In Alsace you'll experience somewhat of a fascinating blend of Franco-Germanic culture, history, cuisine and even language. Strasbourg is the intellectual, cultural and economic capital of Alsace. Quaint and picturesque, it is steeped in tradition yet oh-so progressive in its outlook. With the second largest river port in France, the history of Strasbourg has always revolved around the nearby Rhine. Today, Strasbourg is important for another reason, sharing the title of European Union Capitol with Brussels and Luxembourg. As such, hungry visitors can expect the menu selection in terms of business men (and women), students and politicians to be quite extensive indeed. Strasbourg is justifiably famous for its Gothic cathedral, featuring a single spire, while most other cathedrals in France and elsewhere have two. But while the spire of Notre Dame de Strasbourg is lonely, you hardly need be. A rich array of gay-popular restaurants, bars, discos and saunas in the region complements more mainstream pursuits of interest like picturesque storybook villages, including Colmar, Obernai, and Riquewihr, as well as a medieval castle, Haut-Koenigsbourg, and numerous wineries. Mulhouse is yet another storybook village but with a little bit more of a rainbow-hued story to tell thanks to its gay bars, disco and sauna.

Alsace is especially popular in December for its many traditional Christmas markets. However, if you plan on visiting during the warmer months, be sure to explore the Route des Crêtes, a romantic crest line drive in the Vosges Mountains, an escape for lovers. From there you can survey the whole Alsatian plain and even see the neighboring Black Forest in Germany as well as the Alps. Its numerous farms and hostels offer a warm welcome for hopeless romantics. Lorraine, subjected to invasions throughout the centuries, including those of World Wars I and II, it is today home of the Centre Mondial de la Paix in Verdun, whose mission is to ensure that mankind never forgets past wars. To get a more comprehensive overview of Lorraine, you must visit the Musée Historique Lorrain in its capital, Nancy. The museum is housed in the 13th-century Ducal Palace. Other must-sees in Nancy include the Place Stanislas, a masterpiece of harmony; the Fine Arts Museum, displaying works from the 14th through 20th centuries; and the Musée de l'École de Nancy, a perfect introduction to your exploration of Art Nouveau in the city. Of course, where there is art, there is also a strong gay presence and influence, so be sure to keep your eyes pealed for more contemporary masterpieces. Lorraine's other hotspot of gay and lesbian activity is located in Metz. It is also the birthplace of the French poet, Verlaine. A floral city with fine yellow stone façades, it's easy to see how Metz inspired the poet. Metz also inspires its gay visitors with five gay bars, two gay discos, a gay sauna, a gay cinema, gay restaurants, and a half dozen or so public places for all those impromptu rendezvous. Whether or not you have confessions to make during your gay stay in Metz, be sure to visit the gothic Cathedral of Saint Stephen, known as "God's Lantern" due to its stained-glass windows covering an area of 6,500 square meters. To purify your body as much as your soul, don't miss the Mirabelle (local yellow prune) festival in August. Festivities open with the election of a "Queen" and her heir apparent, so see you there.

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