If you want to discover the hidden France, the one that only the French know, why not head east to Dole, in the Jura. Located in Franche-Comte, the region that borders Switzerland, Dole is refreshingly authentic, and unspoiled by tourist crowds. The well-preserved historic center is lined with stone buildings dating to the 17th century, and it’s a joy to explore by foot or by bike. A fun way to see the city in a few hours is to follow the trail urbain le chat perché.
This self-guided walking tour is well-marked with brass plates, and it takes you to the most important sites in the city. Many buildings are on the historic registry, like the gorgeous Collegiale Notre Dame, a Catholic cathedral built in the 16th century. The trail winds through cobblestone shopping streets, and along canals lined with sidewalk cafés and gardens. There are also several excellent boulangeries on the path, where you can grab some inexpensive, but delicious food to go. If you happen to be in the area in September, on the 23-25th the city will host a food and wine festival along the trail. Wines from Jura and regional specialties will be available, as well as a banquet prepared by local chefs. Hmm… I think I’ll be returning to Dole very soon.