About Franche-Comte, the Doubs and Jura
The historic ‘free country’ of Franche-Comté lies between the Rhine and the Rhône bordered by the Vosges to the north and to the south-east by the crescent-shaped natural barrier of the Jura mountains which march more or less paralle to the Swiss border. The territory passed from the Holy Roman Empire to the Burgundians and then to the Spanish before it was annexed to France by the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678. Louis XIV moved the capital from Dole to the more easily defendable BesanÍµcon; then, apart from shoring up several other strategic forts, Franche-Comté was largely left to its own devices. It is one of the most peaceful, relaxing regions of the country and comparatively seldom visited.
Life in this corner of France is essentially rural: cows tinkling down narrow lanes, fields of buttercups a metre high, isolated farmhouses and little grey stone villages on the banks of lively rivers fed from the limestone hills. The hills are cleft by steep ravines, carved into giant amphitheatres and riddled with subterranean caves. Endless shades of green dapple the pastures and forests of beech, oak and conifers.
Comté cooking reflects the terrain: simple but generous. Look for the fleshy morel mushrooms; sausages from Morteau; great rounds of Comté cheese; fresh trout and pike; and crayfish used in the rose-pink sauce Nantua. To drink there is gentiane, a liqueur made from mountain flowers, plum and cherry brandies to keep out the cold, while Arbois, on the 80-km Route des Vins du Jura, is famous for its rosé wine, golden vin jaune and unusual vin de paille.
Apart from the best places to visit listed here there are plenty of activities are offered, from kayaking to fishing and walking. Numerous tiny roads tempt the inquisitive visitor.
The weather is unreliable. However, even the rain can weave its spells, with tendrils of cloud trailing through the valleys, and rainbows unfolding in their wake.
Mainline trains on the Strasbourg-Dijon line stop at Belfort, BesanÍµcon (connections to Pontarlier) and Dole (connections to Arbois and Pontarlier). Bus services link BesanÍµcon and Ornans. Otherwise, local transport is limited, or non-existent.