Yep, closer inspection reveals I was right.
The French side of the Jura Mountains is a designated regional natural park. In the summer it's swarming with campers, hikers, bikers, fishermen (lots of small lakes) and cyclists. There's skiing in the winter with lots of mom and pop operated lifts in small towns. Not many roads go through the area and you really get the feeling of being isolated. I pass through Morez (population 5,000) and in the center of town stands an impressive fountain.
Here's another angle from the same fountain.
This is the city hall building for Morez. Why such an impressive building for this seemingly sleepy isolated mountain town? Opposite the city hall stands a modern glass structure housing the Museum of the Telescope. Whoa, it turns out this town has quite the history. In the late 1700's farmers converted their barns into workshops and started manufacturing spectacles (the kind Benjamin Franklin wore). A hundred years later this place was cranking out eyewear by the millions. Last year over 10 million pairs of glasses were manufactured here and shipped around the globe--which means those glasses, sunglasses and reading glasses your sporting on the end of your nose might have come from here!
The village of Morbier (population 2,000) lies just up the road from Morez and this roundabout pretty much tells visitors what the village is known for. If you guessed cheese you would be right.
If you guessed antique clocks you would be right. Winters in the Jura Mountains were known for being long and harsh. In the late 1700's farmers converted their barns in the winter to workshops (just like in neighboring Morez) but here they started making parts for clocks instead of eye glasses. Instead of mass produced factory-made clocks these were unique. Morbier clocks were made until World War I. Now days antique Morbier clocks are worth megabucks.
It's a steep abrupt drop out of the mountains into Lons-le-Saunier. I haven't heard much about this place but am curious to see why 18,000 inhabitants live here.
The coolest structure in town is the old hospital (built between 1735-1744). The wrought iron gate in front is magnificent.
This is Lons-le-Saunier's prime shopping street. Can't see any shops? That's because there's a centuries-old covered arcade on both sides of the street which is great on a hot summer day or cold blistery winter's day. It was initially made of wood but after a fire in 1637 it was entirely rebuilt with stones and the roofs were tiled.
Not impressed with Bourg-en-Bresse but had to see why 40,000 people live here. I give the city hall building the two thumbs up. Why? On the left and right sides of the front door you'll see a fountain spewing out ice cold water--I'm always on the lookout for these to fill up my water bottle.