Besançon…the Christmas Market

Hi everybody,

I told you I had something to share with you before we went into the town center of Besançon. It’s this, the Besançon Christmas market. I was there last Saturday afternoon and then again on Sunday evening. The Besançon Christmas market is on the central market square, otherwise known as la Place de la Révolution.  Here is the official entrance…

01a_entrée du marché


…and the crowd beyond:

01d_the crowd at night


The town Christmas tree, in front of a stand where they sell hot wine…

01b_town Christmas tree


…and the crowd below, drinking plenty of hot wine:

01c_Christmas tree and the crowd


I took this photo of the vin chaud stand on Saturday afternoon…

2a_Vin chaud


…when I had some hot wine (unfortunately you can’t see the steam rising)…

2b_Vin chaud

You can see a recipe for French hot spiced wine here.


While we’re in the daytime photos, here’s one to give you a daytime view of the Christmas market…

1a_Christmas Market

…with its merry-go-round…


…and the merry-go-round in the evening…


Of course, Christmas is for kids (both big ones and little ones). Everyone knows that.


Saturday afternoon the Besançon Canine club is out in force…

12b_Canine Club

…I think this is a fund raising activity. “One caress = one euro” is what the signs say. It’s just occurred to me that I forgot to pay for petting this dog.


The dogs all seem happy to be out, together…

12h_Canine Club

…big ones and little ones…

12c_Canine Club 12g_Canine Club

…singular and plural…

12a_Canine Club out in force 12f_Canine Club


I don’t think a euro is too much to pay for a little canine affection. Just put your zoom onto the face of this little guy:

12e_Canine club


Here’s a stand where they sell crèpes and gaufres (waffles), etc. to eat on site…

1c_Christmas_Délices de...


…and plenty of Christmas sweets…



The Christmas market is a fun place to eat and drink. Many stands serve up local specialties, dishes such as these sausages (saucisses de Montbéliard) cooked in onions and white wine…

3_saucisse de Montbéliard


…or this poelée Comtoise–potatoes grilled with bits of saucisse de Morteau (sausage of Morteau)…

3C_poelée comtoise with saucisse de Morteau


…or this Morbiflette–potatoes, ham, onions and Morbier cheese…

3b_poelée comtoise

…all good winter food.


The region of Franche-Comté, where Besançon is situated, is well-known for its hams, sausages and a wide variety of smoked meats. Here is a stand here devoted entirely to these products…

1d_Chrismas_Fumé comtois

…the same stand at night, and close up:

1dbis_fumé la nuit 1dter_fumé la nuit

Franche-Comté has very good cheeses, wines and vegetables too. I’ll take you on a visit of some local markets one of these days.

On we go. There are stands from other régions, like this one where they sell products from southwestern France, especially foie gras, which many people like to serve for Christmas dinner or at other meals around Christmastime…

5_from the southwest of France


…and products from Normandy…

7d_products from Normandy


There are stands from abroad, too. Russia…

4_the russian stand


…and Canada:

6a_Canadian stand 6b_Canadia stand


In Besançon you can always run into the exotic and unexpected, such as this Brazilian drum troupe coming down a nearby street…



…forcing this busker to take a break:

10_local busker


The Brazilians are publicizing a local festival, Latina Corazon, for the promotion of Latin American culture. You can read about it here.

8b_Brazilians bis


The Christmas market is a place to buy Christmas décorations…

7c_Christmas decorations bis


…and a wide variety of gifts, such as this jewelry…



…or this vegetal ivory…

1e_Christmas_vegetal ivory


But there mare many other stands too, where they sell toys, scarves, hats… I fear I haven’t done justice to this year’s market.

All of this takes place in front of the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Besançon Fine Arts Museum (currently closed for renovation) under the watchful closed eyes of some of the museum’s portraits:

9b_Beaux Arts_of closed eyes


I hope you now have a good view of this annual event here in Beasançon. Christmas markets take place in many other towns too, Montbéliard, Strasburg…and in other countries as well. Should you visit Besançon some year around Christmas, don’t miss the market.

Besançon…the district of Battant

Hi everyone. Today I’m taking you into the town center of Besançon, to the quartier Battant, the Battant district. It’s only a small part of the center, but it’s a very important part, one of the oldest and most distinctive streets of the city. And you will see that Besançon is a town of great variety. We start at the train station, near the ramparts that I showed you last week. By the way, you can read about Besançon here. And here.

This is the central train station, the Gare Viotte

1_Gare Viotte

…from which we can take the city’s new tramway to go downtown…


…this tram car is named after Louis Pasteur, a local boy:

3_Tram Pasteur

(Of couse, a few other towns in the region have claims on Pasteur too).


But I’m not going to take the tram, I’m going on foot. Here, I’m walking through the ramparts:


(You may remember seeing this scene in the previous entry, but from the other direction.)


I soon turn onto the Rue Battant and head towards the town center…

5_Battant 1

…and we soon come to the Place Battant with its fountain:

6_Battant 2 7_Battant 3 - fountain


Battant is a district of ethnic diversity, as we see in this North African pastry shop, La Rose de Tunis:

8_Rose of Tunis 1

In the back of the shop you can see the owner.

He kindly let me take pictures inside his shop…

9_Tunis 2

…but he didn’t want to pose.

10_Tunis 3


On we go down the street…

11_On we go down the street

…past numerous shops, such as this small grocery store. Battant is an everyday district, where everyday people live, work and shop…

11bis_grocery store

…this kebab shop, not quite open yet…

10_kebabs, not quite open yet

…a hardware shop…

12_hardware store

…a variety store…


…a music store…

14_Battant musique

…and Italian specialties, where you can eat outside…

16_Italian specialties

…or inside…

16b_or in

…from this appetizing menu…

16c_appetizing menu

…or maybe take it home with you…

16d_or take it home

…along with something to drink:



Here is shop where I’ve bought many gifts over the years…

15_a shop where I've bought...

…table cloths, napkins, dish towels, small utensiles. This store is famous in town.


This shop, Kausia, Par tous les Temps (For all types of weather) , is aptly named. Besançon has a cool-to-cold and rainy climate (though summer heat waves can be torrid) and this shop is designed for it:



And the Horlogerie de Battant, a watch and clock shop. Besançon has always been the watch capital of France, ever since the first watches were invented. One of the city’s most renowned museums is the Musée du Temps (the Time Museum). You can read about it in French here.



And here is a chocolate lover’s paradise named Hors les sentiers battus... (Off the beaten paths)…

17_Chocolate 1

It’s a cacao bar…

18_Chocolate 2

… with chocolate in all its states.

The shop window has a very Christmasy look at the moment…

18b_a Christmasy window display

…there’s a welcoming chocolate-floral arrangement just inside…

18c_welcoming chocolate...

…and as I’ve said, this shop is a chocloate lover’s paradise:

18d_as I said...


We finally arrive at the river, The Doubs, where we meet up with the tramway once again…

19_we arrive along the Doubs River to meet up with...

…a look back up the rue Battant

19b_looking back up the street

…with the Church of La Madeleine behind us:

20_la Madeleine

…the Pont Battant (the Battant Bridge) is ahead of us now…

20_b_Battant bridge


Onto the bridge we go, and look to the right…

21_on the bridge-right

…and to the left…



Once across the bridge we look straight ahead up the Grande Rue, the town’s main street…

…on a Saturday afternoon…

23_across the bridge, straight ahead

…and on a Sunday morning:

25_crossing the bridge, looking up...

I’ll take you up there one day soon, but we’ve seen enough for today. And I have something else to show you first.

Besançon…the ramparts

Hi everyone,

The Olsen Road will be starting up again soon for my Christmastime travels to Dublin to see my daughter and her family. In the meantime I hope to find time to take some pictures and write a few posts about Besançon, the town I live in here in France. While I was travelling in the States these last few months several people asked me about this town that I’ve now lived in for more than forty years, so I thought I’d introduce you. And Besançon is a worthy travel destination in its own right, not just because I live here.


November 11, 2014

Armistice Day

Here’s a view from my kitchen window one recent rainy morning:

2_rainbow bis

Besançon is a relatively rainy town, known as the greenest city in France.

