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France


Official Name (French Republic) Republique Francaise
Capital Paris
Population 65,821,885
Area 260,558 square miles
Currency Euro, CFA France
Religion Christianity
Literacy 99%
Languages French
Major Cities Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille
Climate Cool winters and mild summers
France or République Française refers to Metropolitan France - the mainland in Western Europe, French Guiana in South America, Guadeloupe (the archipelago in the Caribbean Sea), Martinique Island (north of Trinidad and Tobago), and Reunion (in the Indian Ocean). Covering a land area of 643,427 sq km in all and 551,500 sq km in metropolitan France alone, it is the second country largest in Europe. France is also the most popular tourist destination of the world. Over 75 million visitors annually visit the country. Metropolitan France is bound by the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the English Channel and Strait of Dover to the north-west, Belgium and Luxembourg to the north-east, Germany and Switzerland to the west, Italy and the Mediterranean Sea to the south-east and Spain to the south-west. France is known for its stunning scenic beauty, the varied culture of the French regions, the fiercely cultural loyalty, haute couture, radical thought and the scrumptious cuisine of the land.

France is the 10th largest economy in the world with a GDP of $2.16 trillion as of 2010. The unemployment rate in the country, however, has also gone up from 9.1% in 2009 to 9.5% in 2010. Also, the country's international debt amounts to $4.698 trillion (2010), the 5th highest in the world. France imports machinery, vehicles and aircrafts, crude oil, and chemicals, amounting to about $577.7 billion. The major crops are wheat, cereals, potatoes, and wine grapes.

Arc de Triomphe

A teeming population of over 64,700,000 inhabitants makes France the 21st most populous country in the world and among the most inhabited countries of the European Union. The country has been the center of political and cultural developments in Europe for over a thousand years. Over 77% of the country's population lives in cities. About 85% of the French population is Roman Catholic and about 2 % is Protestant. The cultural advancement of the country is evident from the fact that 99% of the people are literate. France has come a long way from being the home of the troubadours and Carthar religion to being the center of fashion and fine dining. French brands such as L'Oreal, BNP Paribas, Pierre Cardin, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Air France, Sodexho, AXA, Air Liquede, Saint Gobain, Alstom, Vivendi, Renault, Michelin and Alcatel Lucent are among the premier brands known and liked the world over.

French History:
A study of the history of France shows conclusively that the Neanderthals, the earliest human beings, lived here even as early as 90,000 BC. The regions around Dordorgne were studied by archeologists. These archeologists suggest that these men lived in caves and hunted with crude stone weapons. The history of the country suggests that the Cro – Magnons lived here in about 55,000 BC and their cave drawings are evidences of the evolution of mankind itself. Stone Age settlers of Brittany left further evidences in the form of pots and tools, fabric, weapons, and agricultural implements. Celtic Gauls inhabited France from 1500 BC and maritime trade in the country is said to have seen its origin during this time. The region further saw conflict between these Gallic tribes and the early Romans led by Julius Caesar. The emergent blend of Gallic and Roman traditions left a rich legacy of culture and architecture, the most advanced of the age.

In about the 5th century AD, the tribes known as the Franks, invaded the land and made it their own. The Franks adopted Christianity but also imposed their own colorful culture on the natives. It is believed that the country derived its name ‘France” from the Franks who called the land their home. The land saw many feuds under the rule of the Franks.

By the 700’s Charlemagne emerged as a powerful ruler and his conquests made him the undisputed emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. By the 9th century, the western fringes of France were again under attack, this time by the infamous Vikings of Scandinavia. William, the Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1066, emerged victorious in the Battle of Hastings, and ruled over England.

Eleanor, the Duchess of Aquitaine, was another important person in the history of France. Having initially wed Louis VII, Eleanor reigned as the queen consort of France from 1137 to 1152. Eleanor was responsible for introduction of rich literature and culture to the French court. She patronized a number of poets and troubadours. Eleanor was woman of Languedoc, through and through. Besides, Eleanor had not yet given birth to a son. These reasons caused displeasure in the royal household. The marriage was soon annulled. Eleanor subsequently wed Henry II, Duke of the Normans, who was crowned the monarch of England in 1154. Eleanor, now queen consort, reigned England from 1154–1189. Aquitaine, was now under English dominion. These incidents festered an Anglo-Frank rivalry that lasted over 3 centuries. This rivalry also resulted in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) in which France lost quite a bit of its territory to England. The early 15th century also saw the rise of Joan of Arc. She prompted the French and Charles VIII to recapture the land and reclaim French sovereignty. By 1453, Charles VIII had managed to unite almost all of France and free the country from British dominion.

