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Rising above Nyon are the final stretches of the Jura range within Switzerland, known as the Pied du Jura, sliced across by the international border which separates the French Pays de Gex above Geneva from the Swiss mountain resort of ST CERGUE. This quiet, unassuming town is set in some wild countryside with hiking trails that don’t see the quantity of ramblers you might be sharing the paths with elsewhere in the Jura. In winter, the town concentrates on providing safe, quality downhill skiing for families, and plenty of excellent cross-country routes. The desalpe, or annual descent of cattle from the high pastures to winter quarters in the valley, accompanied by much floral decoration and folkloric celebrations is a highlight of St Cergue’s calendar, taking place on a Saturday in late September. Riding on the little red NStCM trains (InterRail not valid) which depart from the forecourt of Nyon station on a winding narrow-gauge route up into the green hills is worth an afternoon in itself, whether you get off at St Cergue or shuttle on over the Col de la Givrine (1228m) to the hamlet of La Cure on the border.
Some 10km northeast of Nyon on the Route des Vignerons are the neighbouring communes of LUINS and VINZEL, both of them wine villages, and both famous for their malakoffs. These little gastronomic heartwarmers – a fried cheese-and-egg mixture served hot and rich on a round bread base – were renamed following the triumphant return of a band of Vaudois mercenaries under the Russian General Malakoff from the 1855 siege of Sebastopol; the two villages, which are no more than ten minutes’ walk apart, have competed since then for whose malakoff is better. Take the taste test at the Auberge Communale in Luins (021/824 11 59), then wander down the road past the vineyards to Au Coeur de la Côte in Vinzel (021/824 11 41) – both are open daily, serving malakoffs for around Fr.6 each, and you can grab the opportunity while you’re at it to compare and contrast the excellent village wines. Wander on to Bursins, a few kilometres east, and you may bump into Peter Ustinov, who’s lived in the village for many years; or, instead, hike above Luins to a tiny church-with-a-view, dating from 1393, and on up past the vineyards into thick woodland – beech, chestnut and oak – eventually emerging into the open pasture and cultivated fields of the plateau above.
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