I quickly run downstairs to get a picture of the other half of the rainbow:

3_rainbow ter

This will give you a better view of my neighborhood.


Later in the day I take a walk down to the ramparts, the few remaining vestiges of the old city wall and fortifications. Here we see some autumn colors  along with the Tour Carrée, the square tower.

4_autumn colors and tower

The Tour Carrée a little closer…


…and closer still:

6_tower closer


The ramparts are a good place to go at the moment to see autumn colors:

7_autumn colors2


The promenade leading down to the Doubs River:

8_autumn colors and trail down to river


The Promenade des Glacis along the top of the ramparts:

9_autum colors remparts


The ramparts are crisscrossed by some major traffic arteries…

10_autumn colors street through remparts

…modernity oblige.

10bis_street in remparts

This is a good way to see how the new and the old live together in Besançon. Of course, the afternoon of a major national holiday is not the time to see how busy these streets can be.


The ramparts are a also good place to take pictures of the town center. Here we see the Citadel de Vauban on the hills opposite. The Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage site now. You can read more about it here.

11_view of city center

And with the zoom:

13_citadel bis

I’ll take you up into the citadel some day soon. It’s a very interesting place.


The roofs and chimineys of Besançon are well known.

14_citadel ter


The ramparts are full of monuments and since the commemoration ceremony for the First World War took place this morning, wreaths have been placed at the foot of these statues…

16_monuments aux morts 17_wreaths were deposed this morning

…such as this one from a group known as the Gueules Cassées, the broken faces. These were soldiers who came home from the war extremely disfigured.

18_such as this one from...


This monument is dedicated to all those who gave their lives for France and who are buried abroad:

19_monument to those buried overseas

Statues of soldiers…

20_monument to the soldiers 21_another monument

…and La Mère Patrie.

22_monument to la mère patrie


Sculptures are also to be found here and there  in the Promenade des Glacis. This one, by Jorge Soler, is dedicated to foreigners who fought in the resistance during the Second World War…

23_numerous sculptures inhabit the promenade

…and this one by the Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow…

24_such as this one

…with a child hidden under the robe:

25_by Ousmane Sow

The form of the child is hard to make out, but the feet are very clear:

26_with a child hidden under the man's robe


There is much more to see in and around Besançon. Little by little I’ll try to show you as much as possible.




San Francisco

As I said in my previous post, I’m back home in France now. And here’s a picture of the sunrise over Besançon, seen from my balcony:

0_Sunrise over Besançon

But I have one last blog entry from my roadtrip.


Thursday, October 30th

I take Van home today, to the agency in San Francisco where I rented him. I’m sad to be at the end of my trip and to see Van go, but when I see him at home among his siblings I tell myself that he’ll go on to other adventures, as I will.

I take the tramway up to Market Street and get out at Embarcadero Station.  Then I take a long walk along the water front up to Fisherman’s Wharf, taking a few pictures along the way:

1_Coit Tower from a distance, one of the...


Coit tower is one of the main landmarks of these northeastern districts of the city:

2_A closer view...


I go all the way to Pier 39 where I have lunch:

3_I walk all the way to Pier 39 where...

Pier 39 is gaudy and touristic, as is much of Fisherman’s Wharf, but I like it.


After lunch I take the ritual cable car ride:

4_After lunch I tak the ritual cable car ride...


Cable cars are an iconic San Francisco institution:

5_Cable car from inside... 6_Cable car inside bis...


Up Taylor Street we go…

7_We head up the street...

…passing many cross streets…

8_Passing many cross streets...

…and some well-known landmarks…

10_...well-known features bis...

…through the northern sections of Chinatown:

14_We make our way through the northern sections of Chinatown...


We pass by some houses that are…

12_Passing some houses along the way that are...

très San Francisco…

13_...très San Francisco.

…and go all the way to Market Street, to the Powell Street Station:

11_All the way to Market Street


This, then, is the last entry for my retirement-gift-to-myself road trip. I think that San Francisco is a fitting place to stop. But this is only a pause in the Olsen Road. I’ll be back in the not-too-distant future with other travels, photos and comments. Thank you all for following along. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

My hat…

Hi everyone. I’m home in France now, trying to get over my jet lag. Re-reading some of my early posts, I realize that I’d promised you a post about how I organize things while travelling. One aspect of organization is keeping track of the more important items that I need to have on hand.