The 16th century saw the Renaissance movement sweep over most of Europe. In France this period was marked by flourishing art and architecture, the spirit of free thought and the growth of literature. The ensuing Wars of Religion and the rise of Protestant religion in France may have well been on the cards ever since the Carthar religion succumbed to the Crusades in the 13th century. Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV ruled the country over the next century but proved rather shortsighted rulers. Their contribution to efficient administration of the country was hardly significant.

By the turn of the 18th century, the French monarchy had alienated the masses. The spirit of rebellion was further fuelled by writers such as and Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire. The 18th century also saw further deterioration in the financial situation of the French exchequer. Discontent mounted with Louis XVI's marriage to Marie-Antoinette, the Archduchess of Austria. The lavish lifestyle of the royal household, weak heirs, rumors of moral excesses, and treason led to dissent of the highest order. Louis's dismissal of the Estates General's demands for a democratic approach and for the institution of the National Assembly further fuelled the outbreak of the French Revolution. The prison of Bastille was raided, monarchy overthrown, and a year of anarchy and terror reigned supreme. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were decreed to the guillotine. Thousands of erstwhile noblefolk were tried and guillotined publicly in a spectacle of absolute anarchy. Social order was restored only after the establishment of a Directoire (Directory) to rule the newly formed republic.

In the early 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte, a general, quickly upturned the Directorie to assume a lifelong role of consul of the First Empire. His coronation in 1804 further strengthened his position. Napoleon embarked on a conquest of Europe and was halted only by the torturous Russian winter. The following years saw a steady decline in his fortunes first at the hands of the allied forces of Prussia, Austria, Sweden, Britain, Spain, and Portugal, and then in the form of a forced exile. His ‘Hundred Days’ comeback to Paris was short-lived and having lost the Battle of Waterloo, he was again exiled. Napoleon died in 1821.

The 1848 Revolution saw the reigns of the country’s administration pass from Louis - Philippe to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who declared himself emperor, forming a Second Empire. France suffered huge losses in the Crimean War (1853–56) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and the subsequent demand for the establishment of a Third Republic was welcomed by the people. The Third Republic was a period of stability. Revival of French art and architecture enriched the country’s culture and put an amicable end to the Anglo-French rivalry in terms of colonization.

A quick succession of two World Wars in which France participated actively left the country economically devastated but ultimately victorious. Germany's occupation of France during the World War I had caused untold damage to the country's economic resources and infrastructure.

The Fourth Republic was established with the victory of the Allied Forces. The Republic saw much growth in terms of international recognition and alliances. The Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) exposed France’s economic and military weakness. Charles de Gaulle assumed Presidency in the new Fifth Republic that was subsequently formed. Ever since, France has consolidated its position in the European Union and also built a strong economy and administration.

MapsofWorld Trivia: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." Many such cheeky quotes have been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. His letters to his wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, are classic romance and many of them are still preserved in Paris. Napoleon’s last words were “France, armée, tête d'armée, Joséphine." - France, army, head of the army, Joséphine - those he loved the most.

Geography of France:
The location of the Alps, Pyrenees, and Vosges ranges give Metropolitan France a cool climate with mild, equitable summers. The Mediterranean coastal regions including the beautiful French Riviera enjoy a more humid and torrid summer but the winters are definitely less snippy. The landmass is prone to a cold but dry northwesterly wind known locally as Mistral. The high altitude ski resorts etc. expect snowfall and a white Christmas late in December. Leisure and business travelers prefer the spring months (March - mid May) to visit France. In summer (June - September), the southern coasts attract a large number of tourists. A number of French festivals such as Bastille Day celebrations, Nice Carnival, International Women's Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival and Tour de France attract enthusiasts in February, April and July. French Guiana and Reunion enjoy tropical climate. Reunion is drier than French Guiana due to the elevation. A humid, cyclonic climate prevails in the sub tropical regions of Guadeloupe and Martinique. The highest and lowest points of France are Mont Blanc (4,807 m) and Rhone River delta (-2 m) respectively. The major rivers that crisscross the country are the Yonne, the Seine, the Saone, the Rhone, the Rhine, the Loire, the Doubs and the Charente. The natural hazards the mainland faces are floods and forest fires in the south coast and avalanches and windstorms in the higher elevations.

