Kate Whiting takes her toddler to the Jura region in a bid to tempt his taste buds…
In an old stable in the French town of Arbois, four local winemakers are absorbed in hooking grapes together on a frame to make an enormous bunch, which, when finished, will weigh nearly 100kg.
One turns to my two-year-old son and hands him a small bunch of red pinot noir grapes, which make up half of the stripy pattern of red and white varieties on the annual harvest offering to the town’s patron, Saint-Just.
The following day, we’ll watch as ‘the Biou’ is paraded through the town (pictured right) and hoisted aloft in the church. But for now, my son’s enjoying gorging on his own miniature version.
The winemaker doesn’t know it, but his simple gesture is feeding my plan to broaden my son’s taste buds, which is why we’re in France.
A typical toddler, Ollie’s a picky eater and generally sticks to what he knows. I’m hoping that exposing him to a range of exciting new flavours and textures will help him learn to love good food for life.
The Franche-Comte region is sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland. It comprises the Jura, Doubs, Haute-Saone, and Territoire de Belfort departments - and it’s in the Jura where we’re staying, in wine capital Arbois - once home to Louis Pasteur.
The Jura is famous for its salty and flavoursome Comte cheese and its unique wines, including barrel-aged vin jaune (yellow wine) and sweet vin de paille (straw wine).
But where better to start your first culinary adventure in France than at the local market? Arbois has a market every Friday and it’s here Ollie has his first taste of France, with sweet green figs and juicy flat peaches.
By the day of the Biou, Ollie has become a high-chair refusenik, which does not bode well. But he does eat pain au chocolat we buy warm from the boulangerie in Arbois’ central square, while we wait for the procession.
We make for the church of Saint-Just and sit on its steps in time to see the Biou carried past on the shoulders of the four winemakers, heralded by two young violinists.
We’re staying at Castel Damandre in Les Planches, which was once an old mill at the foot of the imposing 250m-high limestone cliffs that semi-circle the village.
On our final day, there’s a final test for Ollie with lunch al fresco at arguably Arbois’ finest eatery, La Balance. The French beans and mash go down a treat, but he barely touches the fish orice cream, preferring instead to run his fingers through the water in the fountain near our table.
Ollie may not be a complete convert to their cuisine, but we’ve had a culinary adventure in this green corner of France.
Kate Whiting travelled by train to Mouchard in the Franche-Comte with Railbookers, specialists in organising bespoke holidays by rail to Europe and beyond. A short break to Lyon starts from £259 per person. For more information, call 020 3327 1600 or visit www.railbookers.com
A suite at the Hotel Castel Damandre, near Arbois, is 250 euros per night, plus 10 euros per person for breakfast. Visit www.casteldamandre.com/uk
For more information about the region, visit en.franche-comte.org
Tried and tested - Montane Women’s Primino Baselayer
A blend of premium Merino wool (which draws vapour sweat away from the body) and Primaloft (which wicks liquid sweat across the outer surface, enabling the top to dry quickly) make this Montane top the perfect baselayer for when you’re being active in cold conditions. It also boasts Polygiene antibacterial treatment, while the 140g weight makes it ideal for year-round use, whether you’re going climbing, hiking or trekking. It’s really comfy to wear as well, providing you with warmth without weight, and looks pretty good to boot. It’s available in three colours – Shadow (pictured), Dahlia or Juniper Green – and comes in sizes 8 to 16.
Women’s Primino 140G Zip Neck Baselayer, £65, www.montane.co.uk
Hand luggage – Travel in brief
Families would like more leisure time together
Families are spending alarmingly little leisure time together, according to the findings of a new survey commissioned by Warwick Castle. Less than 50 per cent of families spend an hour each day doing something together, and one in five parents admit that they ignore their children as a result of work pressures. However, more than half believe that spending more time together would improve their relationships and 70 per cent of families said that they were planning to take two or more short breaks in 2016.
Cheaper flights on the horizon for teenagers
Teens are set to fly for less in economy class this summer after the abolition of APD tax for 12-15-year-olds came into effect on March 1. This is the second stage in cuts for child flights, which were first announced in the Chancellor’s 2014 Autumn Statement. Anyone who has already booked economy flights could also be entitled to a refund, although package holiday tourists will need to apply to their operator rather than the airline.
ROME: Jet2CityBreaks (www.jet2citybreaks.com; 0800 408 5594) is offering three nights at the four-star Black Hotel (B&B) from £309pp (two sharing). Includes flights from Newcastle on March 31.
BUDAPEST: Lowcostholidays.com (0800 1116292) offer three nights at the four-star Soho Boutique Hotel (B&B) from £174pp (two sharing). Includes flights from Manchester on April 16.
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MADEIRA: On The Beach (www.onthebeach.co.uk; 0871 474 3000) offer seven nights at the four-star Estalagem Eira do Serrado Retreat (B&B) from £338pp (two sharing). Includes flights from Bristol on March 9.
AUSTRIA: Inghams (www.inghams.co.uk; 10483 791 114) offer seven nights at the 3.5 diamond Chalet Hotel Pinzgauerhof in Hinterglemm from £649pp (two sharing) - saving £200pp. Includes resort transfers and flights from Manchester to Salzburg on March 19.
MEXICO: Teletext Holidays (www.teletextholidays.co.uk; 0203 001 0628) offers seven nights at the five star Ocean Coral & Turquesa resort (all-inclusive) from £755pp (two sharing). Includes flights from Gatwick on June 9.