October 28th-29th, and all along these three months


You may have noticed my hat in some of my photos:

1_You may have noticed my hat.


Some of you probably recognize it as the hat I bought in the south of France last June:

2_Some of you will recognize it as...


Throughout my trip it has hardly left me, though here it is lying on the bed at Larry’s house:

3_My hat has hardly left me during these...


But it plays an important role in addition to keeping the sun off my face. It helps me to keep track of some very important items, such as the all-important key to Van:

6_including the all important key to Van...


My hat is where I stock a lot of important items when I’m camping somewhere…

4_But it plays an important role...

…or when I’ve checked into a motel: you can see here

So I always know where they are.


I’ve lost a few items on this trip. My bike chain and lock, the table that came with Van (I took it out and forgot to put it back, only to remember it a few hundred miles down the road), a mouse (I left it on the table in a Starbucks), and so on. But nothing really important. I dare to say that now that I’m safely home.

Now, where’s my hat?

Halloween scenes

Davis, California

October 26th

This morning I take a walk around the neighborhood to get a few pictures of the Halloween decorations that are now everywhere…

October 26 - Davis-Vallejo-Novato 010

…cobwebs, pumpkins…

1_Halloween a

…diverse denizens of the graveyard. Some sinister…


16_beware 14_bat

…and some quite jovial:


11_three ghosts

4_Halloween-pumpkins, scarecrow, cobwebs


It seems as though people go to much more trouble these days than when I was a child…

7_door scene 8_door scene skeleton

…with cobwebs as a big item…

10_door & cobwebs

…the occasional artifical jack o’lantern…

9_big phony jack o'lantern

…and autumn wreaths:



Is this witch stuck in this tree?

12_witch in tree


Some of the decor is rather harvest oriented:

5_pumpkins, Indian corn...


…and some is mainly harvest oriented:


But the real Halloween scenes will be this Friday evening as the streets fill with children in various disguises, going from house to house, asking for treats and threatening tricks. There will be many good opportunities for pictures. Alas, I will be on my flight home.


Yes, my travels are coming to an end, but there may be another post or two before I leave for France.


Hi everyone,

I’m in Davis again, at the home of my brother Larry and his wife Cathy. I never got around to taking a picture of them at the beginning of my travels, so here they are today, in their kitchen:

5_Larry and Cathya


And while I’m focused on the family, here are the three Olsen brothers, from left to right, Tim, Larry and John:

6_the Olsen brothers


I’ve spent this last week among family and friends, most of whom you met at the beginning of my travels last August. Before arriving here in the north, though, I spent a few days in and near the town of Monterey.


October 17th – 19th


From Mission San Antonio I drive to Monterey, a town that for Californians needs no introduction. You can nevertheless read about it here. I spend the following days visiting the town, plus the surrounding area including Carmel and Big Sur, two other sites that, for Californians, need no introduction. I take few pictures, but you can find many on line.

The beach at Carmel:

1_beach at Carmel

The surf is very rough today. Then again, this is northern California.


Speaking of the California missions, this is Mission San Carlos in Monterey, another mission founded by Father Junipero Serra:

2_mission San Carlos

Mission San Carlos probably needs no financial aid to help it meet seismic retrofit goals.


Late one afternoon I take a long walk along the beach on Monterey Bay. Now that the military base at Fort Ord is closing, these beaches are open to the public.

3_beach evening Monterey Bay 4_beach evening facing the sea

It looks like evening light in these photos, but it’s only about five in the afternoon. But as October comes to an end, five o’clock is indeed the evening.

It feels as though my travels are coming to an end.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Hi everyone,

I’m in Santa Rosa again, staying with some friends. On leaving Pirate’s Cove on the 16th I checked into a motel in Paso Robles (a very nice town, by the way) and worked very hard for the rest of the day and early the following morning on an article correction.

Then I headed north to visit one of the California missions, Mission San Antonio de Padua. The missions, founded by the Francisans in the late 18th and early 20th centuries, were a fundamental aspect of the Spanish colonization of California (and of other territories too). You can learn more about the California missions here, here and here.

