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Le Nord-Est de France
In the Northeast, Haut-de-France is historically connected with Dutch Flanders and Wallonia of Southern Belgium; Grand Est has certain German ties, particularly in Alsace but also part of Lorraine.
Historic cultural distinctions still exist and can be identified in the 5 former regions of Northern France that were combined into 2 larger regions in 2016 for administrative, political, and fiscal purposes. Each region maintains smaller administrative départements, similar to counties in the US, with an appointed préfecture, or administrative main city, like a county seat.
Northern Regions > City préfecture (Département)
♦ Nord-Pas de Calais
- Lille, Haut-de-France region capital (Nord)
- Arras (Pas de Calais)
- Amiens (Somme)
- Laon (Aisne)
- Beauvais (Oise) + Chantilly, Senlis
- Strasbourg, Grand Est region capital (Bas Rhin)
- Colmar (Haut Rhin)
- Metz (Moselle)
- Nancy (Meurthe et Moselle)
- Épinal (Vosges)
- Bar le Duc (Meuse)
- Charleville Méziéres (Ardenne)
- Chalons en Champagne (Marne)
- Troyes (Aube)
- Chamont (Haute Marne)
Cities of Hauts-de-France
Bordered by the North Sea and Belgium in the north of France, Hauts-de-France is a merger of two of its former regions: Nord-Pas de Calais (north) and Picardie (south) with five departments and the regional capital of Lille, the fourth-largest urban area in France. The region has a strong heritage of mulquineries in the art of linen weaving and trading.
Due to most of Nord-Pas de Calais belonging to 15th- to 17th-century Netherlands, a strong Dutch-Flemish influence remains in the area of Nord-Pas de Calais. This low-lying area has long been heavy in industry, historically focused on coal mining and textiles, today leads automobile and food production. The most populated Nord department bordering Belgium has roots as historic Flanders and Hainaut (see Belgium) where the Flamand (Dutch) dialect is decreasingly spoken. Pas-de-Calais (English Strait of Dover) department along the English Channel (La Manche) is the entry point of the Eurostar highspeed train via the Channel Tunnel.
Forests, canals, and rivers comprise the remaining three departments (Somme, Oise, Aisne) of what was Picardie with its own strong cultural identity. Although the Picard (Romance) dialect is severely endangered and is known as the birthplace of Gothic architecture with six Gothic cathedrals in the communes of Amiens, Noyon, Soissons, Beauvais, Laon, and Senlis.
A bucket of mussels and a basket of fries, moules-frites, is a Belgian favorite that is popular, particularly in the Nord province of Haute-d-France. Abbaye de Belval is a traditional cow’s milk Trappist cheese. Particular to northern Nord-Pas de Calais is Maroilles, a soft cow’s milk cheese with an orange rind used in a regional tart, and sucre vergeoise, a brown sugar obtained from sugar beets. Flemish Waterzooï is a traditional fish stew with carrots, potatoes, herbs, leeks melted with butter, cream, and eggs; like a terrine, Potjevleesch is a Flemish meat dish of cold chicken, rabbit, veal in jelly.
Products of the departments of Picardie include dairy, cheese, vegetables, and white beans from Soissons. Ficelle Picarde, rolled crèpes stuffed with ham, cheese, and mushrooms, topped with more cheese and baked, is a classic Picardy dish. Pâté de canard d’Amiens en croute is a duck paté in thick pastry from the early 1640s; Flamiche aux Poireaux is a pie with leeks, creme fraiche, a touch of butter from the late 18th century; Chantilly cream is whipped with a pod of vanilla; Gâteau Battu is a moist brioche-like cake, typical as an Easter dessert.
Nord-Pas de Calais is known for Flemish architecture, while Picardie has beautiful cathedrals, churches, and abbeys, such as Château de Chantilly and Château de Compiègne.
Hauts-de-France includes 2 major cities: the regional capital of Lille and the Picardie prefecture of Amiens. Amiens Cathedral, the Mining Basin, and several Flemish belfries are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Many battlefields from the World Wars are located in Haut-de-France.
Grand Est is a large, diverse region bordered to the north and east by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland that combined former regions of Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne-Ardenne.
Although French is the official language of all of France, Alsacian is a regional language, similar to Swiss-German, spoken in Alsace and part of Lorraine. Francique is a Germanic dialect spoken by some in the Moselle department of Lorraine. In the rest of Lorraine, some speak the francophone Lorrain (langue d’oil) dialect; some in Champagne speak the francophone champenois.