Last weekend we made our escape to the land of French cooking, with a quick trip to Neuchâtel and La Chaux de Fonds. I have photos.

Neuchâtel is a bit small, but it's a charming town with a Saturday market, talented buskers, and fountains with crazy decorations. And a lake rumoured to be down there below the autumn fog. The neatest site for us was the Collegiate Church, a funky building up on a hill next to an old fortress and the château. The church is a handsome building with interesting carvings, but what we liked best was the sense of quiet up there. Very peaceful.

On Sunday we went to La Chaux de Fonds in the Jura. It's an astonishingly ugly city, bad modern buildings. But the Hotel Fleur de Lys does a good lunch of snails and horse steak, so I got my French fix.

Our main goal was the famous watch museum. The collection was amazing but the presentation was not very good, hard to understand what we were seeing. The highlight of the museum was the Astrarium, a reproduction of a 14th century astronomical clock. This thing is a remarkable monument to getting good predictions from a bad theory. The main part of the clock is a set of seven dials showing the position of the moon and planets on the sky. Only the whole clock is built on the Ptolemaic theory with the earth in the middle and crazy epicyclic gearwork to try to match the motions of the heavenly bodies. There's a great video showing how the eccentric gears and angled rods allow the clock to mimic Mecury's retrograde motion. Amazing dead end technology.

  2005-11-02 08:12 Z