Travel to France:
The 26 administrative regions (including the overseas regions) that make up the French Republic are Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Lower Normandy, Burgundy, Brittany, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corsica, Franche-Comte, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Upper Normandy, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Martinique, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Reunion, and Rhone-Alpes. Paris, the capital, is a cultural and tourist center and is know for its impressive architecture, interesting museums and cosmopolitan culture.

Paris, Alsace and Lorraine, Normandy, Brittany, the Loire, Burgundy, the Pyrenees, Languedoc, the Alps, the Cote d’Azur, Provence, and the Rhone Valley are perhaps the most visited regions of the country. Each boasts of its quintessential brasseries and bistros, its festive revelries, its mind-blowing cuisine and its rich history. A vacation in France assures you of unbridled fun, excellent learning and a lifetime of memories. While the Eiffel Tower needs no introduction, Bastille Day celebrations attract visitors to the country by the hoards. Connoisseurs of French wine come here to cherish the luscious wine straight from the breweries while historians and architects visit the Châteaux on the Loire to study the advanced engineering techniques of old world France. The old world culture and a history of crusades, World Wars, and the French Revolution add to the mystique of a vacation in France.

France offers a myriad variety of travel opportunities. From ecotourism to art and culture travel, from religious pilgrimages to romantic honeymoons, wine and cuisine festivals to skiing or beach holidays, nature trials to business travel France tops the choices of tourists worldwide. The hospitality industry has grown tremendously to keep pace with this stupendous influx of visitors.

Paris Métro is the best transport to getting around Paris. Other preferred modes of public transport in the city are the bus, the tram, and RER suburban trains. Mobilis tickets, valid for a day's worth of travel within the city make sightseeing in the city inexpensive. Trams and excellent bus services are a great way of getting around other French cities. MapsofWorld provides city maps of all major cities in France. Do make sure you are carrying these when you travel to France.

MapsofWorld tip: Tourists are required to pay a Tourism Tax during their stay in France. The tax is usually added to the hotel bill or apartment rent. Do check with your hotel while confirming arrangements.

Air, Land and Sea links: Excellent bus links make getting to France from various Europran cities easy. Busabout, the bus services connect Paris, Nice and Avignon with over 36 European cities. Discounted passes are best for those with 'Europe in a shoestring' plans. Affordable car rentals and motorcycles on rent are also available for tourists wanting to take the road connect. But do ensure that the vehicles you hire have the necessary permits to enter the country. The Channel Tunnel passes underneath the English Channel and connects France with the UK. Eurotunnel shuttle trains carry cars and bikes and their passengers across the Channel. Other train services connect France with countries such as Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland. Eurostar is a preferred train service that connects London and Paris. France has air links with virtually every major city in the world. All major airlines fly to and from the Paris Charles De Gaulle airport and the Paris-Orly airport. The ACI World Airport Traffic Report 2009 pegs the traffic handled by both these airports at over 57,900, 000 (passengers handled) and 26,000,000 (boardings) respectively. Air France KLM flies to over 240 destinations internationally and is part of the SkyTeam network that offers global connectivity. The first European airline to provide passengers a flight on their A380 crafts, Air France KLM boast of an impressive fleet for their long, medium, short and regional haul flights. Calais, Dunkerque, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, and Rouen are the major ports of the country. Ferry services across the English Channel and from Ireland are a slower but inexpensive way to get to France. Italian ferries take about half a day to get to France from Italy. Cargo ships carrying passengers connect France with USA and Canada.

France - State and Military:
France is a semi presidential republic and in the constitution proclaims the country to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic". The constitution of the Fifth Republic of France was approved in 1958 and empowers the President of the Republic with a number of executive powers making the French governance a unique one. The President heads the state and executive and is elected by universal suffrage for a term of 5 years. The President shares his executive powers with the Prime Minister and the two work together to appoint the Council of Ministers and form the government. The President is the supreme commander of the French military and presides over the weekly meetings of the cabinet. The ministers are the policy makers and also submit bills, for legislation, to the Parliament for approval by both the chambers.

