French Jura, the real Jurassic Park
Petites Cités de Caractère
These picturesque old towns are atypical municipalities, both rural by their location and their limited population, and urban by their history and heritage.
The goal is to preserve the regional heritage through sustainable development with and for the inhabitants.
Jura region is where the very first appellation AOC (controlled origin) was created in 1936: vin d’Arbois. The vines grow along the geologic folds that occurred during the Jurassic period. Did you know that "Jurassic" comes from "Jura"?
Wines include reds, rosés, whites and even a yellow one, the Jura's special "vin jaune". There are also sparkling wines (Crémant du Jura), dessert wines (Vin de Paille), mistelles, made with fortified grape juice (Macvin du Jura), marcs and other distilled products.
There are 6 AOC wine: Arbois, Château-Chalon, l’Etoile, Côtes du Jura, Macvin du Jura and Crémant du Jura.
Comté is handmade from the milk of brown-and-white spotted Montbéliard and Simmental cows. The colour of the cheese tells you when the milk was produced: yellow cheese from warmer months because the dairy cows eat grass, and whiter cheese from colder months when they eat hay. Its taste also changed according to seasons, cows, pastures...
There is a strict cahier des charges. If the production specifications are not strictly followed, it cannot be sold as Comté. For example, it has to be made from Montbéliard and Simmental milk only.
The Comté aged in maturing cellars for at least 4 months by law, but generally for 6-18 months or even longer.
Morbier was made when not enough milk was left from the milking to make a whole Comté. Cheesemakers would then fill half a smaller cheese mold with the extra milk, cover it in ash to protect it from insects, and add more leftover milk from the next milking.
Nowadays, Morbier is obviously made for its own sake, but the dark, vein-like line of ash down the middle remains.
Mont d’Or is a seasonal raw milk cheese that can only be found between October and March.
Cancoillotte, a liquid raw milk cheese, can be found either plain (nature) or flavored (with garlic, vin jaune, etc.). I love it poured warm over potatoes (not the lightest meal, but very good
Tomme du Jura is a mountain cow cheese. At first it was only distributed locally.
Bleu de Gex is a creamy, semi-soft blue cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Cheesemaking facilities (dairies) are called "fruitières".
Rock Salt (Halite)
Jura is well-known for its White Gold.
When Panthalassa, the superocean that surrounded the supercontinent Pangaea, dried 215 million years ago, it left brackish water. When that water evaporated, it formed a very important layer of more than 100 meters of evaporite containing halite salt / rock salt that was covered over time by different layers of sedimentation.
When the Jura massif was formed 35 million years ago by the compression exerted by the Alps towards the west, the evaporite layer rose in places towards the surface according to the shape of the folds and erosion. Then water infiltrates the soil in places, circulates in the salt deposits and reappears by resurgence.
As tiled-roofs were reserved for important buildings (churches, city halls...), houses and the barns typically have low-pitched roofs covered in limestone slabs. The exterior walls consist of ashlared stone or of half-timbering. All building materials were sourced locally. Due to harsh winters, barns were usually built right on the side of the house, only separated by a door.
You can still find this vernacular architecture.
Landscape and nature
Jura offers a wide selection of landscapes: plains, vineyards, lakes, waterfalls, high plateaux, caves, combs, and mountains.
As said before, "Jurassic" comes from here. The mountain range gives its name to the French department, its twin the Swiss Canton of Jura, the Jurassic period and even the Montes Jura on the Moon.
There are some notable examples of steephead or blind valleys, "reculées" in French.
Les Rousses is composed of several lacs, villages, a national park and the Les Rousses ski resort. This is the first ski resort in France to receive and be awarded the 'flocon vert' label (green snowflake).
Not much to see in Mouchard but it is where the TGV stops. There are some fine architecture there, including the church. Do not miss the giant clothespin in front of it. Also the passageway in the train station is decorated with a beautiful mural representing Jura specificities.
There is also a wood artist not to be missed. His artwork is really great.
There are several old fountains and washtubs that are no longer in use and a nice looking phone booth.
Mouchard is also well-known for housing the Lycée du Bois, the number one training institution in France exclusively focused on woodworking.
Adorable little city in the heart of the region, near the highest part of Jura.
