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Lorraine

Lorraine

Lorraine is situated in the north east of the country. It shares its borders with three other countries: Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg. It is the only region in France to do so and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Pays de Trois Frontieres’. It consists of four departments which are Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges.

At various times in its history the region has been under German rule but has remained French since 1918. Nevertheless, its proximity to these other countries has given the region an interesting cultural mix, including a variety of dialects. Nowadays French predominates but one dialect, known as Lorraine Franconian, still survives as a spoken language.

There are two major cities in the region. Metz is the capital and seat of the regional parliament while Nancy is, historically, the most important city. Lorraine is a highly productive area relying increasingly on logistics and the service sector rather than the more traditional industries of textiles and mining. Agriculture is also an important part of the economy with mixed farming including dairy and cereals.

The climate of the region is similar to that of Alsace with fairly hot summers but quite severe winters with snow in the Vosges Mountains. The proximity of the mountainous areas also tends to produce a high level of humidity during the summer months resulting in some lush vegetation.

The Lorraine region has the advantage of a well-developed communication network and it is easily accessible in a number of ways. By air there are flights from the UK to Metz-Nancy Lorraine airport from where several lo-cost companies operate. Rail links with the capital are good with a journey time of one hour, thirty minutes. Strasbourg and Luxemburg are also within easy reach by train.

In addition, there is a good quality road network, including several free motorways, which enables travellers to move easily both within and through the region.

Lorraine has much to offer in terms of its cuisine. Who hasn’t heard of Quiche Lorraine? There is also the lesser known dish called Pate Lorraine which is made of chopped pork and veal. Many dishes are based on locally grown potatoes of which the Breux potato from the village of the same name is considered the best. A traditional dish known as potee lorraine is a typical example.

The region produces over 500 types of cheese with some of the best known being Carre de l’Est, Brouere and Munster-Gerome AOC.

The region’s most important fruit product is the mouth-watering Mirabelle plum which is widely used in pies, as an ingredient for desserts and for making an alcoholic drink.

Lorraine has a fairly extensive wine-producing area. Vineyards are mostly found in the valleys of the rivers Moselle, Seille and Metz. The best known wine is probably the Cote de Toul, a pinot noir. There is also some beer production but this has declined somewhat in recent years. The brewery at Champig-neulles is one of the oldest having been in existence since 1897.

The natural attractiveness of the region offers much to tempt the visitor. Lorraine is a land of forests, rivers and mountains. The mountainous areas especially provide opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with activities such as walking, cycling and a range of winter sports.

The Vosges Mountains are also a paradise for nature lovers as the area is home to a range of wild-life, especially game in the form of deer, wild boar and water fowl. You will also see mountain goats and chamois and possibly even a lynx or eagle owl.

The Lorraine region enjoys a strong cultural heritage which is still apparent to this day. The local people have a strong religious tradition which can be witnessed at various festivals throughout the year. One of the most important is Sinterklass (Saint Nicholas) whose feast day is celebrated on 5th December when children receive gifts as they move from house to house.

For those interested in arts and crafts there are numerous treasures to be found. Crystal and earthenware are amongst the best examples of local handicrafts. The region also has a number of museums and monuments associated with the many war related events that have taken place over the years.

Various fetes and other cultural events take place throughout the year. The world famous Mirabelle festival takes place in Metz every August. In April the town of Gerardmer is the venue of a daffodil festival. Many towns in the region, including Metz and Plombieres-les-Bains, hold a Christmas market where you can lap up the festive ambiance.

For film goers Gerardmer plays host to a horror film festival in January and for lovers of reading there is a Summer Book Festival in Metz.

Other major tourist attractions include some of the region’s elegant spa towns. There are several of these located in beautiful natural surroundings. They each offer treatments for a range of ailments and conditions.

One of the largest numbers of spas is to be found at Plombieres-les-Bains which has 27 hot springs supplying water at between 57 and 84 degrees C. the town is also considered of architectural interest and is known as the ‘town of a thousand balconies’. The spa town of Vittel has pump rooms designed by Charles Garnier who also the architect of the Paris Opera House.

Lorraine may be one of the lesser known regions of France but is nevertheless worth exploring for its natural beauty, ease of access and location on the crossroads of no fewer than four attractive countries.

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