As I was leaving Pontarlier I chanced upon a notice explaining about a fire that destroyed one of the absynthe distilleries in the 1730's (it also destroyed other buildings at the time too). Anyway, one enterprising employee, realising the risk of an explosion, emptied the containers of absynthe into the River. Downstream at Ornans they had free aperitifs for a day or so! This was how they discovered that the River Loue which flows through Pontarlier and Ornans was actually part of the River Doubs system which, if you remember from previous posts, flows in a big horseshoe bend around most of Besancon, because several days after their free drinks in Ornans, the river Doubs smelt strongly of absynthe too!
This area of France is known as the French Comte and is famous for it's clock towers.
I had wild thoughts of catching a bus from Pontarlier, There had been steady rain all night, and very heavy showers at breakfast time and I had thoughts for my poor feet! After waiting though for 20 minutes for someone to come to the counter at the station I decided that I could walk it anyway! And I did - except for the last 4 kilometres. The first part of the walk wasn't the most pleasant as it was along a busy road, but the rain had stopped and just as a heavy drizzle started I arrived at a bar and stopped there for a hot chocolate.
One of the sights on the road from Pontarlier - a wayside chapel
It was here that the walk really became enjoyable. As I was walking up the hill my views were of lovely pine forests (not radiata though!!!!) ahead, and when I stopped to look back I could see the chalet perched high on a hill on the other side of the valley. This, though I didn't stop to look at it, is now a museum of ancient weaponary. I could hear the birds singing, and best of all I could hear the little streams running, and a couple of little waterfalls. It is such a novelty for some Australians (probably most) to hear running water in the fields.
I stopped near the top of the hill for lunch at a little layby area. On one side of the road I had a herd of brown and white cows all watching me eat, and behind me was another herd all busy eating. I didn't even have to look to know that because there was a cacophony of cow bells ringing the whole time! I was still some kilometres from Switzerland, but the bells were well and truly sounding.
This was the day that I saw my first ever ski field - no snow though - only the brown and white cows grazing on the grass.
Crossing the border was interesting. Though there are no longer any border guards, the cars still have to slow down and drive through a covered area - presumably so that in the old days the border guards were protected as they checked documents. It was here that I noticed my first signifcant difference - the road! There are narrow roads in France, but usually there is some kind of verge that you can at least stand on to avoid oncoming cars, but not here. The road was narrow, and I had to be very careful when stepping to one side that I didn't continue down the slope. After dealing with these conditions for a few kilometres I decided to hitch the last 4 into St Croix where I had a bed booked for the night.
The border post - no longer manned
This was where I noticed the next big difference between France and Switzerland - the cost of everything! I had been lulled into a false sense of security by the cost of my hotel room at the Cafe Hotel, which was only 40 swiss francs. It was when I went to buy some food that it really hit me. The prices were double and more in some cases, and this was to be the last cheap hotel room for my time in Switzerland.