This next part of the cheese mission in France was left somewhat to chance. Entering into the Jura mountains, a scape of plateaux mountains with two lane roads etched into the mountainside, speckled with tiny villages and artisan workshops, I hoped the people would be friendly and willing to help me find the cheese. After stopping on the side of the road to photopraph this statue of a cow overlooking the village in the valley below, I knew my mission would be well-received. This statue communicated a great respect for the region's agricultural life, which further promised a certain pride and passion in local artisan speicalities. I hoped I was right.
Many winding roads up and down the mountains, about a million wrong turns, and five photo ops after leaving Belfort, I finally arrived in the teensy weensy town of Cinqétral, a village of St. Claude. Not knowing the hostess of the house I would be staying in for the next three nights, I hoped she would at least be able to offer some possible tourist traps in the area. I could not have asked for a better hostess, for the next morning at breakfast she answered my inquiries with, "But you have come to the right place! This is what I do. I am an expert in the region's artisan specialties, including cheese." Quelle chance! The next several days in the Jura mountains would be filled with not only the tourist attractions, but also some not-so-well-known establishments. Not many tourists venture to these parts, for the train does not even pass by here. Even the most popular attractions maintain a certain uniqueness.
For a region so rich in culture and tradition, I can understand why my presence was so well-received. In their eyes, an American coming to their special spot in the world with an interest in learning about one of their many prized traditions--cheesemaking--brought a hopefulness for things to come. Would I begin business relations by importing cheese from the smaller cheesemaking facilities? Would my little blog diffuse the richness of the region to other parts of the world, attracting touists with a genuine interest in what the Jura has to offer? And if an American has come to these parts, then others in the world surely know the Jura exists.
I don't think I could have had a more happy accident on this trip, to plant myself in just the right home, in a region so willing to share, and with so much to offer. The next several blogs will cover all that I learned, and I hope to communicate the very special cultural exchange that occured.