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Rhone -Alps is one of the largest and most prosperous regions of France. Its name derives from its two most striking geographical features: the French Alps mountain range and the river Rhone which flows through the region on its way from Geneva to the Mediterranean.

This attractive region is situated on the borders with Switzerland and Italy in the south east of the country. To the west are part of the Massif Central and the gorges of the Ardeche. The climate is one of long warm summers with temperatures reaching as high as 30 degrees C and cold winters with heavy snowfall in higher areas.

It is a land of lakes, gorges and mountains – the highest peak being that of Mont Blanc. This alpine area has played host to a number of Winter Olympic Games and has the largest and best skiing areas in France.

Ideally situated for access to the Mediterranean and other European countries, the region enjoys excellent motorway links with Paris and the south – as numerous holiday makers will have experienced. There is a TGV service from Paris to Lyon and international airports located in Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne.

The regional capital, Lyon, is France’s second city and is situated at the confluence of the rivers Soane and Rhone. Economically speaking it is famous for its petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

However, the city is probably best known as the gastronomic centre of France. Lyon is home to a number of top class chefs, including Paul Bocuse. Famous local specialities are sausage, salami, tripe, coq au vin, bresse poultry and salad lyonnaise which contains bacon and poached egg. Here you will find a large number of Bouchon which are informal traditional restaurants serving local dishes and wines. The locally produced Beaujolais is a particular favourite in this city and you will find the delicious red wine is also served in jugs with morning snacks comprised of local chacuterie.

Elsewhere in the region, the culinary tastes display a more alpine influence and you will find dishes such as gratin dauphinois and fondue on the menu. Locally sourced fish and game are also an important part of the cuisine.

Rhone-Alps has many good cheeses to offer, notably Bleu de Bresse, Tomme de Savoie and Vacherin. Not to mention its very aceptable Cote de Rhone wines, Chartreuse liquer, still made to the monks’ original recipe and Evian mineral water. From the town of Montelimar comes the confection, nougat, a Drome speciality.

Other important industrial centres are Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, well known for their heavy industry and high-tech companies respectively. Hewlett Packard has recently made Grenoble its base on account of the attractive location.

As far as rural areas are concerned there is some agriculture but the economy is based very largely on tourism which is an all year round business. Obviously winter sports are important at that time of year but in other seasons visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities. The Alps are a major climbing centre and many world- famous climbers have begun their careers on these slopes. The two alpine national parks: la Vanoise and Les Ecrins, can be enjoyed at any time.

Rhone-Alps is one of France’s most important golfing venues and for all lovers of nature and the great outdoors the region if a treat. The lakes and rivers provide excellent fly fishing. The Gorge de l’Ardeche, the deepest of its kind in Europe, is a major attraction to hikers, cyclists and rafting enthusiasts.

The Rhône-Alps region offers a wealth of attractive towns and villages for visitors to discover. The city of Lyon itself is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site with its ancient architectural and cultural heritage.

Grenoble is home to two excellent cultural attractions which will please art lovers. There is the acclaimed National Centre for Contemporary Art and The Grenoble Museum which contains works by a number of notable 19th and 20th century European artists including Picasso and Gauguin. While in Grenoble it is also worth taking the cable car up to the Fort de le Bastille to enjoy wonderful views of the city and mountains beyond.

On the shores of Lake Annecy lies the delightful old Alpine town of Annecy with its canals and colourful floral displays. Unfortunately it does tend to get very busy with coach loads of tourists, so pick your time carefully!

Another delightful destination is the stylish spa town of Aix-les-Bains which lies on the eastern shores of the Lac du Bourget, the largest fresh water lake in France. The town’s ancient hot sulphur springs provide water for both bathing and drinking. It also has a range of beguiling shops and restaurants. There are activities going on all around the lake, such as boating and fishing and there is a lakeside promenade, perfect for an evening stroll. .

The Rhone valley has, for centuries, provided an easy access route from north to south of the country and this legacy of trading remains to this day. A market can be found in every town and village in the region on a different day of the week. You will be spoilt for choice by the variety offered by this rich and diverse region.

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