The Parliament is bicameral and has two houses, the lower house (national assembly) and the Sénat (Senate). The Députés or the members of the parliament are elected in the general elections that take place every five years. There are two rounds of elections.

The French judiciary is independent of the executive and legislature, thus adhering to separation of powers in the true sense. The handbook of French civil law is called the Code Civil, the basic principles of which were laid in the Napoleonic Code.

France has a multi party system of governance. The main political parties are the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the Nouveau Centre, the Mouvement Démocratique, the Parti Socialiste, the parti Communiste Français and the Les Verts.

The French army (Armee de Terre), the navy (Marine Nationale), and the air force (Armee de l’Air), together employ about 347,000 personnel. The military employs both male and female personnel aged between 17 and 40 for voluntary military service. There is currently no conscription in the French military. As of 2010, France spends about 2.5% of its GDP on defence. France is also a known nuclear power with over 300 nuclear warheads.

The beauty of France lies in the country’s fierce loyalty to the history, legacy and culture while also being one of the world's major superpowers. A founding member of the United Nations, France is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and enjoys the 'Veto' in matters of international decision-making. France enjoys active membership in FAO, G-20, G-5, G-8, IHO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, NATO, OECD, UNESCO, Union Latina, and WHO. A founding member, France holds an important position the European Union and houses diplomatic missions in most of the countries of the world.

Culture of France:
Art and Architecture: France is known as the cultural capital of Europe. Fine arts and architecture thrived in France under the patronage of the French monarchs. Art in France was heavily influenced by the neighboring Italy. Pissarro, Manet, Renoir and Monet are among the best known French painters of the world. Their paintings are assets collected by art collectors the world over. Some of the renowned painters of the world lived in and worked out of France. Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci spent very fruitful years in the country and produced some fine pieces of art in. France.

A map of France is dotted with the most beautiful Gothic and Romanesque architectural marvels of Europe. The Cathédrale St-Lazare in Autun and the Saint Sernin Basilica in Toulouse are classic examples. The Châteaus in the Loire valley are some of the best palace-residences in Europe. Most of these have been converted to luxury hotels and yet their distinct grace and splendor have been retained. The Château de Chambord and the Château d'Amboise are exemplary architectural marvels. The Baroque era saw the construction of Palace of Versailles and Arc de Triomphe represents post Revolution French architecture. The Eiffel Tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel and was built in 1889 to be the tallest structure in the world. French architecture has in current years been recognized as the perfect blend of innovative design and great structural engineering.

MapsofWorld Trivia: Leonardo da Vinci, the renowned Italian painter, spent his last years at Château de Cloux, in Le Clos Luce by the Loire. Francis I brought him to France and assigned him a generous pension. Francis and Leonardo are said to have enjoyed a cordial relationship. Francis often referred to the artist as his father. Leonardo brought with him the famous Mona Lisa, which is still on display in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He spent his last years in peace, teaching French artists many art techniques and enjoyed great respect in France.

Language, Literature and Media: French is the official language and MapsofWorld recommends English speaking tourists to carry an English-French dictionary. This should make negotiations and reading signs easy. Besides French, European languages including German and Italian are spoken in France. English is spoken in most tourist centers. The French are very courteous people. A few greetings in French and a warm smile help tourists in most cities.

While the origin of French literature can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages, the use of regional dialects was pronounced in the literature of this time. While Langues d'oïl was more popular with court poets and scribes, Langue d'Oc was preferred by the troubadours who immortalized the love stories in their works. The 16th and 17th centuries saw the rise of great thinkers such as Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal, and Jean de La Fontaine. Descartes mathematical and philosophical treatises are studied the world over. Later critiques by Voltaire and JJ Rousseau were clear expositions in popular political philosophy.

You are in love with France and French literature. So are we at MapsofWorld. Here’s a list of 10 books by French authors or set in France that you will enjoy:
  • Les Misérables Victor Hugo
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame Victor Hugo
  • The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas
  • The Count of Monte-Cristo Alexandre Dumas
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne
  • Around The World In 80 Days Jules Verne
  • Madame Bovary Gustave Flauber
  • Being and Nothingness Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Little Prince Antoine de Saint Exupéry
  • All Things Are Lights Robert Shea
The most popular French daily is the Le Monde. Other dailies that enjoy a high circulation in France are the Le Figaro, Liberation (founded by Jean-Paul Sartre), L’Humanite and Aujourd’hui. English newspapers such as Washington Post, New York Times, and the European are available in most cities. Radio France is the public radio service available and owns seven stations in the country. British, Canadian and American radio stations also operate in France. TF1 is the most popular television channel but the availability of cable channels has the world at your doorsteps in France.

