Within the Franche-Comte region of France, is the Jura district. Located across the border from Switzerland and about a 2 hour drive south of Strasbourg, Jura is home to a lesser known wine region. It is lesser known, because the wine is not exported internationally in great numbers. The Jura mountains are not only ideal for producing wine, they also features several grottos, lakes and waterfalls. It is a wonderful area to enjoy nature trails on foot or by bicycle and every season offers its own variety of activities. The regional cuisine includes local terrines, wines, fish, and the Bresse Chicken which is a chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms and served with a white sauce made using Vin Jaune (and is delicious).
Tradition rules in this area. Wine festivals can be found throughout the year, celebrating the harvest and the vintage. To the villages of Jura, wine is a part of life – as directed by the Bible – and must not be abused. The rules for producing wines are taken very seriously. In fact, it was in this region, that the first wine cooperative was born. The popular bank, Credit Agricole was born from the movement to create wine cooperatives.
This part of France is loaded with breathtaking scenery that is sure to imprint itself into your memory. The roads vary from winding, mountain roads to long stretches through farmlands and vineyards. Even the patches of forest are different from each other. When you’re on a motorcycle, you feel like you’re traveling through each of the four seasons: a shady forest feels cool as you speed through, with the crisp air attempting to fog your helmet and the wind shooting through parts of your gear. The shady forest is quickly followed by an open field, with patches of sunflowers facing the sky and wildflowers blooming along the roadside while the warmth of the sun embraces you and calms your senses. Up ahead, you enter another forested area but one with more sunlight coming through so that in late summer, the leaves on the trees are already various shades of orange and yellow. As you approach the open fields with with horses running across their ranches and cows lazily eating their green grass, you are transported back to the middle of summer.
Things to do:
The Jura mountains are home to turquoise colored lakes, waterfalls of all widths and heights, ancient grottos, forests, natural thermal spas, and gorgeous winding roads. On a clear day, you will surely see an occasional paraglider in the distance or even a hot air balloon. It is not uncommon to see cyclists riding through the highest peaks. In fact, these mountainous roads are featured during one of the stages of the famous, Tour de France.
- Baume les Messieurs, a wide, circular waterfall, attracts amateur photographers of all ages. Behind the famous waterfall, is a grotto whose name translates to, Bat Cave. For 8 euros per person, you can take a guided, 55 minute tour of the caves. The only caveat is, the tours are in French. You can request a written translation but it’s hard to read inside the caves because there isn’t always enough light. I found that my iPhone took better pictures than my Nikon D90 because there wasn’t enough time to set up a tripod and set the manual settings for night shots so I used my phone instead and was pleasantly surprised.
- Les Magiciens d’Eau and take a relaxing row down the river L’Ain and experience an entirely different Jura landscape. The rental price is based on the length of the river you choose to row with the shortest distance at 4km and takes about an hour to the longest tour of 22km that takes about 6 hours. You can find Les Magiciens d’Eau on Facebook or at http://www.franche-comte.org/offre/fiche/location-canoe-magiciens-d-eau/319000486.
They say it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. If you are lucky enough to take a motorcycle to Jura, you’ll agree that in this case, both are true.