A Travellerspoint blog

One Week Down (or three weeks, depending how you count it)

Also, a day spent exploring the Haut-Doubs.

rain 19 °C

Tomorrow will mark the three-week anniversary of my arrival in Besançon, but so much has happened in the past 20 days that it feels like it has been much longer.

I survived my first week of classes without sustaining too much damage – I feel like I am really in the perfect position - spending my first semester at the language institute and my second in mainstream university classes. (The CLA – Center for Applied Languages – is technically an academy of the Université of Franche-Comté, but the vast majority of students are either foreigners [traditional and nontraditional students; there are a few adults in my classes] who want to learn French, or are French and studying a language other than French.) Interestingly, I am the only student on this split track, and all of my professors were a little surprised and intrigued when my situation was explained to them. I’m not really sure how I ended up where I am…) All of my other international friends have just been dumped into mainstream classes, and some are faring much better than others. So I am grateful to be in a slightly more cozy and supportive environment where I can focus primarily on really deepening my understanding of the language. It’s kind of fun, because all of the people in my classes are definitely in the same boat; we are all intelligent individuals and dedicated students, but are essentially adults stuck with the vocabulary of a sixth grader. So many of our classes are an interesting mixture of discussing advanced ideas and concepts and elementary school activities (like standing in a circle and making gestures to convey our inner/emotional state, while the rest of the class offered up synonyms or phrases to describe them)!

At least as of now, it doesn’t look like my workload will be too heavy this semester, which is also nice. And all of my classes are pretty small – the largest is probably about twenty-five students, while the smallest is seven. It’s also fun to have so many shared classes with some students. On Wednesday, I went over to the University restaurant with a girl from Buffalo, NY for lunch between classes. We found ourselves in line right behind two guys from Canada and Japan who were also just coming from the same class (Written Composition/Comprehension). So we all sat down together and shared our adventures and challenges of the past weeks. Over the course of the discussion, we discovered that three of us were going to the same class right after lunch (Contemporary French History). It’s also nice to be able to sit in one class and ask your neighbor for clarification about an assignment in another class! Also, I’ve talked to multiple people who have referenced other Nebraskans studying at another level in the CLA, but I have yet to run into them….

This week, I found a yarn store! This was quite an accomplishment; I had looked online for shops last week and did not come up with ma,y results, except for one downtown. I looked for it after class one afternoon, but the address that was listed was actually the front door to an apartment building (the exact same thing happened the week before when I was looking for a place to stock up on school supplies…). This store – The Yarn Box – is actually within walking distance of my dorm, and the lady who was working there (I think she is the owner) is very friendly and an amazing knitter (she was working on one of the most beautiful sweaters I’ve ever seen). So now I’m all set to start on my hat and scarf for this winter!

The Yarn Box is next door to a supermarket, which I thought I’d check out while I was in the neighborhood. I wasn’t compelled to buy anything, so after about ten minutes of wandering around, I started to walk out. But my backpack (which I had completely forgotten I was wearing) set off the alarm, and I turned around to see a man in a black suit walking toward me with a very stern expression on his face. He ushered me back into the store, and – I think – asked me if I had bought anything and whether I had checked out. I only think that that is what he said, because my brain was unfortunately not quite functioning at full capacity at this time. Thankfully, I think that the combination of my deer-in-headlights expression and my flustered, nowhere near grammatically correct sentences convinced him that I was really not a shoplifter. I was a bit surprised that he didn’t look through my bag (which at this point contained mostly yarn and crochet hooks…) but just reminded me that I need to check my bag at a register next time. So that was exciting!

Yesterday, (Saturday) was another ESN event – an exploration of the Haut-Doubs region. Besançon is located in the Doubs department of France (the Doubs is the river that runs through town), and the Haut(“high”)-Doubs is the mountainous region to the South and East of Besançon. We had a really full day of sightseeing, from 7:45am-7:15pm. You can zoom in on the map at the top of the page to see our route. We started at a farm museum in Montagnon, which is both an historic farmhouse and a working “chimney” for smoking and curing ham in the traditional Franche-Comté fashion. The first room that we entered was the chimney pictured below, where hundreds of pig legs have been hanging and curing for, as we soon learned, the past nine months. It was a bit stinky.


Next, we visited the fruitérie (cheese factory) at Noël-Cerneux (a little commune with a population of about 360). This fruitérie is one of the producers of comté, one of the regional cheeses that Franche-Comté is known for. We got to tour the factory (there were four or five different rooms, and each had a very different temperature and its own unique oppressive smell!) and then we ate a bunch of cheese. It was quite fantastic.


Then we went for a little hike up Mont Vouillard, where we had a lovely view overlooking the town of Morteau (the name is derived from the words for “dead” and “water”, because the Doubs ends here). We stopped for a picnic here, quite literally in a cow pasture.


After lunch we got back on the bus and went to another trail head, which we followed to Le Belvédère du Bassin du Doubs, an overlook of the river (here, the other side of the river is Switzerland), then our hike continued on to le Saut (waterfall) du Doubs, where I crossed a bridge into Switzerland!


Our last stop was a father-son dairy farm, where we got to see a bunch of cows and some awesome dogs. We learned that, in this region, it is typical for a dairy farmer to send all of their milk to one fruitérie. If I understood correctly (it is entirely possible that I didn’t) there are 26 dairy farms in the Haut-Doubs region whose milk goes solely to the production of comté. The farm that we visited supplies to a fruitérie other than Noël-Cerneux, and because each fruitérie produces a slightly different product, we got to taste MORE comté! Nobody complained.... Also, to accompany our cheese, we sampled milk straight from the tank that collects it fresh from the cows. It was pretty intense.

Today has been a relatively quiet, very rainy day spent organizing all of the photos I have taken - I didn't realize how many there are - and doing pretty much all of my homework that was assigned last week (there is ALWAYS something more attractive that homework here!).

Posted by NKammerer 06:52 Archived in France Tagged museum waterfall farm picnic switzerland cheese classes cla esn haut-doubs

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Hi Honey,
You really have to get out more and please make some friends. I'm afraid that you are not taking advantage of all of the opportunities you have to explore and experience all of the foreign experiences that you have available.

Don't be such a stick in the mud.

Your helpful Opa

by Opa

Merci pour une autre histoire amusante et intéressante une fois de plus. Nous aimons lire et apprendre de tes aventures chaque semaine. Et tu as une façon d’attirer les petites aventures charmantes!

Et oui, je pense qu’il se pourrait que Opa et correct. Il faut que tu doives plus pour tirer parti de cette expérience internationale :)

Beaucoup d’amour toujours ! <3

by Lisa Kammerer

I love ready your posts - it's almost like being there. The cows look very similar to American cows - do they have an accent?

Your photos are fanastic - you could probably get paid for your beautiful pictures!

I can imagine how scary it was when the alarm went off - I've had that happen and I get scared without the language barrier!

Sounds like you are making the most of a very exciting opportunity. I'm so glad you are getting to have these experiences!


by Judy Trout

It is truly fascinating to travel the French countryside through these beautiful pictures and learn about your experiences. You're doing great! I absolutely love your posts =)

by Ankit

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