MapsofWorld Trivia: Although written by American author, Robert Shea, ‘All Things Are Lights’ is believed to be one of the best fictional accounts of the fall of Montségur. The book describes Cartharism, the forbidden religion of 13th century France. The novel builds around the legend of alchemical books and the chalice popularly known as the 'Holy Grail', being whisked away before the Carthar Perfectii, singing, entered a fire to escape conversion. It also describes graphically, the intrigues, politics and l'amour courtois of the French courts in the early 13th century.

French Music and Cinema: Music in France originated from the rich tradition of troubadours. Renaissance France saw a number of court musicians such as François Couperin, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean-Baptiste Lully enjoy stature and wealth. Classical music flourished in France and maestros such as Jean-Philippe Rameau, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Pierre Boulez and Francis Poulenc are known for their exceptional contribution to music. Opera thrived in France and operatic music became famous in the 19th century. The late 20th and the 21st centuries have seen an upsurge in pop, jazz and rock culture in keeping with the rest of the world. France hosts a number of pop and jazz festivals every year and these are very popular with the country’s youth.

The history of cinema in France is as old as the history of cinema itself. The Lumière brothers are credited with screening the earliest cinema at the Grand Cafe on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. This event in December 1895 marks the advent of movie screenings in history. The launch of Cinémathèque Française (1936) and Les Cahiers du Cinéma are significant events that mark the evolution of French cinema.

L’exception Culturelle allows for French cinema to be treated differently from cinema of other countries. Such a cultural exception was negotiated by France as part of the GATT. France advocated the exclusion of culture from the WTO designated liberalized sectors. France won a huge mandate in favor of such cultural exception in the UNESCO in 2005.

MapsofWorld Trivia: The Le Festival de Cannes (The Cannes Film Festival) was scheduled to be launched in the year 1939. The outbreak of World War II halted the launch. The determined French patiently waited and launched the festival on September 20, 1946 marking the indomitable spirit of cultural victory over warfare. The much coveted Palme d'Or was first given away in 1955.

  Film Festivals of France  
FestivalWhereWhen
Annency - International Animation Film FestivalAnnencyJune
Brest Europen Short Film FestivalBrestNovember
Cannes Film FestivalCannesApril
Côté Court FestivalSeine-Saint-DenisJune
International Documentary Film Festival of MarseilleMarseilleJuly
International Human Rights Films Festival of ParisParisMarch
International Women's Film FestivalCréteilApril
Strasbourg International Film FestivalStrasbourgAugust

French Fashion - Haute Couture: Fashion has always been a national preoccupation in France. The French are extremely conscious of their clothes, accessories and perfumes. France is home to the luxurious 'haute couture' and French fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, Adeline André, and Carlota Alfaro use the ‘haute couture’ tag to signify exclusive creations that guarantee a controlled production environment and quality standards. French fashion premiers including Nina Ricci, Pierre Cardin, Emilio Pucci, Guy Laroche, and Cartier have made France popular in the world of fashion. In the 1960's French designers diversified into mass production of clothes and 'ready to wear outfits'.

MapsofWorld Trivia: The use of perfumes is known to have grown in France under the patronage of the French nobility. So much so, that the court of Louis XV came to be known as "le cour parfumee". His official mistress, Madame de Pompadour, is said to have emptied the French exchequer by ordering the most expensive perfumes in great quantities. Many years later, Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte's wife, is said to have used such copious quantities of musk that her chambers smelt of it even sixty years after her death.

Sports in France:
Sports and sporting events in France are so fervently followed, debated, and discussed, that one tends to wonder why sports isn’t the official religion yet. It was in France that the initial prototype of the bicycle was made and the first cycle race held. Tour de France, the 3 week cycling race is one of the premier sporting events of the country. The champion receives a jersey from the French President and the adulation of the cheering masses who gather on the Champs- Élysées. Besides the Tour de France, France hosts a number of other cycling events including the Grand Prix des Nations and Paris- Roubaix. These races are attended by cyclists from across the world.

