Some journeys remind me a little of a journey throug time. In the region Jura Three Lakes Region, the region where most of the world famous Swiss watches come from, the clocks tick a little different. A little slower. In some areas it seems as if time has stood still a bit. Small towns, dreamy villages and unique landscapes alternate.
Lake Neuchâtel offers a whiff of Belle Epoche, which is particularly impressive in the fashionable city of Neuchâtel.
We start our little journey with an early morning tour through the small town of Delémont, the capital of the canton of Jura, with its beautifully renovated old town.
The interior design of our hotel, the Hotel Le National is has the original look of the 1980s. It feels like turning back the hands of time to my childhood and youth! The hotel is super clean, the food is excellent and the landlady is of the kind I remember from my childhood. She comes to every table at dinner, greets every guest with a sigh of hand and inquires about their well-being and whether the food tastes good. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the good old days.
The Etang de la Gruère
Hop up into the air, says Maria-Luisa Wenger to our boys standing on the banks of the Etang de Gruère. Having done that the ground below us trembles noticeably within a radius of several meters. We are in a unique moorland landscape that is more reminiscent of Scandinavia than Switzerland. “The ground here is like a sponge and covered with mosses,” explains Maria-Luisa.
The huge moorland area with the black moor lake is a nature reserve and attracts around 150,000 visitors every year. It is located about 35 km south of Delémont near the village of Saignelégier. It is still morning time and the lake is very tranquil. In midsummer you could go for swim here.
We only meet a few isolated hikers on our hiking trip around the Lake. Maria-Luisa Wenger guides interested visitors through the region. She is a trained chef and her focus is on wild plants that she uses in the kitchen and for health. Like the meadowsweet that grows in abundance on a meadow. “It’s for dessert”, she says. In the past, meadowsweet was used as a sweetener for wine and especially for mead. It contains analgesic substances. In some areas it is also called less romatic “stop ass”, since it is also supposed to help with diarrhoea. We’ll stick to meadowsweet!
After our short hike she prepares fresh trout on a barbecue. She purs half a dozen fhe fresh trouts, white wine, bouillon and homemade herb butter and broils them over a crackling fire. While the trouts are over the fire, we are being served local specialities, bread, cheese and sausages are served with an aperitif. Delicious! Once the trouts are ready, they taste great. At the crowning end we enjoy Panna Cotta with meadowsweet. It tastes a little like honey. Delicious!
Well saturated, the next discovery is waiting to be approached:
Passing the wide meadows of the Franches-Montagnes, where the famous Franches-Montagnes horses graze together with cows on the meadows, our journey continues further south into the Val de Travers towards the impressive rock arena of the Creux du Van.
Creux du Van
We follow the Street of Absinthe to Val der Travers. Here is the famous Absinth, also knowns as “La Fée Verte” (the green fairy), is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), that originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century. At Ferme Robert, near the village Noiraigue we park our car and approach the Creux du Van from the valley side. There is an interesting little information centre that provides useful information on the flora and fauna and the geology of the Creux du Van.
After our morning walk around kake Gruère, we unfortunately cannot convince our boys to do the whole walk around Creux du Van. One hike a day is enough for them. It would take about 4 1/2 hours for the whole tour.
The Creux du Van is a unique rock arean. 160m high, vertical rock walls rise out of the ground like a huge amphitheatre. We walk a bit into the forest to admire the rock face from below, but unfortunately the thick forest blocks our view upwards. So we decide to turn back to our car after a while.
We decide to drive to the upper edge of the arean to have a better view and to take some photos. We park our car at the restaurant Le Soliat. Here it appears that we are not the only ones who want to experience the unique view. Numerous drones buzz in the air.
And indeed: the view over the whole rock basin is breathtaking. But be careful! The path along the unsecured abyss is only recommended for people who are really free from vertigo and sure-footed. I have definitely reached my limits there. But still, the view is fantastic and despite my fear of heights a very cool experience! The Crux du Van is definitely one of the unique natural wonders that can only be experienced in Switzerland.
During the photo session of my loved ones I had to close my eyes. My heart still stands still when I think that my son is sitting there! So please don’t imitate him, even though my son claims he was sitting way behind the abyss.
At Lake Neuchâtel
Slowly the sun begins to set over the area. Time for us to leave towards Neuchâtel.
Neuchâtel is an enchanting town, on the kakeside of Lake Neuchâtel. It’s almost mediterranean here. We check in at the Hotel des Arts, just a few steps away from the lake shore.
The Hotel des Arts is a pretty, modern and uncomplicated hotel. In the nearby La Fugue d`Alpes et Lac we enjoy a fine dinner with a view.
French-Swiss cuisine is unparalleled. This alone is worth the trip! It’s a dream come true!
Neuchâtel by bike
The next morning is dedicated to exploration by bike. At the little marina nearby the city center there is a rental station where you can rent bikes with and without eMotor, partly also with trailers for children. Exploring the region by bike is obviously quite popular here and the bike rental service is well used. No wonder, with an extremely family-friendly price of 6 CHF/day (as of June 2018). Although it is still quite early in the morning some families with rented bicycles are on the way already. The region is ideal for family holidays by bike, as the cycle paths are mostly along the waters.
Archaeology in the Laténium
We head for the Museum Laténium, which is only a twenty minutes ride from the city centre. On the outside of the museum there are replicas of pile dwellings and archaeological finds, as well as a beautifully designed playground.
Our boys were not too enthusiastic about the idea of visiting an archaeological museum. But their scepticism quickly faded inside the modern building. The museum has worked through the history of the region in an exciting way and visitors are encouraged to interactively discover the time from the Neanderthals to the Middle Ages.
A museum that is fun for the whole family.
However, our stomachs began growling after a while. Only a few meters away from the museum, we enjoy the culinary delicacies of the region in the Restaurant Le Silex with a view of the lake.
But then it’s time for us to head home and, unfortunately, we don’t have enough time left to enjoy the pleasure of visiting one of the numerous beach baths along the lake.
Even though it was only a short visit, the Jura – Three Lakes Region has proved to be both scenic and culinary at its best. There is still plenty of space here for people, animals and nature. An area to breathe deeply and enjoy.
I wish you many exciting discoveries!
With sunny greetings,
Further information about the Jura – Three Lakes Region:
Information about Maria-Luisa Wenger and her courses and hikes can be found here
Hotel Le National
Route de Bâle 25
Hotel des Arts
Rue J.-L. Pourtalès 3
Only a few steps away from Lake Neuchâtel. Modern and very uncomplicated hotel. If you book half board, you can have dinner at the Restaurant La Fugue d`Alpes et Lac, which can be reached in about 5 minutes by funicular. The food is excellent and you have a fantastic view. Tickets for the funicular are available at the hotel.
Further information can be found on the Hompage.
What I would like to mention in particular and what says a lot about a hotel for me: My son had forgotten his favourite sweater in the hotel on our departure. It was sent back to us by the hotel. We think it’s great!
You can find more information about the family holidays with the bike here.
Information about the Laténium, opening hours, special exhibitions etc. can be found here.
Disclosure: I was invited to this research trip by the Jura 3 Lakes Region.