Picking daffodils in the oak meadows of the Jura.  

On Thursday evening, we found ourselves at "La Forge d'Isidore", a rustic farmhouse inn, nestled between the Vosges and Jura mountain ranges.  'La Forge' is home to a herd of 60 Montbeliard cows, milked twice a day by Daniel, an old-school French dairy farmer who limps along with arthritic hips, but continues to tend to the daily milking in his late seventies.  Following an invigorating walk through the meadows of freshly-sprouted daffodils and oak tree garnished hillsides, we returned to find Daniel's wife Colette preparing dinner.  We cozied up to a long, wooden farm table in a dark, smoky room which was home to an ancient stone grain mill, a soot-stained forge and a jolly group of 20 German women who were walking the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in the northwestern corner of Spain.  Some of them had been walking for 4 weeks, and the entire journey would continue for another 5 months!  An epic journey indeed! They were a fascinating group, full of mirth, song and good cheer.  It was a magical evening, during which we enjoyed simple, hearty mountain-farm food, several bottles of the deliciously drinkable, light-bodied Jura wines and tipsy, lilting conversation, bantering between French, German & English.

It's becoming apparent to us that we are traveling higher into the mountains, and much of the countryside has just recently emerged from snow cover.  The weather is pleasantly warm, with frosty evenings and clear, sunny days.  We've chosen a great time to be exploring this part of the world!  Tomorrow we'll head higher into the mountains in search of some of the great mountain cheeses of the Jura and Savoie.