In the US regional differences are stretched out for miles and miles. Even though are regions and landscapes can be incredibly diverse, the change from one to another is fairly gradual and you often have to drive a long way before anything changes.
Not the case in France. Just taking the area Lyon, you have to the east flatlands with small lakes and ponds, and if you go further, you run into the Alps. To the northwest, vineyards and rolling hills with naturally ochre colored stone for building constructions, and further west still the Loire river valley and then, the Massif Centrale, dormant volcanoes which make up a small, low, mountain-like range. Not to mention due south, where you can find prehistoric caves, or the north where you eventually leave the Beaujolais vineyards for Burgundy vineyards.
All of these changes are within about a 2 hours drive of Lyon.
But it's not only landscape we're dealing with, it's also regional identity, and of course food. Each region, and each city in many cases, has its own identity, history, and local artistic and culinary traditions. This is one of the elements I love about France: by moving just a little, you can discover a completely new region and local culture.
These local traditions are often protected and celebrated. For example, architecture in many regions is controlled, so that protected historic buildings cannot be architecturally changed and so that new buildings reflect the existing architectural style.
To illustrate these regional changes, we'll take a visual tour of the East of France, moving from Strasbourg in the North, all the way down to Marseille in the South, a distance of about 800 km or about 500 miles. These are all pictures I've taken over the years as I've had the opportunity to explore many of France's different regions.
We start our tour with Strasbourg in the North. Strasbourg is on the border with Germany (there's literally a bridge you can take to walk over the Rhine river to Germany). The German influences are obvious in the architecture and in the food, a local specialty is chouchroute, a dish including different sausages and sauerkraut. You can also see remnants of the Alsatian language in this part of France, very similar looking and sounding to German.
|Kougelhopf pastries, Strasbourg|
Moving south we arrive in the Burgundy wine country, the region the city of Dijon is in. Burgundy is known for sophisticated, often 'mineral' tasting wines and colorful roof tiles.
|Beaune, typical Burgundy roof tiling|
|lake in the Jura region, Franche-Comté|
|Lyon, view of Rhône river|
view of Lyon
In Lyon itself we can see strong Italian influences in the architecture and history.
|Lyon, old town|
Heading south from Lyon we enter into the regions that are considered the true south of France, starting with the area around Avignon. As you can see, this part of France is littered with Roman ruins, the theater in Orange and the amphitheater in Nîmes are great examples.
|Aix-en-Provence, Place Albertas|
|Aix-en-Provence, Hôtel de Ville|
|Marseille, Ile de Frioul|
|Marseille, view of Old Port|
The Mediterranean itself obviously has beautiful scenery, with many small fishing ports and secluded beaches located along the coast.
|Carry-le-Rouet, Mediterranean coast|
|Sausset-les-pins, Mediterranean coast|
I hope you've enjoyed this short tour through the east of France.
I love discovering new places in France, with their local traditions and specialities. Even though I feel I've seen quite a bit now, there is still so much more to discover!