and left a message on their home answering machine basically saying an American couple would be calling them later.

Gilbert’s story – amazing generosity.

The trail had been primarily woods through the day. It was lovely. The shade and beauty of the forest is hard to beat. It made the remaining climbs more bearable.

Wooded path.

We ended up staying with our original plan as we had a reservation and we were both just worn out. It is so difficult to get back into the groove. We marched up to the building to find a sign on the door saying to call a phone number upon arrival. So we did and not 5 minutes later a gentleman showed up and gave us the grand tour.

He spoke only French but spoke so slowly and deliberately for us that we grasped just about every word. He wasn’t satisfied however and had his grandson called over to make sure we were ok. When he found out that we’d tried to stop at the grocery the town away but that it was closed he immediately decided that he would drive us into the next town to get supplies. This was overwhelming.

We went crazy in the store buying supplies for a shrimp stir fry – something completely unlike what we’d been eating and something we’d never be able to carry in our packs. It was great.

Dessert chocolate

The place we are staying in has quite a history. Inscribed in the wall is the date 1643. It was a smokehouse among other things and today is a gite and museum all in one. The alberge holds 16 folks and it feels odd to be the only ones here.

P.S. After we’d gotten settled at our lodging I received an email from Gilbert offering to come pick us up and offering us lodging for the night at his house. What an amazing experience this has been. Wow.

Day40. Rest day in Besancon

We slept in late …aaah! We rested; we toured; we relaxed. Our bodies and souls needed this.

Breakfast coffee – honestly there was some coffee in there somewhere

Then we got some breakfast and a coffee before heading out for some shoe, hiking pole tip, and grocery shopping. Allison’s shoes are wearing out and it is time for a replacement pair.

For all my fashionista friends and family out there, I apologize for my color choice now. The fluorescent yellow will clash with all my clothes colors. But I will have happy feet.

We walked around for a bit just relaxing in this pretty city. The city is surrounded on three sides by the Doub River with a mountain on the fourth side. It’s a natural stronghold.

The River Doub

Believe it or not we actually do spend some time planning our routes and lodging. So some of the afternoon was spent doing that along with eating ice cream. Because ice cream makes everything better! We even chatted with Judy and Mom for a few minutes.

First ice-cream since the UK – the sheep wanted some.

Next up we made our way to the tourist office and got out pilgrim’s passport stamped. Then we decided to explore some of the sights in the city. We started with the Astronomical Clock which was closed. How you can close a clock I am not sure but it was closed. We also had a good laugh that the museum of time is also closed. And the huge modern clock on the front of the building is off by hours. They just do not build clocks to last these days, ha ha.

The last tourist spot on our rest day was the Citadel. This fortress was built during the reign of the sun King Louis IV by the famous architect Vauban. The Spanish actually captured it before it’s completion but after the French re-conquest it was completed and remained an active military sight until after WWII.

A view from the Citadel entrance.

Inside is a zoo, a cultural museum and a museum of the resistance. This latter as well as the view was what I was really interested in seeing…but you guessed it, closed. They couldn’t close the view however, so we took some advice and waited in a long line for a seat at a cafe at the top. We had some highly overpriced wine and appetizers but enjoyed the sunset.

The View

Tomorrow we have to begin the walk up this step hill again – this time with all our gear. It wasn’t a joy the first time…I suspect we will be a bit unhappy to start our morning. Haha.

But we have to get used to it. The day will be shorter but much steeper tomorrow. We climb about 2000’ if I recall correctly. Two thousand isn’t crazy, we’ve done twice that in a day…but the month of walking along flat ground has left our climbing muscles untested.

One last thought. Entering a city is weird. We look like pilgrims. We have backpacks and hiking sticks and (in my case) a funny looking hat. We smell, and we have weird tans. Pilgrims are out of place in cities. Our life is slow; cities are fast paced. Our life is simple; cities are complicated and full of rules. I feel so odd walking into a city and Besancon was no different. Cities are fun…and wonderfully convenient, but I will be glad to be out, into the fresh air, the quiet, and the peaceful. Somehow, I don’t belong here. But I enjoyed the visit.

Good night.

P.S. After a long delay we’ve finally added a page that shows all of our lodging. For those that have asked, please see the spreadsheet link. Let me know if you’d like other information included. It’s a bit rough at the moment but I hope it is helpful.

Day39 Bucey les Gy to Besancon – Hills

“No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection.”

Patrick Rothfuss A Wise Man’s Fear

I love the quote above sent to me by a follower. It is so very true. Today was a difficult one physically and a great joy emotionally and spiritually.

Morning update Day39

Leaving another ville

First off, due to some shopping detours and general sidetracks we clocked in 22mi. Additionally the hills really kicked in today (1330ft elevation). That’s not a ton of climbing but with the distance combined and the fact that we’ve only recently had any consistent daily elevation gains, we are sore and achey.

The gite we stayed in last night was amazing. The actually lodging was perfect and clean and had everything we wanted. But the family included us in predinner drinks and a home cooked meal. The conversation flowed in French and English. Our hosts daughter in law speaks fluent English and she was so helpful. The entire family made us feel at home.

This morning Mark cooked breakfast in our accommodation and we were able to begin walking early. Of course our walking began with a climb which was to repeated just a few times over the course of our day. We both love and dread mountains. The love comes when the scenery is always changing and the views are inspirational. The dread comes from the fact we have not had to climb mountains, and all of a sudden we must develop our cardio and mountain climbing muscles.

Why did the Chicken climb the ladder?

Several of the villages we walked through today had village fountains and old public laundry buildings in the town center. Before washing machines in every home, these served as public laundry areas. I can imagine them as a center of activity only two generations ago. They are always decorated with flowers and are charming. Many of these are feed by natural springs.

Once again the VF and the Camino part ways.
Concrete whimsy.

We ate lunch at a beautiful spot along the trail near a little lake. It was ideal. There was a new picnic table. While eating our assortments of salads, we watched ducks teaching their young how to fly, frogs pretending to be plants in order to catch flies, and just enjoying the sun and cool temperatures.

While we were packing up, three other hikers walked up. It turns out that they are also waking the VF to Rome. The first pilgrims we have encountered!!! We are so excited.

Our first Co-Pilgrims – more later

The rest of the day was spent climbing and descending ever steeper hills. The 19mi day was lengthened by about a mile due to a couple mis-turns. These happen occasionally but having GPS made it easy to get back on track.

Finally we approached the suburbs of Besancon, our destination for tonight and the site of our final rest day in France.

One of many lavoir

Besancon is quite the large city. It seemed to take us forever to walk into the town center. We have become used to small villages and this is not a small village. An hour after entering the city we finally made it to our hotel. But to be perfectly accurate we did stop by the North Face store to check out shoes. Because, yes it is time to replace a pair of my shoes. Shockingly I will be replacing my La Sportiva trail runners. The Hokas are doing just fine! Tomorrow we will hit another outdoor store. We have worn out two stoppers on our hiking poles. Those also need to be replaced.

….direction Rome

To end our night we went out for dinner. Mark had an odd craving for Chinese food but I corrected this serious flaw in judgement and we went French. Seriously, Chinese???