Easter in Saint-Ursanne

From the train line Saint-Ursanne looks like little more than a cluster of haphazard terracotta rooftops crowned by a cream spire. Upon arrival, this medieval village in Canton Jura could be a film set. The buildings - many of which date from the 15th century - huddle side-by-side, their rooftops collapsing into one another.

It being Easter weekend and the weather drear and drizzly, the place felt like a ghost town and, besides the odd car, there was nothing to suggest which era we had entered. This was Tim's and my Easter weekend treat. We were supposed to be spending the weekend horse riding here, but soon after we had arrived the stables cancelled. Never mind, we were staying in the quaint little two-star Hotel de la Demi Lune and were both content about the idea of lying in bed reading for hours. In our busy lives, that in itself would be a treat.

The hotel was in a brilliant location beside the river - our room on the top floor overlooked the Pont St-Jean Nepomucene, a stone bridge over the river Doubs with a atatue of St. John Nepomuk. Our room was basic and tumbledown with a sloping ceiling, but had lovely touches such as towels laid out in the shape of an elephant. The staff were friendly, and it was the only establishment in town where we found someone who could speak other languages than French. Not that I mind practising my French, but it makes things rather difficult for Tim. There was a picture of the hotel owner beside Kofi Annan hanging on the wall which intrigued us, but sadly we didn't find out any more.

We braved the weather to begin with and wandered around town, starting at the bridge below and trying to imagine what the leafy scenery would like life if it wasn't swathed in drizzle and fog. We walked past the former monastery (now an old people's home) and up a steep flight of 190 stone steps to the hermitage where, according to legend, St. Ursanne lived in the 8th century. Other sights included the vaulted market hall beneath the 15th-century town hall, the 12th-century Collegiale church, which housed a charming 14th-century cloister and many a pretty fountain.

The village was beautifully decorated for Easter, with chicks and rabbits adorning fountains and trellises of flowers and eggs running down doorways. Besides a grocers store and a handful of hotels, many of the shops were antiques dealers. After building up an appetite, we stopped to refresh at a lovely tea room, where we enjoyed black forest gateau and cups of green tea, and whiled away a couple of hours in the warmth. Then it was back to our lovely sloped-ceilinged room to tuck up and read. That evening we dined at Hotel du Boeuf on the main street, enjoying trout fresh from the river, fried up with almonds and served with steamed potatoes. The following day, we awoke to a blanket of snow (this must be the coldest Easter in years) and took the train to Delemont, the capital of Jura. It too felt like a ghost town, deserted on Easter Sunday, but we enjoyed exploring the old worldly streets.
rich quite early for a relaxing afternoon.
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