Rhône-Alpes

Rhône-Alpes

Rhône-Alpes (Franco-Provençal : Rôno-Arpes; Occitan: Ròse Aups) 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.

Geography

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. 50 years ago, Franco-Provençal was widely spoken in the whole region. Many of the inhabitants of the south spoke varieties of Occitan although it is in steep decline in this region. There were a relatively large immigrant populations from Poland, Italy, Portugal and North Africa, amongst other places.

Rhône-Alpes is made up of the following départements:

Population

Rhône-Alpes is the only one region of France which contains 3 major cities in France. Indeed, it forms the triangle Lyon - Grenoble - Saint-Etienne. This triangle is the economic core of the region. These three urban areas are very complementary, and have smaller cities around, like satellites.

  • Lyon's area : 1,798,395 inhabitants (2008)
  • Grenoble's area : 560,222 inhabitants (2008)
  • Saint-Etienne's area : 321,703 inhabitants (1999)
  • Valence's area : 164,334 inhabitants (2008)

History

Although there have been people in Rhône-Alpes since pre-historic times, the earliest recorded settlers of the region were the Gauls. Cities such as Lyon 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. (see History of France)

Transportation

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, Grenoble and Saint-Étienne 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.

Economy

Rhône-Alpes is a prosperous region, 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:
    • Light engineering and high-tech
    • Mechanical engineering in the area of Annecy
    • Special machining in the area of Cluses
  • Services, in particular:
    • High-tech industries & nanotechnology, especially in Grenoble
    • Tourism with the Alps (for skiing), Lyon and Grenoble (for culture) and the Ardèche (adventure sports/camping) particularly popular
    • Education, with major universities in Lyon and Grenoble

In the past mining, especially coal mining was an important sector, particularly around Saint-Étienne, 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.

Major cities


Football

Rhône-Alpes is the home of several successful football teams, including Olympique Lyonnais (current French Champions) and AS Saint-Étienne (one of the former clubs of Michel Platini). Another team has come in the french top-level in 2008 : Grenoble Foot 38.

Food

Lyon is noted as a gastronomic center of France and specialities served in its traditional bouchons include Lyon sausage, special salami (known here as "rosette"), tripe and quenelles. In the east of the region the food has an Alpine flavour with dishes such as fondue,raclette common, gratin dauphinois and gratin savoyard. The region is also famous for its Bresse poultry and the many varieties of cheese including Tomme de Savoie, Bleu de Bresse, Reblochon, Saint-Marcellin and Vacherin.

Wines are also interesting in this region such as the very famous Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône and Savoy wine.

Chartreuse liqueur is made in the region.

Tourism

Situated between Paris and the Côte d’Azur, on the border with both Switzerland and Italy, and offering access to two international airports (Lyon and Geneva), impressive rail connections and a vast motorway network, the Rhône-Alpes region is literally at the crossroads of Europe.

Boasting 8 natural parks and peerless sites such as Mont Blanc and the Gorges de l’Ardèche, the Rhône-Alpes offers a wide range of different landscapes: mountains, vineyards and gentle valleys, fields of lavender and olive groves.

In the Rhône-Alpes, water is everywhere: from snow to glacier ice, rivers and streams to lakes…the Rhône-Alpes is where three of France’s biggest lakes can be found (Lake Geneva, Lac du Bourget and Lac d’Annecy).

Every form of sport is readily available, set against an impressive natural backdrop: hiking, mountain biking or even paragliding and canoeing… the Rhône-Alpes is not only the second most important golfing region in France with over 60 courses but it also has the largest ski area in the world and has hosted the Winter Olympics three times.

Enthusiasts of art and culture will not be disappointed by the region’s Villes d’Art: Lyon, which is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, Annecy, Grenoble, Chambéry, and Saint Etienne.

And last but not least, connoisseurs of good food and wine will be spoilt for choice by the range of local specialities available to taste along with a Beaujolais or a Côtes du Rhône, and by the sheer number of famous restaurants (with Paul Bocuse at the top of the list) in the region.

External links

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