Born in Dole, Louis Pasteur lived and worked in Arbois. One of his houses is now a museum.
Pont des Capucins & Tour Gloriette
The most scenic place in Arbois. Lovely little stone bridge crossing over the Cuisance River.
The Gloriette Tower was one of the principal elements of the city's ramparts. It houses an art gallery.
Place de la Liberté
Nice buildings surrounding a beautiful fountain.
Old Ursulines Convent.
Church of Saint Just
Beautiful church with a funny reinterpretation of the bible through wine and vice versa.
Institut et Musée de la Vigne et du Vin
This is the right place to learn everything you always wanted to know about wine and vines. Set in the château Pécauld once part of the city walls.
The cutest square in town.
Now a private property, it was once part of the city defensive walls.
First a church, then a corn exchange and finally a cultural centre.
Pont de la Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville and Cuisance falls
Because of the drought, the river is quiet this year.
Lovely little village full of character.
Tip: Do not park outside official carparks. Locals are a bit fed up to find cars in front of their homes or in their fields.
Reculées (steephead or blind valleys)
They are formed by stream flowing through the permeable rock and eroding it from within. When the rock above collapses, it opens up a steep narrow valley. This one is then further eroded by the stream running across the impermeable valley floor.
At the head of the valley the stream emerges from the rock as a spring.
The Reculée at Les Planches-près-Arbois is a really great example of this geological phenomenon.
Cascade des Tuffs
The main spring of the Cuisance river is located at the heart of the Reculée des Planches.
It emerges from a limestone cliff through many caves, including the now closed Grotte des Planches. The name of the Cascade des Tufs comes from the fact that the water hollowed out in the tuff, a limestone rock of sedimentary origin.
The waterfall and its pools are reached via an easily accessible hiking path.
Lac de Chalain
It is the biggest natural lake in Jura. There there are accommodation, food and public toilets. It is safe for children.
Salins is following the shape of the narrow valley of the Furieuse, in between two fortified hills, Fort Belin and Fort Saint-André. These forts were built to protect the saltworks some 700 years ago.
Its name comes from its saline waters used for bathing and drinking since around 5 000 BC.
There are also saltworks and gypsum deposits and in 2009 the historic saltworks were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are closely associated with the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, another World Heritage site.
The city has a long main street running along the valley.
The dome you see behind the city hall is actually part of a chapel directly built alongside the building.
Fruitière à Comté
Here you will find delicious cheeses at a fair price.
Saltworks & Salt Museum
The Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains was closed in 1962 after having been active for at least 1200 years. From 1780 to 1895, its salt water travelled through 21 km of wood pipes to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans. The Chaux Forest ensured its supply of wood for fuel. There is an underground gallery from the 13th century including a hydraulic pump from the 19th century that still functions.
The salt is now mainly used for thermal baths.
It is not really in Jura but at its border and well worth a visit. It is part of the salt network along with Salins-les-Bains.
Salines Royales - Royal Saltworks
A UNESCO heritage site, the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans was built by Claude Nicolas Ledoux at the end of the 18th century. It was the first major achievement of industrial architecture, reflecting the ideal of progress of the Enlightenment. The vast, semicircular complex was designed to permit a rational and hierarchical organization of work and the building of an ideal city should have followed but the project was never realised.
Histoires de sel is an exhibit that present the history and operations of the salt production site in the 18th century.
This museum is dedicated to Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736 – 1806). The architect was one was one of the first French Neoclassical architect. He used architectural theory to design civil architecture but also utopian cities. Influenced by freemasonry, he was a visionary architect. But as his greatest works were funded by the French monarchy, they came to be perceived as symbols of the Ancien Régime and whilst the French Revolution hampered his career, much of his work was destroyed during the 19th century.
The museum shows some 57 architecture models made after his projects and constructions, still existing or not.
2018: Exhibition Luc Schuiten & gardens
Luc Schuiten is an architect and artist inspired by biomimetism. The exhibit shows how could cities look like in 2100, according to his vision.
The gardens are inspired by his work and are a great way to find inspiration for your own garden.
Both are on until October 21, 2018. The gardens festival is held every year. There is also a light and sound show during summer.