Broaden those boundaries and Jura throws up something very different – and far more intoxicating.
You have arrived in eastern France, in a region of Burgundy-Franche-Comte that is made for outdoor pursuits, the Grand Traversee du Jura (GTJ), where nature is at its most spectacular, its most pure and, every bit as important, its most accessible.
The Grand Traversee stretches 260 miles from Montbeliard in the north, through the Haute Jura Natural Park to the Jura peaks in the Ain department to Culoz in the south, skirting the Swiss border for long stretches along the way. You can find detailed information at www.gtj.asso.fr.
Jura is a magnet for visitors seeking the ultimate in activity holidays; hills, valleys, lakes and high peak trails that cut through forests and criss-cross alpine meadows. A couple of steps off track and you could well have crossed the border into Switzerland – but no matter, in this world of scenic splendour freedom reigns supreme.
And whether you are walking, road riding, mountain biking, horse riding, skiing or snowshoeing the GJT, towns and communities you’ll pass through are superbly geared up to help you make the most of your journey – French hospitality at its finest.
The GTJ network extends from accommodation to recommended restaurants and eateries to baggage transfer services and, if you plan to saddle up, routes where you and your horse will be welcome for overnight stays.
On the GTJ horseback riding route, riders, usually aim to cover a leisurely 30 kilometres or so per day. It is the only route of the Grandes Traversées that goes through wine country and lodging facilities for riders and their horses have been selected along this route.
Hikers will enjoy the GTJ hiking route which guides you along marked and maintained trails in a well-preserved and wild environment. For mountain bikers, there is the GTJ mountain biking route. This route is for all skill levels, but bikers of all levels can bike it. Should the route become too difficult less strenuous options are provided.
For more gentle cycling there’s the GTJ road biking route taking riders along scenic countryside roads through the Jura mountains rather than up them. This route will let you explore the richness of Jura’s heritage.
Watching the seasons unfold in Jura must be a wonderful experience and the arrival of snow send out a welcome to the skiing and snowshoeing fraternity.
Whatever the time of year, as always in France, there’s culture and history in abundance waiting to be enjoyed just off the activity trails.
A detour well worth making is to the imposing Chateau de Joux, www.chateaudejoux.com, located a few miles south of Pontarlier. The Chateau’s origins date back over 1000 years and its strategic position has ensured a place in the ebb and flow of European history.
From 1690 to 1815 it was a state prison and, in 1802, became home to Toussaint Louverture (1743/1803), who was jailed under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte for having opposed the reintroduction of the black slave trade.
A former slave who had become Governor of the Island of Santo Domingo (present day Haiti) and ringleader of the Santo Domingo rebellion, died a few months after his incarceration here.
The fortress currently houses a museum more than 600 rare weapons dating from the early 18th to the 20th centuries. It’s guided tours only at Chateau de Joux and well worth a visit. www.chateaudejoux.com
From nearby Pontarlier the Absinthe Trail* now has 19 enthusiastic outposts promoting industrial, cultural, and historic sites connected with this famous drink.
*A Toast to the Absinthe Trail – Europe and the Med supplement – Exploring More
In the mountains of Jura and Doubs, just over a mile from the Swiss Border and within easy reach of GTJ trails and activities, is the hamlet of Remoray-Boujeons.
What it lacks in size – Remoray’s population at the last count was just over 300 – it more than makes up with its location and some fine facilities. Here’s a community that definitely punches above its weight.
The Gite de la Reserve – www.gite-reserve-doubs-jura.com – in Remoray offers five rooms providing comfortable accommodate up to 15 people. It offers an ideal base for discovering the Haut-Jura and Haut-Doubs Natural Park, or for those en route on the GTJ trails.
Gite de la Reserve is only minutes from the lakes of Malbuisson and Remoray and the heights of Montabief-Mont d’Or; among the most popular tourist destinations of the Doubs and Jura all year round.
The downstairs communal room is available for mealtimes and group activities and seminars. Your amenable host is Christophe Beraud who will be more than happy to help with food arrangements and organising qualified external service providers for caving, canoeing, skiing and snowshoeing activities.
Just across the road is the Auberge de Remoray which serves great food (just take a look at the reviews) in a homely and friendly atmosphere – the perfect stop after a day in the hills.