Then again, Football is the national religion. Home turf proved exceptionally lucky when in 1998 Paris hosted the FIFA World Cup Finals and the French team won. All of France resounded with the victory. The national football team is also credited with two European Championship wins in the years 1984 and 2000. Football clubs across France participate in the prestigious Ligue 1. Some of the famous football legends from France include Zinadine Zidane, Michel Platini, and Didier Deschamps.

Rugby is another sport that is followed with a lot of interest in France. The southwestern regions of the country are perhaps more inclined to this sport than the rest of the country. The national Rugby team reached the World Cup finals in 1999, the semi-finals in 2003 and 2007 and also hosted the World Cup in 2007. Every year the national team participates in the Six Nations Tournament. The rugby league matches also have avid followers.

The French Open is one of the four Grand Slams held annually. It is one of the premier tennis tournaments held in the world and is hosted at Paris between May and June. A number of other sporting events are held in the country including the Grand Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October.

Skiing and snowboarding are popular in France and the country has seen a steady rise in the number of tourists visiting the popular ski resorts in the Pyrenees and Alps. The southern coast of France attracts a number of tourists interested in windsurfing, parasailing and diving.

French Food – Subtle Delights:
French cuisine is loved and hated by the non- French for the same reason – their inability to reproduce authentic French cuisine and retain the sublime favors. If you are given to heavily spiced food, tangy, rich sauces and heady aromas, you should probably stick to the many international restaurants that are opening up in Paris and other cities. Authentic French cuisine is for the connoisseurs of sublime flavors, innovative use of fresh, local ingredients, tasty cheese and wines that can only be described as delightful. Breakfast usually comprises a light croissant or pastry, fruits, cereals and cheese washed down with a yummy hot chocolate or coffee. The quaint, local patisseries serve a delightful platter of light meals for breakfast. Lunch, in France, is an elaborate affair. While a light soup serves as an appetizer, you may want to choose from a variety of Crêpes. These pancakes come with a variety of fillings. While buckwheat crêpes, called galettes are the preferred main course, the sweet crêpes filled with chocolate, dried fruits and cheese make for a wholesome dessert. Pizzerias are popular in the tourist cities of France and serve a variety of au feu du bois pizzas, pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens. An assortment of salads is offered at restaurants and tourists are often spoilt for choice. A lighter meal of Croque provencal or Croque monsieur, frites, and cheese is preferred by tourists with young children. Dinner, again, is usually an elaborate, many-course meal starting with aperitifs and hors d'oeuvre, lasting through a meat or sausage dish, cassoulet stew, truffles and salads, a platter of cheeses, fruits and elaborate pastries or glaces for dessert.

The French never fail to recall, with glee, Charles de Gaulle’s famous statement, ‘How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?’ France, a known cheese lovers’ paradise is the best place to sample the indigenous varieties including Abondance, Camembert de Normandie and Sainte-Maure de Touraine. A local fromagerie or cheese shop shall gladly guide you through the best local cheeses.

French cuisine is incomplete without a mention of the ubiquitous French wines. The country’s wines are rated among the best in the world. Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) certified wines are wines that are produced under a strictly controlled environment. From the sparkling Champagne to the rich Griotte-Chambertin right upto the light Rosette, French wines are paired in keeping with the course and composition of meal served. Authentic AOC wines are best bought from Cooperatifs Vinicoles where you shall receive expert guidance in deciphering the labels. Most good restaurants have a knowledgeable maître d’hôtel to assist with the wine - meal pairing.

On a lighter note: The French hate people who order a soft drink to accompany an elaborate haute cuisine meal.

MapsofWorld Trivia: "Let them eat cake", is believed to be the response of Marie Antoinette, Queen-consort of Louis XVI, to complaints that the masses did not have bread to eat. Historians, however, vehemently deny this and put it down to one of the many efforts at courtly slander. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in ‘Confessions’ speaks of a great princess who made a similar statement and historians guess that this princess could well be Marie-Thérèse of Austria, wife of Louis XIV.

France is known as the land of Festivals. Besides the sporting events, France holds a number of food and wine, music, and performing art festivals. Besides these, regional fetes are marked by colorful clothes, dance, music, and feasting. The locals participate in gaiety and keep the spirit of tradition and fun alive.

