Porrentruy and around
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In the heart of the Ajoie region – the bulge of Canton Jura that sticks out into France – is the rather attractive town of PORRENTRUY. Its graceful old centre is filled with eighteenth-century buildings, while a total of nine schools and colleges lend the cobbled streets a vivacity lacking in towns twice the size. Walking 500m west from the train station brings you onto the main Grand-Rue, dotted with medieval fountains and lined with ornate facades, including the tourist office housed in the old hospital at no. 5 (Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 2–6pm, July & Aug also Sat 10am–1pm; 032/466 59 59). Following the street down to the river leaves you a few metres west of the fourteenth-century Porte de France and at the foot of the impressive château towering above. Its mighty Tour Refouss (daily 9–11.45am & 1.30–6pm; free) gives an expansive view.

HotelDe La Poste, 15 Rue Malvoisins (032/466 18 27), is a tidy little hotel in the Old Town with pleasant, quiet rooms. The same street has many pavement cafés, including jolly Aux Deux Clefs at no. 7 and the Monkey Bar opposite, which serves inexpensive crêpes (Fr.5–10). Au Faucon, 15 Rue des Annonciades, is a lively student bar, with DJs and bands in the cellar. Don’t miss Guillaume Tell, 36 Grand-Rue, a combination bistro (with terrific fondues) and patisserie: they make fresh cheesecake every Friday morning, which is as good a reason as any for spending Thursday night in Porrentruy. In November, the huge Marché de St-Martin is an excuse for scoffing vast quantities of the local pork saucisse d’Ajoie at stand-up stalls, along with plenty of local Tête-de-Moine cheese and Damassine to wash it down.

South of Porrentruy, the River Doubs loops into Swiss territory for the only time, enclosing a neck of land known as the Clos de Doubs: the scenic road from Saignelégier running alongside the valley is dubbed, romantically, the Corniche du Jura. ST-URSANNE is a picturesque old walled village on the river, 10km from Porrentruy, blessed with both a twelfth-century church and five small hotels. The 1km walk down from the station is gorgeous, and you approach the village through its eastern, sixteenth-century Porte de St-Pierre. The same road passes through to the Porte de St-Paul at the village’s western end, while midway along, an alley branches south past the tourist office, 18 Rue du Quartier (March–Oct daily 10am–5pm; 032/461 37 16) through the Porte de St-Jean to an ancient, narrow bridge over the river. The beautiful collégiale church in the heart of the village, with its sculptured and painted south doorway, is airy and impressive inside, its Romanesque choir filled with fantastically lavish Baroque ornament. Above the nave, which has fifteenth-century frescoes, the vaulting is crowned with carved keystones giving the date 1301, and you’ll find fewer more peaceful and attractive corners to spend a sunny hour or two than the Gothic cloister to the north.

Of the places to stay, the Demi-Lune (032/461 35 31, fax 461 37 87) and Hotel du Boeuf (032/461 31 49, fax 461 38 92; b) are both clean and serviceable. If you’re in the area at the right time, don’t miss St-Ursanne’s fantastic Fête Médiévale, on a weekend in early July, with everyone in costume, medieval foods and beers on offer, minstrels and musicians, dancers, acrobats, jugglers and fire-eaters, and, to top it all, a grand Gregorian mass on Sunday morning.

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