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NORTHERN & EASTERN FRANCE:
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ALSACE | LORRAINE | FRANCHE-COMTÉ
The Alsace region has retained a strong Germanic flavour. Its traditional half-timbered houses topped by storks' nests and its local dialect make this region very different from any other in France.
Strasbourg, its capital, offers a contrast of old and new. A pink cathedral, cobbled streets and 19th century mansions cohabit happily with the modern hotels and conference centres built for Strasbourg's new role in Europe.
The Lorraine region is famous for its prestigious crystal industry (St. Louis, Baccarat, Daum, Sèvres etc.) and those looking for bargains will find factory outlet shops offering discounts of up to 40%.
Nancy, Lorraine's capital, is a city full of delight and surprises. Its sumptuous Place Stanislas, old town, fountains and iron gates are but a few of the many attractions of this lively and friendly city. The birth place of Art Nouveau, Nancy remains firmly a European cultural centre with a very large student population.
The Champagne region owes its reputation to its sparkling wines. Champagne cellars are always a great attraction, the best 'tasting routes' being from Epernay to Reims and the area east of Troyes.
Reims is well known for its magnificent gothic cathedral, enlightened by two beautiful rose windows. It also has the largest Romanesque church in France: the Basilique Saint Rémi, not to mention museums such as the Palais du Tau and the Salle de Reddition (General Eisenhower's room in the second world war).
The Burgundy region is famous for its vineyards. It is a lovely area of France and a good way to enjoy its beauty is to hire a boat and cruise along its 1200 kilometres of canals and rivers.
Dijon, home of the popular mustard, is one of the most enchanting towns in France. Romantic, graceful buildings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance are a joy to be seen. A large student population adds vivacity and zest to this charming old town.
This area, not always well known by tourists, offers many interesting sights.
The southern part of the Flanders plain has a rich display of ancient castles, hidden away in beautiful forests.
Lille is the major city of this region. Only 15 kilometres from the Belgian border, it has retained a strong Flemish flavour. The birth place of General de Gaulle, it boasts excellent museums, an eclectic range of architecture and an efficient, high-tech underground system. After browsing through the largest bookshop in the world, you might like to enjoy a cool beer, for in this region of France lager is more popular than wine.
Amiens, a smaller town, is well known for its beautiful cathedrals with many spires climbing high over the city. It also where Jules Verne wrote some of his most famous works, and it is possible to see exhibits on his life at the Centre de Documentation Jules Verne.
Boulogne-sur-mer is a busy fishing port, perhaps best known as a destination for day-trippers from England. It has a very French atmosphere, with many cafés and restaurants, and is the most attractive of the channel ports.