Dixie And Tilly In France, Part One – The Jura Mountains

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……

18 thoughts on “Dixie And Tilly In France, Part One – The Jura Mountains

    1. There was something about it that was totally delightful, Dawn and the doggies really enjoyed the bathing facilities! Dixie generally needed lifting in to the water troughs though, with her arthritic back legs 🙂 Even at the age of nearly 12 she can still walk for hours, but is not always so good at the leaping over stuff any more!


  1. All looks rather idyllic chrissie, long days of hot sunshine cannot be beaten in my opinion. Can you wild camp with a tent there?


    1. The long, hot days of sunshine were rather nice, especially once we’d got a bit higher and it was cooling down overnight. 30C in the day and 4C overnight was a very pleasant contrast!

      I’m not entirely sure about wild camping with a tent. It’s certainly not like Scotland where you can pitch up somewhere like Megget Res and nobody bats an eyelid, but we did come across someone hidden in the trees one morning (not too far from a road), who’d obviously been camping overnight with a small tent. It’s probably like much of the UK – pitch late, get up early and be discreet.

      If you were in the Bongo though, you can pretty much stop anywhere. The French are totally geared up to motorhomes wild camping all over the place, and they have an amazing network of ‘aires’ – places just for motorhomes where you can stay for free, with water and toilet emptying facilities etc. These are usually pretty quiet and can be anything from a tiny car park to a small field, and occasionally even have free electric hook ups. France is, in short, an extremely welcoming country for wild van camping!


  2. Those hills look pretty nice – and a sensible size too. Love that photo of Dixie in the fold-up camp chair – hilarious – she really knows how to pose for a great photo (as well as how to relax).

    I was reading a survey on why people die in heat-waves the other day as I didn’t see how it was possible, only imagining before you could die of cold. One of the points they made was that it’s really important that you manage to get cool in the mornings and evenings as that gives your body a break and then it copes okay. It’s when it stays hot overnight it really puts stress on you. From experiencing both I could easily see how that made sense.


    1. Dixie has always liked a bit of luxury! The hills are all actually munro kind of size, although obviously not the same terrain as Scotland. Many of the alpine meadows where the villages tended to be, were probably around 3,000ft.

      That’s interesting what you’d found out about the cool evenings and mornings. It made the most enormous difference to both us and the dogs, once we got somewhere where you did get some cool relief overnight – even though the daytime temperatures were pretty much the same.


  3. Fabulous walking country and I’d want to plan another trip there too. Lovely photos and videos with Dixie curled up in a chair as one of my favorites!


    1. Yes, we’d certainly like to make a return visit!

      I keep thinking we need to take an extra chair away with us – we only have the two, but every time one of you stands up for a few seconds, Dixie’s on it like a shot! And most of the time, we haven’t got the heart to turf her off again – we end up sitting on the floor or the van step! 🙂


  4. I only spent a couple of days in the Jura on our way home from Provence a couple of years ago but we loved it. The sound of cow bells just sings European mountains to me. I really miss my alpine walking holidays from years gone by. If only I pull convince my daughter to like walking.


      1. I just that “face” when I do. She does like rock climbing and scrambling though so there is hope 🙂
        The Jura were a real hit and seemed very quiet and unspool it compared to the Alps


        1. They were very quiet – we nearly went over to Chamonix at one point, but decided that it would be totally manic with people over there. Glad we stayed in the Jura in the end, and then on to the Vosges as well.


  5. The Jura is one of the many bits of France I haven’t been to, but everyone that I know who has been comes back with very positive reports. You certainly make it look very attractive!


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