Eastern France

(Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine, Alsace, Franche-Comté, Burgundy)

Your suggested itinerary in Eastern France

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The TGV runs directly to Dijon, Montbéliard, Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône, Mâcon and Besançon. Dijon, Nancy, Reims, Troyes, Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhousc are connected to Paris by train and autoroute. Air Inter flies to Strasbourg and Mulhouse airports.

Continental-quite cold in winter, hot in summer. Although there are many sunny days, it can be chilly in spring and fall.

As well as the many varieties of champagne in Champagne, in Lorraine there is Côtes de Toul and Côtes de Moselle; Alsatian wines include the white Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Tokay-Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and the red Pinot Noir; in the Jura, vin jaune or Arbois Chardonnay; in Burgundy, when not drinking the famous red wines, try white Pouilly-Fumé or the glorious whites of Pouligny-Montrachet.

Regional food specialties abound. In Champagne-Ardenne, Troyes is known for tripe, Chaource and Langres for their cheeses, Reims for croquignolles, merinques to accompany the bubbly. Lorraine has its quiche, but also potée Lorraine, a pork stew. The mirabelle plum is used in pies, jams and brandy. Try Nancy's famed macaroons and bergamot candies, and the Proustian madeleines from Commercy. Alsatian food includes choucroute, a trencherman's dish of sauerkraut with ham and sausages; coq au Reisling; baeckeoffe, beef, lamb, pork, potatoes and onions braised in white wine; and kugelhopf cake.

In Franche-Comté, Jura cheeses include the fruity comté, Gex Blue, the creamy Mont d'Or, Morbier with its characteristic line of ash in the center, and the runny Calcoillotte. Jura also has Morteau sausage and other smoked meats. Burgundy's fare includes eggs Meurette, baked in wine, Charollais lamb or beef, parslied ham, and the famed escargots de Bourgogne.

In Champagne-Ardenne, water sports on the Lac du Der-Chantecoq, river cruises and ballooning. Both Alsace and Lorraine have excellent biking and hiking trails, and cross-country skiing in the Vosges. Lorraine also has golf in Vittel and Bitche. There is ballooning in Burgundy, and canal barge trips-both hotel-style and pilot-yourself-are available throughout Eastern France.

Champagne has cutlery, tapestry, hosiery ... and Champagne. Lorraine offers fine crystal at Baccarat, St-Louis and Daum. In Alsace, table linens and ceramics. In France-Comté, wooden toys. In Burgundy, the pottery of Nevers and cassis, the black current liqueur requisite for making a kir.

In Champagne, visit the cellars in Epernay, Reims and along the Route Touristique. Alsace, Burgundy and the Jura all have wine roads. In Lorraine there are also "trails" of military architecture and stained glass. Franche-Comté has tours of cheese and wine cellars.

Local tourist offices have listings of wine producers that offer tastings. Some of the grander cellars in Burgundy and Alsace, and virtually all Champagne producers, charge for tastings; many others do not charge, although there may be a small basket where visitors may leave 10 francs. Some very small producers may expect tasters to buy a bottle or two, but the larger houses do not necessarily expect on-the-spot orders.

Reims: Notre-Dame Cathedral, Basilica of St-Remi, Palace of Tau. Troyes: Modern Art Museum, Renaissance houses. Metz: St-Etienne Cathedral, stained glass windows. Nancy: Place Stansilas, School of Nancey museum of Art Nouveau. Strasbourg: the Gothic Cathedral, the old town. Colmar: Unterlinden Museum with 16th-century Issenheim altarpiece. Mulhouse: Classic Car Museum, Wallpaper Museum. Arc-en-Senans: Royal Salt Factory. Ronchamps: Le Corbusier's revolutionary Our Lay of the Heights. Beaune: 15th-century Hotel Dieu.