Editing note on October 23rd: after e-mail contact with the Mission San Antonio staff, I’ve made a few corrections in my comments.


October 17th

I leave Paso Robles mid morning and arrive at Mission San Antonio around 11:30. Mission San Antonio, I learn from Frankie in the visitor’s center, is one of the largest of the missions, the least known, the most difficult to find and the hardest one to restore. That’s why it’s the most interesting, I remark. In contrast to most of the other missions, no town grew up around it. Its isolation is due to the fact that the mission was originally surrounded by large land grants that, through several changes of ownership, eventually became a military installation. The mission is located in a small valley, away from the main routes that now follow the Salinas River. When you see how desolate that part of the Salinas Valley is, though, you can understand why the Franciscans chose to build elsewhere.

The great attraction of Mission San Antonio for me is that it is the one which best shows how the original missions appeared. The vistas from the entrance have not changed since the mission was founded in 1771.

You can read more about this remarkable historic monument here and here, and see more pictures here.

The view to the south…

5_vista - south

…and to the east…

6_vista - east

Of course, slightly further south there is the military installation, but we don’t see it from here.


The mission, from a distance:

4_mission façade - far


The front of the church. The mission is currently under orders from the state to conform to earthquake safety standards, hence the work that has recently been undertaken:

1_church façade -scaffolding bis

But they seriously need financial help. Of course, donations are welcome.


The west wing, which houses the museum, the visitor’s center and the gift shop:

3_mission façade

The gift shop contains many works by local artists for sale on consignment. It’s a very interesting shop, in fact.


The east wing…

4b_mission - east wing

A part of the mission facilities are available to rent as a retreat center.


The entrance to the courtyard:

7_garden - entrance


Restoration is a never-ending job:

8_church outside - from courtyard 9_church outside - from east


The church entrance is currently from a side door in the courtyard:

10_chapel entrance


The church still serves a functioning parish of 33 families:

11_chapel inside - far 12_chapel inside - close up


The courtyard…

13_garden - courtyard

…with its lawn….

14_garden - lawn


15_garden - trees 16_garden - palm tree

…rose garden…

16b_garden - roses

…and other flowers, for example the golden poppy, California’s state flower:

17_garden - golden poppy


In front of the church, a statue of the mission’s founder, the well-known Franciscan, Father Junipero Serra, …

19_mission - staute of founder

…badly in need of cleaning.


The mission staff is trying to restore some of the exterior plantations, to show an aspect of mission life. For example, grapes, …

20_plants - grapes

…olives, …

21_plants - olive tree 22_plants - olives

…and pomegranates:

23a_plants -pomegranite tree 23b_plants - pomegranate


I would encourage anyone travelling in California to take the time to visit Mission San Antonio. And by giving the mission this meager publicity I hope to give the mission staff a little help in meeting their 2017 deadline for the earthquake security norms. They have a special website for this preservation effort here.


Pirate’s Cove

October 15th – 16th

I leave El Capitan Park early and drive west and north on Highway 101. I stop at another state park at Gaviota, just out of curiosity. It’s closed for the season.

I continue north and inland, and in short order I’ve passed Point Conception and Point Arguello on the coast. Anyone familiar with California knows that northward of these two landmarks we are no longer in southern California. It’s cooler here and the ocean water gradually becomes cold.

I stop at the village of Solvang for lunch. Solvang was founded by Danish settlers and tries to look it. I take no pictures, but you can see plenty of photos here. You can read about Solvang here and here.

By late afternoon I arrive at Pismo Beach State Park. It’s cool here, breezy, and in the evening a heavy dew gathers on my picnic table. I can’t sit outside and work.

But the next morning is sunny and bright and I go to a place with the evocative name of Pirate’s Cove. It’s on an isolated stretch of the coast between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach:

1_coast near Pismo Beach


It even has a pirate’s cave…

2_the pirate's cave

…through which we can see a lot of wildlife:

3_bird colonies


The cove seen from above…

October 14-16_Captitan to Paso 042 4_view onto Pirate's Cove

…and from the opposite shore:

5_cove from the opposite end


The water temperature isn’t bad at all, considering where we are now, and normally the cove would be a good swimming hole, but the surf is rough today, the waves high.

