Start of the journey
We pick up the car and start our roadtrip under the pouring rain which swiftly turns into a bout of hail and ends with no less than three rainbows. Pulling up to the hotel, the clouds dissipate and we catch a glimpse of the autumnal landscapes that unfolds in front of us. We made it to the region of Bourgogne Franche Comté, which lies along the western flank of Switzerland. This trip will have us exploring the rugged department of the Jura mountains , replete with excellent gastronomy, gushing waterfalls and picture perfect villages.
The first stop on our journey is the city of Besançon where our passionate guide, Antoine meets us for a tour of the natural landscape that surrounds this medieval city. His eye twinkle with glee as he tells us all the outdoor activities one can undertake using the city as a base. Hiking, kayaking, wild water rafting, trail running and even paragliding.
Second day of the trip
Continuing our journey into the heart of the Jura region, we set off bright and early towards the village of Ornans. Once the home of one of the region’s most illustrious painters – Gustav Courbet. The road winds through majestic rising cliffs and wooded valleys, invariably we end up stopping left and right to let out Louis –the drone who derives his name from Louis Pasteur, another of the region’s famous inhabitants.
Our guide for the day, Claude, awaits us as we arrive late but full of wonder for the Jura outdoor landscape. Claude smiles and hurries along to show us his city. Bonjour and big smiles are exchanged with every passer-by, leaving us with the distinct impression that Claude is either a town celebrity or that locals are some of the most hospitable in France.
The afternoon of day two has more surprises in store! Unbeknownst to us we will be visiting a UNESCO classified neoclassical architectural masterpiece of the 18th century. It is in the Saline Royale that we learn about the importance salt had for the economic welfare of the Bourgogne Franche Compté region.
Third day of the trip
Our knowledge is further deepened as we visit the Grande Saline in Salins-les-Bains the following day. Both former salt works that are now run as museums, highlighting a different part of the salt mining process and how this industry fell prey to the rapid changes in industrialisation.
Before heading to lunch, we squeeze in a quick visit to a local waterfall. The first, but certainly not the last we will see. The region is peppered with waterfalls, usually surrounded with some well-marked hiking trails which lead up into the forest and end up to some of the finest viewing points.
The afternoon is spent at Domaine de la Pinte where we taste the regions finest products not least of all the famous Vin Jaune, a rather special type of white wine. This white wine matures for 6 years under a film of yeast (une voile) which gives the final product a very potent taste.
Our final stop of the day is the ancestral home of Louis Pasteur . The house contains cultures that were encapsulated in hermetically sealed glass testing tubes by Louis himself. Much like the house, they are in pristine condition.
Fourth day of the trip
Day four starts with an early morning hike to the Cascade des Tufs , these fairytale waterfalls were swollen with the many litres of water that had fallen out of the sky the last few days. The scene is peaceful, the perfect spot for a moment of contemplation before heading off direct the final leg of this journey.
So far we have savoured wine, made new local friends and learned all about the importance of salt. The one element missing to really get to know the region is le fromage! What better way to do so than to head to the Maison du Comté in Poligny. With childlike fascination we open boxes with different textures, try to identify fragrances with waft from under beautiful decorated and take the obligatory selfie with the - very lifelike - wooden cow that guards the museum.
As we pull into our last stop, Dole, patches of blue skies start to emerge. The afternoon is spent walking the little streets of Dole, clambering up the bell tower to get the best views and hunting down the little metallic tiles with a cat on them – the trail of the perched cat being the best self-guided tour through the tourist highlights of the city.
The next day we are scheduled to jump on the train and head back direction Belgium. Before we leave though we venture out for one last adventure this time driving 100 km south, right on the border with Switzerland to a Belvedere overlooking 4 majestic lakes. There are various well indicated hikes around the lakes, none of which we have time for so we content ourselves with hiking between two platforms on a slightly muddy and slippery path. The views look straight out of Lord of the Rings or for the non-fantasy fans, Canada. The absolute perfect ending to this wonderful adventure.
To find out more about the region: