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Published: June 17th 2018
We have left the Loire valley and are heading east towards the Jura Mountains. We have broken the journey with a stay in Saulieu in the Natural Park of Morvan in the Burgundy region. There is plenty of walking in the area which is undulating and mainly forested. According to the leaflets, Saulieu has a number of selling points including it being the capital of the Christmas trees, exporting hundreds of thousands of trees each festive season.
Before our walk today, we had a look around the town. The weekly market was in full swing with shoppers being entertained by a lovely young man on the guitar playing the most amazing flamenco style music. The only thing letting him down was his choice of shoes, horrible trainers with individual toes – yuck! We found out that the town’s reputation as a halt for travellers began when it was on the old Roman road and was further established in 1653 when the main Paris – Lyon road was built through the town (Saulieu is equidistant from the two cities). Its first reviews commenting on the quality of the fayre date back to 1677, well before Tripadviser.
From the 1930’s to the 1960’s, the place to eat was the Hotel de la Cote d’Or with “chef to Kings and the king of chefs” Alexandre Dumaine. Bernard Loisseau took over and bought the hotel in the 1982 where it was awarded 3 Michelin stars. According to Wikipedia, the Pixar film Ratatouille was loosely based on his life story although I hope it had a happier ending as M. Loisseau committed suicide in 2003. We checked out the menu at the hotel. It was a little pricey for us and anyway, I haven’t brought my best frock and heels.
The other famous name in town is that of sculpture, Francois Pompon, who was born here in 1855. He made his name sculpting animals and his life sized polar bear exhibited in Paris in 1922 brought him fame. The local museum is dedicated to him and has a room devoted to his work as well as exhibits celebrating Morvan life in days gone by. I think his animal sculptures are beautiful and timeless. He simplifies the form but manages to capture the mass and movement (I got that from a leaflet). The town was also exhibiting animal sculptures by
Olivier Courty in the museum as well as doted around the town centre and photographs by wildlife photographer Vincent Munier. His arctic photos of wolves and polar bears were beautiful.
We arrived in the Jura mountains yesterday to thunder and lightning and torrential rain. We are a couple of kilometres outside the town of Bonlieu in an area known for its lakes and waterfalls. The campsite is overlooked by massive limestone cliffs. This morning we bought a walking map and headed off to the Cascades du Herrison (Herrison Waterfalls). There are seven spread out over a couple of kilometres. We walked along the river for a while admiring the waterfalls before climbing up out of the valley to take in views of two lakes, both fed by the Herrison river. The weather was warm and humid and thunder rumbled in the distance all afternoon.
Today we did the Tour des 4 lacs. It started out sunny but as the day progressed, the weather came in and low cloud settled in the valleys. The walk was still beautiful, with great views of the
lakes. We visited a shop attached to a woodworking workshop. It sold just about everything you could think of made of wood. If I wasn’t about to do a long walk with a rucksack full of waterproofs, I think I could have spent a fortune.
We are now camped a few miles northwest near the small town of Doucher to do more walking in this lovely area. More lakes, more limestone cliffs and more stunning views. Today we walked around Lac de Chalain which boasts beaches and a couple of large campsites. Clearly a very popular area in the summer.
We stopped off in Salins-Les-Bains at lunchtime on our way further north to Ornans. As the name suggests, Salins-Les-Bains is famous for its salt production after underwater saline pools were discovered. The water was pumped up to the surface and into the salt factory where the salt was extracted. It made the town very prosperous until its closure in the 1960’s. There are some lovely old historic buildings in the town centre which is a Unesco world heritage site, particularly the Chapelle
Notre Dame Liberatrice (1649) which is oval shaped with a beautiful domed roof covered in mosaic tiles on the outside. It was a bit of a surprise to see a very modern “grand design” style casino sat between the beautifully restored salt museum housed in the restored salt museum housed in the original salt factory, and the historic buildings of the chapel and town hall. All I could think was the casino owner must have given the town council a very nice sweetener to allow it to be built.
Ornans is on the Loue river and is overlooked by a ruined chateau high up on a limestone cliff. It was raining again when we arrived!
According to meteo France, the weather wasn’t supposed to be very good today so we decided to have a leisurely day. We walked into town and enjoyed a lovely lunch. We both had the trout (a local speciality). John had his with a mushroom and yellow wine sauce. Yellow wine or vin jaune as we say en francais is the wine of the Jura mountain region. I think it may be a sweet
wine but as it starts at 30 euro a bottle in the supermarket, I don’t plan on finding out any time soon. I’m not sure what was in my sauce but it was delicious. The dish was served with a briquette of risotto. John asked if he could have chips instead, I was so ashamed. After lunch we visited the tourist information and bought a walking map then headed back for a lazy afternoon in the sun (so much for weather forecasts).
Sunday 10th June
Our walk took us up an old railway line before climbing up to the ruined chateau with views over Ornans. The railway line had a tunnel which said it was lit but wasn’t – not impressed. Otherwise the walk was good, with great views.
It was very overcast when we left for our walk this morning. It started raining about half an hour later and two hours later it didn’t look like it was going to let up. We have all the gear to keep us dry but when it is so hot and humid, we just end up being
as wet under our waterproofs as we do on the outside. We took the executive decision to cut the walk short. We arrived back at the campsite about 2 pm and by 2.05 pm, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We planned to eat out this evening and cycled back into town only to find that on a Monday evening, all the restaurants are closed.
After a quick stop at the supermarket we pulled into Camping D’Oyes close to the village of Mouthier-Haute-Pierre. The campsite is small and the owner / manager in his white vest came to greet us. After much discussion with John about how wet the grass was and his apparent surprise that I was driving, he directed us to a pitch. The only other occupants of the site were a Belgium couple.
I then had to endure an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Belgium man telling me how to reverse the van onto a pitch so I didn’t get stuck in the mud. I was very good – I didn’t have a strop or flounce off. John got an earful though once
we were pitched up. After I had calmed down, we walked down the road to the pretty village of Lods. We are still on the banks of the river Loue but as we get closer to the source, the valley is becoming more narrow and the sides steeper. Lods, like Mouthier-Haute-Pierre clings to the side of the valley, its steep streets eventually making their way up to the church. We walked along the base of the Roche de Hautepiere, a popular spot for rock climbing before descending a very steep narrow and slippery path into Mouthier-Haute-Pierre. Our return route took us across the river and up the other side of the valley.
I love a gorge walk and no trip is complete without one. Our goal was the source of the river Loue. The walk was very pleasant walking through woodland. The path was fairly straightforward with only the occasional handrail required. Everything is so green, from the four varieties of maple trees found here to the ground cover. The rocks and boulders strewn through the gorge are covered in a thick moss, as are the bases of the trees.
The source of the river is from the base of a huge limestone cove (think Malham cove). The water races out of a black cave mouth with a roar. The force is enough to justify two hydroelectric power stations, one within the first few metres of the emerging river. After lunch we climbed out of the gorge and walked along the rim before dropping back down to Mouthier-Haute-Pierre and following the river back to the campsite.
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