Where to eat, sleep and explore in East France
An hour drive to the east of Besançon will see you in the idyllic Charquemont. With lush rolling countryside and quaint cottages, the town offers a truly uninterrupted snapshot of French life. Embedded with a rich industrial history, Charquemont has a long tradition of watchmaking. Luxury watchmaker Michel Herbelin has manufactured Swiss-engineered timepieces here for more than 70 years, its latest editions still met with worldwide demand. For avid watch collectors, a half an hour trip south will see you in Villers le Lac, where you can visit the Museum of Watch History and discover the unique role the eastern part of France played in timekeeping's history.
Cradled by the meandering Doubs River in the eastern department of the recently formed Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, Besançon charms with its cobbled courtyards and architectural prowess. Towering above the city's old town stands Vauban's masterful Citadel of Besançon, its 17th century grandeur UNESCO World Heritage listed. Accessible by foot or bus, the intricate military fortress is best explored over a full day, the panoramic site offering a medley of historic museums and monuments. Keep a lookout for the citadel's locals; gibbons and colobus monkeys.
Dubbed the 'little Venice of Franche-Comte', it's difficult to comprehend why the picturesque Ornans remains so unheard of. Hanging flowerpots adorn the town's streets and bridges, while quaint lakeside homes double as they are reflected in the crystal waters of the Loue river. Be sure to visit the museum within artist Gustave Courbet's former home and take in the exquisite natural beauty of the sleepy town with a cycle to the Source du Lison waterfall, or canoe down the heart of the commune to the magical Lods.
A reworked 17th century convent, la Closerie les Capucines balances local Arbois history with new-age wellbeing. Browse the hotel's magnificent stone-walled library, take in the views of the Gloriette Tower on the patio, or treat yourself to a day poolside. Whether you're after an explorative trip, or simply a blissful getaway, la Closerie les Capucines has you covered.
la Closerie les Capucines, 7 rue de Bourgogne 39600, Arbois
Located in the Dura deparment's Port-Lesney, wallpapered rooms with cedarwood parquet floors and period furnishings offer guests a night of classic provincial chicness. Get lost in the expansive lushness of the château's fairy-tale grounds after reclining by the garden pool. A former home of a French marquis, the property was restored to luxe fashion by interior designers Roland and Véréna Shön. A dinner within the hotel's Michelin Star restaurant is a must, whether in the "Marquis" room or out on the terrace.
Château de Germigney, Rue Edgar Faure 39600, Port-Lesney
EAT + DRINK
Operated by Michelin-starred chef Romuald Fassenet, the Mont Joly boasts an impressive menu of local gastronomic favourites mixed with Fassenet's unique play on flavours. Wowing guests with every course, ensure you leave room for the delectable Soufflé chaud de Fraises et Pralines roses.
Château du Mont Joly, 6 rue du Mont Joly, 39100 Sampans
Bruges-born chef Steven Naessens headlines the Jura-region restaurant, integrating his Flemish background with authentic Jura produce to create a sophisticated French fusion. Signature dishes include Naessens' spring chicken with "yellow" Jura wine and morel mushrooms.
Maison Jeunet, 9 rue de l'Hôtel de ville, 39600 Arbois
Jura wine region
While there's no secret France is home to many of the world's most savoured wines, the country's far eastern wine region remains largely untapped. Nestled between the Swiss border and the greater-known wine-producing entity of Burgundy, Jura produces five wine varieties, its specialty the white savagnin.
Rustic, old-fashioned and with a spicy finish, the Vin Jaune (yellow wine) is the highest expression of sauvignon, the rare French wine the vinous pride of the Jura region. Best enjoyed at one of the few Château-Chalon vinyards, the region's marl soils give the wine an added smoky complexity. With distinctive notes of curry, salt and citrus, Vin Juane embodies a unique flavour, appreciated best when accompanied by the region's rival delicacy export, Comté cheese.
Place Château-Chalon's Domaine Salvadori at the top of your winery visit list and be sure to call ahead - the vineyard's passionate winemaker Jean-Pierre Salvadori will organise a detailed wine tasting, served with home-baked patisseries.
Domaine Salvadori, rue des Chevres, Château-Chalon (+33 3 84 44 62 86)
This article is presented by Michel Herbelin, watchmakers since 1947.