36 Hours in the Jura
10 a.m.: Visit the Grande Saline de Salins-les-Bains, the legendary salt mine built in the 18th century that’s now a museum to the ancient art and backbreaking craft of salt mining. On UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, the actual attraction is a two-building affair. The modern museum offers an historical retrospective of how salt is pumped from the sea and turned into what we find on restaurant tables; the underground mine tour includes the spectacle of an ancient wooden mill used to extract salt from a depth of 250 meters and a chance to behold four enormous pit-like "stoves" where workers shoveled the salt flakes (that’s the backbreaking part). There is also a kid-friendly "Planet Salt" play space, where budding gastronomes can play and learn with interactive exhibits and enjoy a good-old-fashioned diorama of the salt-making process. Best of all: The gift shop sells incredibly addictive sea salt-salt water caramels to take home.
Note: Salin-les-Bains is also known for its pottery and ceramics; the town was once home to antique faience and majolica factories; though those are no longer in existence, plenty of shops stock beautiful examples of each. Try the elegant Terres d'Est on Avenue Aristide Briand.
12 p.m.: Here’s how to go out with a bang. A splurge indeed is on offer at the recently renovated 18th-century Château de Germigney, a restored manor house, originally the home of the Marquis of Germigney, complete with authentic English gardens but decidedly French gastronomy. The Relais & Chateau property is an expansive (and expensive) resort with all sorts of amenities, from arranged hunting and mountain biking excursions, but the pièce de résistance is, without a doubt, the dining room. The chef puts the massive gardens to good use, offering up a selection of très French greatest hits —coquilles St. Jacques, frog’s legs, foie gras terrine, — enhanced with flavors from the Jura (think more of that Comté cheese and Morteau sausage and morel mushrooms).