11_would be a good swimming hole, but...


Above us some opulent homes…

7_with some opulent houses above

…and more:

6_more houses


In fact, Pirate’s Cove is indeed a good swimming hole…

8_in fact it is a good swimming hole...

…and an ideal place for nude sunbathing:

9_seal sunbathing on rock in cove

10_another sunbather


I’ve been lucky with wildlife lately.

Santa Barbara and thereabouts

Hi everyone,

After a long drive from Monterey yesterday I’m back in Sonoma County today, at the home of my brother Tim and his wife Anne-Marie. It’s raining this morning, to the great relief of everyone. We hope this is the beginning of the end of a three-year drought. We shall see.

Here’s Tim and Anne-Marie on their front porch:

October 15-19 San Antonio to Rhonert Park 048


Article I’m correcting at the momentSurface dynamics along the shores of Tunis Gulf (North-eastern Mediterranean Sea)


October 12 – 14th

I leave Malibu and drive up the coast stopping here and there to shop and work on my computer in a café. In the afternoon I settle in at Carpinteria State Park, but I take no pictures as my camera is no longer working. I’ll get that taken care of in Santa Barbara tomorrow. Carpinteria, though, is very pretty beach resort town.  You can read about it and see pictures here and here.

In Santa Barbara the next day I get myself a new camera. I take only a few pictures in town, just to try out the camera…

1_Santa Barbar-1_just a few... suffice

…but Santa Barbara needs no publicity.


I make my way north again to El Capitan State Park and find a nice campsite…

3_El Capitan campsite

…and I then rush to the beach to take some more pictures with my new camera.

4_I rush to the beach...


I can’t help but notice the sorry condition of the stairs leading down to the beach…


…which leads me to say that our state parks in California are generally in a sorry condition: underfunded, defunded, unfunded…


But the beach is beautiful, both to the south…

6_the beach to the south

…and to the north:

7_beach to the north


I take a lot of pictures of the beachlife, both terrestrial…

8b_beachlife tree

…and aquatic, though I suspect this specimen no longer qualifies as “life”: try out my new camera...


I like the shadows they produce in the late afternoon light.

8_...on the beach life...

9b_more beachlife 11_beachlife 2

12_beachlife 3 13_beachlife 4


Especially this one:

15_my shadow


That evening I take some pictures from the bluff above the beach:

17_that evening from the bluff


Those specks you can just barely make out in the distance, they’re offshore drilling platforms:

16_due west, the oil rigs


A platform, with the zoom:

17b_platform with zoom

The sky is grey this evening. The forecast for tomorrow is grey and cooler. Autumn is coming.


The next day I take a long walk a few miles along the coast to the next state park, El Refugio:

19_to El Refugio campground

It doesn’t look bad from here, but when I walk around the campground I see that it, too, is rather run down. The palm trees give it a nice appearence from this bluff.


The day is grey but warm…

20_day is grey but warm 20b_beach warm grey day


The Pacific Ocean is a great swimming hole:

20c_beach warm grey 2


I take an interest in the plant life along the way. I’ve seen this one many a time, but I still don’t know what it’s called:

October 13 - 14 Santa Barbara 022 October 13 - 14 Santa Barbara 023

This one is new to me:

18_next day - walk - plants


I’ve been told by Captain that these are called “prickly poppies”, though I called them “datura” in another blogpost. I’ll have to look them up again. It seems to me that I found the name “datura” either online or in a book that I bought about Zion Park. Maybe someone else out there can help me?

22a_prickly poppy 22b_prickly polly


And of course there are the palm trees, starting to be less numerous along this part of the coast:



I haven’t had much success as a wildlife photographer on this trip. I long ago gave up on the ubiquitous deer and squirrels. But his pelican is too good to pass up. I decide to approach step by step, to see just how close I can get. Not too close yet…

23_pelican 1



23_pelican 2


…closer still…

23_pelican 3


…the closest I’ll ever get. The seagull has already taken flight…

23_pelican 4


And then I take one step too many:

24_pelican flies away