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Regions of France - Lorraine

When you think of this region, it's possible the first thing that comes to mind is Quiche Lorraine, the delicious combination of ham, cheese, cream and eggs. However, there's so much more to Lorraine than this culinary specialty.

The region of Lorraine has four departments; Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges. There are two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy, although Metz, home of the regional parliament is considered the official capital. Nestled in the far north-east of France, Lorraine is often called the Pays de Trois Frontières as it's the only French region to share borders with three other countries - Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The location allows Lorraine to act as a major European crossroad and it enjoys a fascinating blend of French and German cultures. Add some friendly locals and picturesque countryside, and you have a region that deserves a visit.

Lorraine has a diverse historical, architectural and cultural heritage to discover. Being so close to neighbouring countries, Lorraine has often been engulfed in war and there are many museums and monuments to tell the tale. The region also gave France one of her most famous heroines, Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) who was born in the village of Domrémy-la-Pucelle.

Outside the major centres, nature lovers will be delighted with the extensive forests, lakes, rivers and mountains to explore. You won't be alone as Lorraine has abundant wildlife including deer, wild boar and water fowl and in the Vosges mountains, you may also see a mountain goat, or chamois. For the very fortunate, you may catch a glimpse of a lynx, a wild cat, a capercaillie or an eagleowl.

It's hard to talk about Lorraine without getting back to its culinary delights. The potato has been very popular in Lorraine since at least 1665 and is used in various traditional dishes such as the potée lorraine, a stew of smoked meats and sausages, with cabbage and root vegetables. Culinary boffins love the Breux potato and attribute it's superiority to the perfect growing conditions in the village of Breux.

Smoked bacon is also a traditional ingredient of the cuisine of Lorraine and is used in many traditional dishes, including the famous quiche lorraine. Other regional favourites include pâté lorrain (chopped pork and veal flavoured with white wine and baked in puff pastry) and andouille which is tripe sausage.

The mirabelle plum is the fruit emblem of Lorraine and is used in pies, desserts and alcoholic drinks. And speaking of alcohol, the area is well known for the wine of Côtes de Toul and there are vineyards in the valleys of the Moselle, Seille, Metz and Sierck. Historically, Lorraine was also the location of many breweries, including the Champigneulles founded in 1897.

The festival scene in Lorraine is a busy one. In January is Fantastic Arts, the horror film festival in Gérardmer, February is the Venitian Carnival in Remiremont, April sees the Commercy Jazz Festival and also Gérardmer's Daffodil Festival. At "Sundays in Meuse in May", hundreds of volunteers revive over one hundred 19th-century trades and crafts at an event unlike any other in Europe.

The Vosges lumberjack festival and bonfire nights at the summer solstice in June mark the Feast of St. John. Also in June is the "Rues et Cies" festival of street entertainment in Epinal. In July, visit the Renaissance Festival in Bar-le-Duc.

The world famous Mirabelle Festival takes place in Metz in August. Other events to consider take place in Fontenoy-la-Joûte, the "Village of Books" where books have pride of place in second-hand bookstalls and bookshops and to finish off the year, the many Christmas markets in centres like Metz and Plombières-les-Bains.