When we set off for France at the end of July, the first idea was to get down to the Massif Central for some walking. Not being in a hurry, we planned on taking several days over this, preferring to only drive for half of each day and do a wander/explore for the other half.
After only a few days however, it soon became apparent to us that the weather was proving to be rather difficult for the doggies. Getting up into the 30s each day, the occasional storm and absolutely no relief from the temperature overnight either, was somewhat tiring for them.
We decided to run for the hills. Whilst the daytime temperatures over in the Alps would probably be just as hot, we figured that the altitude gain would make it all more manageable by giving us some cool nights and mornings.
So, we changed direction and headed over to the Jura mountains and this proved to be an excellent plan. The Juras are just to the north west of Geneva and do, in fact, span the border into Switzerland. Not mega high – three to four thousand feet – but a major cross-country ski centre in the winter. In fact, every winter some 3,500 skiers come here from all over the world, to take part in the ‘Transjurassienne’ – a 76km, long-distance race.
The region had an amazing charm.
We ended up spending over a fortnight tootling around the place – 3 nights here, 3 nights there, 3 nights back in the first village again……. never actually moving very far from one centre to another, but really feeling as though we were properly exploring the region.
The temperatures were still in the 30s for much of the first week, but the nights and mornings were beautifully cool. This meant that we could get up early and get a decent walk in before it got too hot, then chill out and relax in the afternoon heat.
We walked every day – anything from 2 to 5 hours. In the snow, the area is criss-crossed with 100s of miles of cross country ski and snowshoe trails, and of course in the summer these become hiking routes. We also bought an excellent Rother walking guide to the region, which furnished us with lots of ideas and pointed us in the right directions for the best walking spots.
We hiked through lovely alpine pastures and meadows,
and (very welcome on occasions!), cool, shady forests.
The area abounded with lakes, that could not only be linked together for great walks, but also made for fantastic picnic spots and cooling off breaks.
Alpine style villages were a feature of the place.
And although we always carried a couple of litres of extra water each for the dogs, these villages often had their own watering holes for dogs and humans alike.
In fact, we generally found plenty of water for the dogs in all sorts of places.
And of course, there was also the odd summit and ridge-line to explore.
The whole of the area is well served with a network of refuges, but these are only generally open in the winter months. They made good picnic spots, though. And Tilly says she’s thinking of sending this next video to the RSPCA. She says that if you look very closely, you can see mum viciously beating her on her nose – and after all, why shouldn’t she check out what food mum’s got in her rucsac?
Wherever we camped up each night, and wherever we walked each day, there was nearly always the accompanying sound of cow bells in the distance. Far from being a nuisance, it became a kind of relaxing feature of the place and incredibly soporific at bed time!
Geoff wanted to buy one of the bells – to tie around my neck I think – but we never seemed to come across anywhere that sold the real thing. Perhaps next time……
We are rather hoping there will be next time too – we were very taken with the idea of making a return visit, perhaps one Christmas. Geoff already has cross-country skis and we both have snow shoes, and of course the dogs are kitted out for any conditions with their in-built crampons and seasonal coats!
And don’t forget to tune in to the next instalment, where the weather turns a bit cooler, we have a couple of Paramo days, and we go ‘Borne’ hunting……