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The Franche-Compté region of France

Regional Departments
Jura, Doubs, Haute-Saône, Territoire-de-Belfort.

Main Towns
Besançon, Dôle, Montbéliard, Belfort, Vesoul, Pontarlier, Lons-le-Saunier.

The Franche-Comté is a relatively unknown corner of eastern France, between Burgundy and the Rhone Alps, bordering on Switzerland with whom it shares much of its architecture, culture and cuisine. Stunning in autumn, the Jura mountains are a mecca for nature lovers, walkers, climbers and cyclists in summer and skiers in winter. The region has a wild and varied beauty from great forests, stunning mountain lakes with beaches for swimming, sailing, fishing and water sports, rivers and waterfalls, to hidden valleys and gorges, high alpine meadows, mountain villages, breathtaking views and spa towns.

The Arbois vineyards sprawl on the mountain slopes facing the plains of Burgundy produce Vin Jaune, a distinctive sherry like wine, the best of which comes from Château-Chalon. The Côtes du Jura vineyards run from just north of Arbois through Pupillin, Ploigny and Cousance, which make a range of reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines. The most unusual is Vin de Paille, so called because the grapes used are dried on straw, which gives the wine colour and a fresh summer flavour.

Besançon is in the Doubs, an old university town, the regional capital and birthplace of the writer Victor Hugo and of the Lumière brothers. It lies in a loop beside the River Doubs almost surrounded by hills, dominated by the old citadel, which is regarded as Vauban's masterpiece. Amongst other things, it has a Fine Arts Museum and museums of clock making, local folk arts and of the French Resistance movement.

Further south is the charming country town of Ornans on the River Loue with its ancient houses overhanging the river. This too is the birthplace of many historically famous people, including the painter Gustave Courbet, whose home is now a museum.

Lods, Pontarlier and the elegant town of Dôle where Louis Pasteur was born, are other places worth seeing.


Typical country fare with generous portions. Hearty nourishing soups made with potato and cabbage with chunks of pork or sausage thrown in, an unusual soup made from cherries, or a delicate creamy soup made with frog legs and white wine. There are many different kinds of charcuterie; Jésu is a smoked pork liver sausage, a different version of which is smoked over juniper twigs.

Fish from the Savoie lakes, include salmon, trout, baked or grilled with a truffle and freshwater crayfish sauce, char and pike, sometimes made into pochouse, fish stew cooked in white wine or quenelles, a mousse, usually pike.
Main dishes include beef, lamb, veal in breadcrumbs and baked with ham and cheese, pheasant, fechun, cabbage stuffed with bacon and vegetables and ramequin is a fondue usually made with Gruyère cheese melted in red wine, mustard and garlic.

Delicious too are croustades, cheese pastries and frérottes, potatoes and onions cooked in lard, cheese crepes, tasty ham, cheese and potato flan and, poulet au Vin Jaune, chicken cooked in Jura wine.

There is a fine range of cheeses here, made from both goat's and cow's milk. Bleu de Gex, blue veined, creamy and delicate, Cancoillotte, a fruity, soft cheese, often eaten on warm toast, and Comté, a hard mountain cheese, which is mild when young, becoming strong and tangy when aged, amongst many others.

Desserts include, laitiat, a drink made from wild fruits and the whey of milk and sèche a sweet tart. Malakoff is a delicious almond pastry and raviole is a pastry made with goat's milk. In the south you may be offered pogne, a brioche cake filled with pumpkin, or with ham as a savoury. Mont Blanc, something of an experience, is meringue covered in chestnut purée and a mountain of whipped cream.


Normally long, dry, hot summers moving into a warm, colourful autumn, though cooler in the early mornings and late evenings. Cold winters with frequent stretches of crisp, sunny days. Heavy snowfalls with good snow cover particularly in the mountains for cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding (children well-catered for).


By Air
There is only one regional airport at Dôle, therefore the international airports of Mulhouse-Basle to the northeast and Geneva to the southeast are useful alternatives although it is sometimes cheaper to travel via Paris than direct.

By Road
The journey from Paris to Besançon takes just under 4 hours. Channel ports are roughly 6 hours.

By Train
The TGV service runs from Paris Gare de Lyon to Besançon in 2.5 hours with connections to other towns via the Trains Express Régionaux (TER).

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