Formerly the regions of Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine.
Between the Vosges mountains with their thick forests and the valley of the Rhine lies a picture-book landscape of romantic ttimber-framed villages, renowned vineyards and wonderful artistic treasures. Along with its magnificent cities of Strasbourg and Colmar, the region enchants visitors time and again.
The Alsace region, the easternmost part of France, borders on Germany and extends south as far as the Swiss border. It is a popular destination for a day trip or a holiday, which means that delightful spots along the Alsatian wine route, in particular, are sometimes like mini-Disneyland, with everything directed to the needs of tourists. The landscape is a mirror image of the country across the Rhine in Germany. The Black Forest and the Vosges were originally part of a single mountain range, which split down the middle in the Tertiary era 65 million years ago to form the Rhine rift valley. For administrative purposes, Alsace consists of the departments Bas-Rhin in the north, with its capital at Strasbourg, and Haut-Rhin in the south (capital Colmar), with the border between the two running roughly along a line through Selestat, Strasbourg is the main city and economic centre of the region.
Champagne, an idyllic landscape in the northeast of France, produces the most famous and elegant sparkling wine in the world. Old towns with magnificent Gothic churches as in Reims are a reminder of an important past.
The Region Champagne-Ardenne stretches from the Belgian frontier in the north to the sources of the Seine in Burgundy in the south, and from Lorraine in the east to the Ile-de-France in the west; the main town is Chalons-en-Champagne. Champagne owes its worldwide celebrity status to the luxurious drink of the same name. Gourmets will also be familiar with Ardennes ham and typical varieties of cheese such as Langres and Chaource, all with the AC seal. The region is not one of the more popular tourist destinations, but has much to offer. Castles and fortresses in the north bear witness to the strategic significance of its borders over long periods; outstanding monuments and beautiful medieval timber-frame houses can be seen in Troyes, Reims, Charleville-Mezieres, Chalons-en-Champagne and Chaumont. The landscape guarantees variety and tranquillity: from the dense woods of the Ardennes and Argonnes through vast plateaux of cornfields and gentle chains of hills laced with vinevards, to a lake district in the south with oak woods and gently flowing rivers.
Lorraine, in the northeast of France between Alsace and Champagne, is steeped in history. Though it has a reputation as an ugly industrial region, in fact it possesses extensive areas of largely unspoilt nature and its attractive towns such as Nancy, Toul and Metz are more than worthy of a visit.
Lorraine has no obvious natural borders. In the southwest it adjoins the Vosges mountains (Alsace) and in the north the Ardennes lowlands. To the west is the Paris basin while the Plateau de Langres lies to the south. The most important rivers are the Meuse (Maas), the Moselle and their tributaries the Sarre (Saar) and the Meurthe. Encompassing the departements of Meurthe-et-Moselle (capital Nancy), Moselle (Metz), Meuse (Bar le Due) and Vosges (fipinal), Lorraine is home to some 2.3 million people.
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