Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Port Lesney and the Saline Royale

Wow, thank you, Elizabeth A.! (See Comments on last post) You are certainly an appreciative reader.  Since I've had more time to give to the blog I do find myself looking at things in a different way, so that quite ordinary events are appreciated more.

To continue: After our gruelling climb to reach Poligny, we did check out the train times from Poligny station.  Yes, this would have been cheating, but no one would have been any the wiser.  As it happened, trains mid-morning were very infrequent so we set off once more on our bikes. However, because we were on a route described as "a loop," we were on our way back towards Besancon by this point, so this day was largely a matter of coasting down through woodlands. 

As we reached the River Loue so we also reached lunch-time.  We were on a quiet country lane when I spotted a shady bench and pulled up.  My husband, who was a little way behind, reacted to this by jamming on his brakes - with spectacular effect.  He ended up on the ground, entangled with the bicycle, in the middle of the road.  Fortunately, after he had extracted himself, we found that no bones were broken, and he was only lightly grazed.  Later we were able to watch the progress of a huge bruise on his thigh, where he had come into contact with the bike.  We sat on the
 bench marvelling at how this had turned out.  We were on a quiet, flat lane, going slowly - not tearing down a steep, busy road.  He was able to get up and eat lunch.  It could have been so much worse.

Eventually we were able to cycle on to Port Lesney, our next overnight stop.  Once there were two separate villages with a ferry crossing the river between them.  Then a stone bridge was built to facilitate the passage of travellers going on through to Italy.  Floods washed away most of the bridge and it was replaced, leaving only this strange fragment. 

In Port, almost every house was a massive structure, as these were the houses of vignerons - wine-makers.  Now, they offer many photo opportunities.

On our "Rest day" the objective was Arc-et -Senans, where there is a complex called the Saline Royale.  The thinking had been that instead of carting fuel to Salins les Bains where the salt was mined, the saline could be piped across country to Arc-et-Senans where wood was abundant.  But this was in the eighteenth century, and the pipes were made by hollowing out lengths of pine-tree and using these to construct a pipeline - several miles long.  Salt was a very valuable product and subject to the gabelle, or salt tax: siphoning off the saline en route and using it to produce black market salt was a common occurrence.

The Saline Royale is a Unesco World Heritage Site.  Designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, it             induces a kind of awe by its sheer scale.  Who would have thought of this kind of massive display of wealth to house what was essentially an industrial process?  A clue might be the timing of this: just prior to the storming of the Bastille.

In one of the displays we saw maquettes of  Ledoux's other projects - those which had been built and those he had planned.  To describe them as Grand Designs is to fail to do them justice.  These are the stuff of scence fiction, where the actual function of the building becomes subservient to the vision of the designer.

So it seemed in the Saline, which had housed the saltworks and the accommodation for the workers in this semi-circular format.  In its centre was the Overseer's house.  The circular window was meant as an observation point from which the whole site could be scanned.  Orwellian, indeed.

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