72(ish) hours in Besançon, France

Besancon_title picFor those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll have noticed that I was living off a pretty dairy heavy diet recently- all thanks to a work conference in the amazing Franche-Comté region of France. Of course as with all work trips the majority of the time was- alas- spent working, so I didn’t get as much time as I would like to visit the city! If I’d even had a spare afternoon I would have hiked straight up the hill to visit the beautiful citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site, and definitely checked out the astronomical clock in the cathedral. Unfortunately (though don’t pity me too much) I spent my short time in the city non-stop networking over buffets of ever increasing “wow” factor!

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IMG_4073IMG_4079IMG_4091The outstanding venue of the trip was La Rodia, which sat in the shadow of the great citadel on the hill, and apparently serves as a live music venue when not hosting jazz crooners, publishers and librarians!

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I want to bring it back to food though, as I so often do! On our one free evening two colleagues and I went in search of some outstanding cuisine (the undoubtable perk that makes being away from home really worthwhile!) and stumbled upon a street that resembled Cowley Road in Oxford. Diverse as you could imagine: we were seriously tempted by tagines, kebabs, even sushi if memory serves me right. But when in France, eat French. After walking for a good 15 minutes, and being on the verge of turning back down the hill, I saw a big plastic cow outside a window a few doors up. Little did I know that that cow would lure us into a cave of cheesey, winey goodness that i had only dreamed about before in my life. One word. Fondue.

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L’Affineur Comtois is part cheese-melting, bread dipping wonder restaurant; part wine cave. It’s Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but for adults. You make your order and then descend into the cellar to choose an appropriate bottle- no fuss or extra charge- and if you don’t finish it they’ll put the cork back in for you to take home. It also uses locally sourced ingredients and puts them on the pedestal they deserve- right up my alley!

I never thought I’d utter the sentence “I’ve just been peer pressured into sharing a fondue“*, but that’s the text I sent both my boyfriend and mother as I hit my hotel bed in a “quatre fromage” induced coma. My next text to each of them, before I slipped into an evening of incredibly vivid Morbier-laced dreams, was “I regret nothing“.

*Context: I’d been eyeing up the sausages on the menu, but the fondue required a minimum of two. 

Apparently it’s an enormous faux-pas to drop your bread into the molten cheese-lava; something I learned as my French colleagues shrieked watching my hunk of baguette sank slowly under the surface. Apparently you have to perform some sort of unpleasant dare if this happens, though I quickly “forgot” how to speak French at this point and they let me off. Fortunately my language skills reappeared when the dessert board came out- I summoned that white wine crème brûlée like a master and, let me tell you, I didn’t drop one bit of it. 😉

Have you ever been to Besançon, or  Franche-Comté? Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to explore more of the region (and the food!), maybe Dijon should be next? 🙂

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