The France Page - Regions
Rhône-Alpes is one of the 26 regions of France, located on the eastern border of the country, towards the south. The region was named after the Rhône River and the Alps mountain range. Its capital, Lyon, is the second-largest metropolitan area in France after Paris.
Rhône-Alpes is located in the east of France. To the north are the French regions of Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Franche-Comté, to the west it borders the region Auvergne, to the south it borders Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The east of the region contains the western part of the Alps and borders Switzerland and Italy. The highest peak is Mont Blanc. The central part of the region is taken up with the valley of the Rhône and the Saône. The confluence of these two rivers is at Lyon. The western part of the region contains the start of the Massif Central mountain range. The region also borders or contains major lakes such as Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) and Lake Annecy. The Ardèche is home to the deepest gorge in Europe.
As with the rest of France, French is the only official language of the region. Many of the inhabitants of the south spoke varieties of Occitan although it is in steep decline in this region. There are large immigrant populations from Poland, Italy, Portugal and North Africa, amongst other places.
Although there have been people in Rhône-Alpes since pre-historic times, the earliest recorded settlers of the region were the Celts. Cities such as Lyon (Lugdunum in Latin after the Celtic God Lugh) were founded by them and the region traded with both northern and southern Europe. Most of the area became part of Roman territory during the invasion of Gaul led by Julius Caesar and was at various times part of the regions of Lugdunensis and Gallia. Lyon itself became a major Roman city.
The region, excepting Savoy, was part of the Merovingian and Carolingian Kingdoms before becoming a royal territory under the Capetians. As it became a royal territory early on in French history, its history has not differed much from France since.
Rhône-Alpes is a major European transit hub, linking northern France and Europe to the Mediterranean area. Millions travel along its motorways in summertime from Paris to holidays at the sea. The E15 Euroroute (Britain to Spain) runs through the region. There are international airports at Lyon, Saint Etienne and Grenoble and many other minor airports and airfields. The region is also a transport hub for the rail-network with the TGV running through Lyon from Paris and the north, to the Mediterranean. A trans-national, high-speed rail-link is under construction from Lyon to Turin.
Rhône-Alpes is a prosperous région, its economy second in size only to Île-de-France in France. This can be attributed to the diversity of the production in different sectors.
* Industry, in particular:
o Light engineering and high-tech
* Services, in particular:
o High-tech industries, especially in Lyon and Grenoble
o Tourism with the Alps (for skiing), Lyon (for culture) and the Ardèche (adventure sports/camping) particularly popular
o Education, with major universities at Lyon and Grenoble
In the past mining, especially coal mining was an important sector, particularly around Saint Etienne, although this has declined.
It should be noted that the area of the region that lies close to Switzerland has an economy linked to that of Geneva. Indeed, this area forms a hinterland for the Geneva hub.
Lyon is noted as a gastronomic center of France and specialities served in its bouchons include Lyon sausage, salami, tripe and quenelles (fish balls). In the east of the region the food has an Alpine flavour with dishes such as fondue and raclette common. The region is also famous for its Bresse poultry and the many varieties of cheese including Tomme de Savoie, Bleu de Bresse, Reblochon and Vacherin. Chartreuse liquor is made in the region.
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