Besançon, Toulon and In Between

Chelsey stood still as Gideon filmed her, using his camcorder. They were in Toulon which was a port city on the Mediterranean coast of France. Yesterday, they had walked along the harbor and popped into the souvenir shops. 

She was loving every moment that they were together in France. He was the perfect traveling companion–loads of fun, easygoing and adventurous. He was in great physical shape and could walk for hours. He was in better shape than she and she told him so after she asked for them to stop and rest for a bit. “I’m a fitness freak,” he said, laughing. “I like to keep in shape by jogging early every morning and going to the gym three times a week.”

They flew from London to Lyon and from Lyon, they took the train to Besançon. On the way, they went over the itinerary. They were going to spend a few days in Besançon. From there, they would take the bus to Toulon. The trip was over over 8 hours long but the cheapest and scenic. They would spend a few days there, then from Toulon they would take the night bus to Nice where they spent five days. From there they would take day trips to Monaco, Cannes and Monte Carlo. From Monte Carlo they would fly to Paris where they would spend a couple of days before returning to London.

When they were in Besançon, they visited the Citadelle de Besançon. On the way there, they had walked past St. Jean cathedral. They planned to drop into the medieval cathedral to see one of the great works of the Florentine Renaissance artist Fra Bartolomeo, as well as a great astronomic clock. the 17th-century. The Citadelle de Besançon, designed by Vauban for Louis XIV had sweeping views of the city and the Doubs River which divided France and Switzerland.

Chelsey had stood there, gazing at the stunning views of the green foliage surrounding the winding river. In the distance the hills rose majestically and she could see the houses scattered across the landscape. How lucky they were to live in such beauty and tranquility. It was a pleasant and welcome change from the hustle and bustle of London.

Chelsey didn’t want to return to London. She wanted to remain in France with Gideon indefinitely. Whenever she saw couples holding hands, she was envious. She wished Gideon was her boyfriend instead of her step-father. She wished that he was in love with her instead of her mother and that they were like the other couples, holding hands. She knew that even if he wasn’t married to her mother and they had met some other way, their age difference would be a huge factor. Why did she have to be only 19? Why couldn’t she be in her mid or late twenties or in her thirties? Then, Gideon wouldn’t have any excuse why he couldn’t be in a relationship with her.

She had to force herself to push all romantic notions out of her head and accept the fact that Gideon was her step-father, he loved her mother and she was the daughter he never had. She made up her mind to enjoy every moment they were together. Their time in Besançon  was nice. The city was near the border with Switzerland.  “Maybe another time we can visit Switzerland,” she said to Gideon, her voice tinged with hope.

He smiled. “Sure. I’ve always wanted to visit Switzerland. It’s right next to Austria. We can pop over there too. We can visit Salzburg where Mozart was born and the Sound of Music was filmed.”

“And Vienna. We can visit the different palaces, museums and even attend a concert.”

“Since you enjoy riding horses, we can visit the Spanish Riding School as well and watch a performance.”

Chelsey and he talked about all the other places in Switzerland and Austria they would visit as they headed for St. Stephen’s Chapel where they watched the history of the Citadel. Afterwards, they visited Cadets’ building with its four exhibition rooms, a guided tour of the an underground gallery where they could relive the daily life of the soldiers. They went into The Chamber of Soldiers and saw the barrack room, a living space for the twelve soldiers who shared it. It was a place for them to sleep, cook, feed and entertain themselves. Both Gideon and Chelsey loved the history of the place.

Before leaving the Citadel and heading to St. Jean cathedral, they retraced their steps and walked along the circular walkways to enjoy the unique views of the city of Besançon and its surroundings. Gideon videotaped it. Chelsey paused under the 2nd century Roman triumphal arch while Gideon videotaped. The altar contained a copy of the Shroud of Turin; Besançon’s shroud disappeared during the French Revolution. The apse contained paintings representing the passion and resurrection of Christ. The floor of the apse was marble and represented Jerusalem with the eight gates and four palaces mentioned respectively in the Old and New Testaments.

There were paintings of The Martyrdom of Saint StephenChrist in the Garden of Olives, Christ carrying the CrossThe removal of Christ’s body from the crossThe placement of Christ’s body in the tomb and The resurrection of Christ.  Chelsey and Gideon stood there in reverential silence. Tears pricked Chelsey’s eyes as she gazed at the unfinished alabaster pieta. “It’s called the the Virgin of Pity by the German-born Late Gothic and Renaissance sculptor, Conrad Meit,” Gideon told her in a hushed voice. “It’s called the Virgin of Pity. The abbey of Saint Vincent de Besançon received it from the abbot and originally displayed it in a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.”

“You can see the anguish and pain in her face,” Chelsey said.

“Yes,” Gideon agreed.

Before leaving the church, they made their way near the organ where there was Fra Bartolomeo’s painting Madonna in Glory with Saints, which he had painted in Florence in 1512 as an altarpiece for the cathedral. “That’s John the Baptist kneeling,” Chelsey said pointing to one of the figures in the painting and the man in red is the founder Jean Carandolet.” She had just googled the name of the painting and found the information she wanted. “I’m not sure what he’s the founder of.”

“Are you hungry?” Gideon asked her as they left the church.


“So am I. Let’s go and grab some lunch, then.” They quickly found a family run bistro and a table outside. The food was really good. After they left there, they visited the apartment where Victor Hugo was born in 1802. Apparently, Victor’s father who was in the military, was stationed in Besançon for a few months before he was transferred to Marseille and took his family with him. The apartment became a museum in 2013.

Before going back to the hotel, they went to the Parc Micaud where they relaxed for a couple of hours. It was picturesque and tranquil. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon with a nice, cool breeze. They wished that could have stayed there longer but, they had to go back to the hotel because in a couple of hours, it would be time for dinner.

While they were in Besançon, they visited the Battant Quarter, Musée du Temps, Chapelle Notre-Dame du Refuge and took side trips to Little Venice, Colmar and Owl’s Trail, Dijon. Then, it was time to leave and head for Toulon where they were now.

With a start, Chelsey realized that Gideon was sitting on a bench, watching her and laughing. “Wow, you were miles away,” he said. “Where did you go?”

She blushed and walked over to him. “I was thinking about how much fun we had in Besançon.”

“Well, we’re going to have fun here too in Toulon. And we can start by riding the cable car up to Mont Faron where we can enjoy fantastic views of the sea and the city. Once at the top, we can go for a walk and or visit the Musée du Débarquement.”

“Let’s do both,” Chelsey said. “Go for a walk and visit the museum.”

Gideon smiled and rose to his feet. He touched her elbow as they made their way to the cable car and she smiled.


Sources: About France; The Next Epic Trip; Planet Ware; Megan & Aram; Britannica; Besançon Citadel; Wikipedia; Trip Advisor; The Crazy Tourist; Inspirock; Everyday Know

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