VaubanDwight Peck's personal Web site

Summer 2007 -- Alison's visit in September


Castles of France: Château de Joux

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The Château de Joux sits on a bluff overlooking the "Cluse de Pontarlier", and the road beneath is one of the few really good ways through the Jura mountains, from all of northern Europe through the Franche-Comté region out onto the Swiss Plateau and the Lake Geneva region, eventually to northern Italy. For serious fans of the military architecture of Marshal Vauban (portrait right), this place is a kind of Mecca as it were.

Here we go.

Our Alison's here from Santiago, Chile, for a month of meetings at her European Southern Observatory headquarters near Munich and at conferences in Madrid and Manchester, and has scrounged a week free to visit to the Old Dad in Switzerland.

It's a rainy and non-hikey day, so we're looking for a high-yield sightseeing attraction somewhere nearby and the Château de Joux, first built in A.D. 1034, is a reliable destination, 18 September 2007. The scaffolding on the right, just beneath the medieval stairway up into the keep, is called a "ha ha", because that's what you would say when attackers would dash up the stairway to hurt you and you would collapse the stair at that point. Ha ha. Demonically Wolfowitzian.

In the courtyard just inside the 17th century Vauban fortifications, we're making our way up into the medieval portions of the old pile.

Our guide just outside the medieval keep -- a lovely local student who seemed so afraid of losing the thread of her spiel that she fairly shouted out the same amusing historical stories quasi ad verbum that we heard earlier in the summer when Marlowe was here a few months ago.

Alison and a busload of French older persons and very older persons (it's mid-September, all the working-age people are chiseling away at the mineface.)

Alison amongst the preceding couple of generations

Within the medieval keep, Alison passing the cistern and wandering up towards Mirabeau's cell

Dad, poised at the door to Mirabeau's cell, snapping wildly away at her

The garrison's kitchen

The cell of Berthe de Joux, the poor lady whose husband returned from the Crusades at a very bad moment and locked her up in this cell for a large number of years to encourage repentant thoughts, and who ended up in a nearby convent gibbering many years after the old testosteronie's death.

An overnight in there we could consider an adventure, and maybe laugh it off. Twenty-odd years would get really get to us. Poor Berthe.

From the medieval keep, the Old Vaubanistas drilled straight down through the mountain along the hole of the original well, once the deepest in Europe, to place prison cells and other bureaucratic necessities all over the interior of the mountain. Alison is photographing the older folks descending a hundred meters or more down into the innards of the mountain.

And they all made it down, no first responders needed on this trip.

The cell of Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803), the former slave and guerilla leader who led the blacks to victory over the Spanish, English, and French authorities in Haiti in the late 1790s, moved on to Santo Domingo to free the slaves there, made a deal with the USA not to invade the South in return for arms, and established a constitution, with himself in charge of it, over the whole island of Hispaniola in 1801. Napoleon didn't fall for that one, and the heroic gentleman perished right here of pneumonia.

Thence in free fall again towards the old well

We proceed.

Alison trying to photograph the bottom of the well, 120 metres down. Everything turned out black.

Dad and Alison at the ancient prison cell, with bricks made of styrofoam. It was got up in 1995 for the film Les Misérables with Belmondo.

An excellent archway

Another archway: Dad on the way out, as usual

The Château de Joux from near the entrance, and the 19th century fort at Larmont on the far side of the ravine (or "cluse") of Pontarlier.

Zoom on the fort across the ravine

The whole ensemble

Alison with her camera

Dad with his camera back again

A last look at the Château de Joux for September 2007

Hikes with Alison: Mont Pelé, Mont Tendre

Views of the Château de Joux

Castles of France: Château de Joux

Marlowe's visit, July 2007

Alison's visit, September 2007

Kristin's visit, May 2008


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 24 October 2007, revised 20 June 2008, 28 September 2014.


Alison Beth Peck