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Karla Baker is spellbound by the enchanting Jura region and a foray into the French Alps
I sit on the edge of the steep mountain pass, surrounded by snowy peaks and looking out over the lake 1,500m below, feeling awestruck. Despite the altitude, the air is completely still, and the setting sun casts a warm, pink glow on everything it touches. My partner and I are the only people at the Mont du Chat viewpoint, and it feels like we’re the only people on the planet. I can’t help but reflect on the adventures that brought us to this perfect moment.
It all began when we arrived in the Jura – a region in eastern France that, admittedly, we knew very little about. Despite this, the lush meadows, quaint villages and forest-clad mountains we passed en route to the Beauregard Mesnois campsite suggested that we’d be very happy here.
Sitting at the northern tip of the 35km-long Lac de Vouglans, Port de la Saisse is just a five-minute drive from the site. Here, the Capitainerie restaurant overlooks the water, serving locally caught fish and homemade chips with a view.
Nearby, we discovered an observation deck with a smooth ramp that made it easy for me to take in the landscape. To our left, turquoise water gushed over sand-coloured rock formations and into the lake. Straight ahead, it meandered far into the distance, with tall woodland lining each side. It all felt so exotic; it was hard to believe that we’d left England just 48 hours earlier.
The following day we headed to the capital of the Jura, Lons-le-Saunier. This bustling commune is known for its buildings, arches and water fountains – and it’s also the birthplace of The Laughing Cow cheese! Being rather fond of this particular delicacy, Stephen and I couldn’t resist visiting the interactive museum to find out more. Benefitting from English audio guides and wheelchair access to each level, we learnt all about the 100-year history of The Laughing Cow and how the cheese is made. And, of course, exiting through the gift shop meant we had to buy goodies for our caravan fridge.
By the afternoon, temperatures had reached 27ºC, so we swapped the urban landscape for something a little more wild. Parking in the pretty village of Les Planches-près-Arbois, deep in a valley, we began our stroll to Cascade des Tufs. It was just over half a mile, but in that short distance we passed everything that makes the Jura great – ivy-clad cottages, dramatic cliffs, a crystal-clear tumbling stream, vivid green meadows and thick trees. The mesmerising waterfall at the end could have been lifted straight out of a fairytale: sparkling water cascaded down the rocks and pooled at the bottom, creating a welcome breeze. Our time in the Jura may have been brief, but it will live in our memories forever.
Making our way south, we crossed over the River Rhône and into the Alps, where the peaks grew taller and more jagged. About an hour from Grenoble (known as the capital of the Alps) is the A la Rencontre du Soleil campsite. Surrounded by mountains and offering spectacular views, this family-run site is a real treat.
Although obviously a hotspot for skiers, Grenoble’s numerous museums make it a great destination for lovers of art, history and culture. To get a bird’s-eye view of it all, we headed up to the Bastille, which sits proudly at 476m high. To get there, you can either drive up, hike up, or – my favourite – take a ride in a spherical cable car ‘bubble’, one of which is suitable for wheelchairs. The view from the top was incredible!
Heading northwards once again, the final campsite on our adventure was Le Vaugrais, where our hedge-lined pitch felt like a private garden, and our soundtrack was provided by cuckoos duetting with a babbling stream. Annecy has been on our list for a while and, being just over an hour’s drive from the campsite, we couldn’t wait to tick it off!
Parking on the edge of the famous lake, we were astounded by its colour – the water literally glowed turquoise! We wandered around the Old Town, admiring the pretty bridges that dotted the waterways, and the Palais de l’Île – a striking medieval stronghold. Sitting outside a cafe enjoying a traditional French crêpe, we watched the cloud-shadows dance across the distant mountains, and knew we were doing so much more than just ticking off a checklist.
As the sun began to set on our final day, we took the scenic route back to the campsite via the hairpin bends of Mont du Chat. By now you’d think we’d have become used to seeing mountains everywhere we went, but as I sat on the edge of the pass, looking out over the Lac du Bourget below, I was still awestruck.
Karla and Stephen enjoyed their trip… despite a slight hiccup on their travels. The couple experienced some trouble with their towcar while driving to the Alps, but the Club’s Red Pennant European breakdown and travel insurance team was on hand to help. Posting on social media, Karla wrote: “Massive shoutout to the Caravan and Motorhome Club and their Red Pennant department – it was invaluable having their support this week. From recovering us off the motorway and finding us an emergency campsite, to speaking to the French mechanics and translating for us… they were perfect!”
To read more about Red Pennant visit camc.com/redpennant.