FestivalWhereWhen
Music Festivals
Banlieues BleuesSeine-Saint-DenisMarch
Colmar International FestivalColmarJuly
Festival De Saint-DenisParisJune
Festival Interceltique de LorientLorientJuly
Festival des VieillesCarhaixJuly
Fete de la MusiqueParisJune
Jazz A VienneVinneJune
Jazz in MarciacGasconyAugust
Les Azuriales Opera FestivalCap FerratAugust
Les Escales du Cargo ArlesJuly
Les Eurockéennes de BelfortBelfortJuly
Les Nuits Electroniques de L'OsosphereStrasbourgSeptember
Nancy Jazz Pulsations NancyOctober
Nice Jazz FestivalNiceJuly
Serres Jazz FestivalSerresJuly
TignesFestTignesApril
Toulouse les Orgues Festival InternationalToulouseOcober
Performing Arts and Historical Festivals
Bastille DayParisJuly
Balaruc-le-Vieux Medieval FestivalBalaruc-le-VieuxJuly
Bellyfusions FestivalFranceJanuary
Bird King FestivalLe Puy-en-VelaySeptember
Fest-Noz , Fest-DiezBrittanyAll-Year
Festival d'Automne a ParisParisSeptember
Festival d'AvignonAvignonJuly
Festival Mondial des Theatres de MarionnettesCharleville-MézièresSeptember
Fêtes de BayonneBayonneJuly
Nice CarnivalNiceFebruary
Paris Parade FestivalParisDecember
Sedan Medieval FestivalSedanMay
Sommieres Medieval FairSommieresApril
Food & Wine Festivals
Bocuse d'OrLyonJanuary
Bordeaux Wine FestivalBordeauxJune
La PourcailhadeTrie Sur BaiseAugust

MapsofWorld recommends: 10 Paris Attractions You Must Not Miss:
Eiffel Tower - The Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure in Paris, was also the tallest in the world when its construction ended (1889). This brilliant iron lattice structure is the global symbol of Paris the world over. The tower itself is over 300 meters tall and weighs about 10,000 tonnes.
The Louvre - The Musée du Louvre housed in the Palais du Louvre is one of the world's biggest art museum in terms of size, footfall and collection. The Louvre houses over 35,000 objects d’art and paintings including the renowned Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and the crown jewels of Louis XV.
Sainte-Chapelle - La Sainte-Chapelle, consecrated in 1248, is a breathtaking piece of Gothic architecture and a much revered chapel in Paris. Commissioned by Louis IX, the Holy Chapel is noted for its stained glass windows, its sculptures and its arced ceilings. A definite must-visit.

Notre Dame Cathedral - The Cathédrale de Notre Dame is a favorite among the Parisian places of interest. Perhaps it is the magnificent French Gothic architecture, perhaps it is the purity of the Catholic spirit here; then again, it could be centuries old history of the church. Whatever the reason, over 10 million visitors are said to come here every year and most do not fail to come back.

Champs Élysées – The Avenue des Champs-Élysées houses some of the best mansions in Paris and has more recently become synonymous with upscale shopping. With the arrival of brands such as Adidas, Benetton, Zara, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton, the Champs Élysées is one of the best shopping arcades of the world. This is also the most expensive real estate location in France.

Musée d'Orsay - The Musée d'Orsay located on the left bank of the Seine is a museum that houses a mind-blowing collection of Post Impressionist art. Some of the renowned artists whose works are displayed here include Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

Jardin du Luxembourg – Jardin du Luxembourg, the garden of the French Senate, on Rue de Vaugirard is the largest public park in Paris, second only to the Tuileries Gardens. The puppet theatre and the Fontaine de Medicis only serve to make the garden more popular with visitors and locals alike.

Musée Jacquemart-André - The Musée Jacquemart-André is a public museum that displays the magnificent art collection of Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart. Designed by architect Henri Parent, the mansion itself is a stunning piece of architecture.

Puces de St-Ouen – The Puces de St-Ouen is probably the world’s largest flea market. So if you decide to buy antiques, bric-a-brac, and inexpensive household treasures, Puces de St-Ouen is just the place to be. The market is open officially from 9 am to 7 pm Saturday to Monday.

Musée Rodin - The Musée Rodin in Paris was opened to the public in 1919 and displays the works and personal effects of Auguste Rodin. Some of the prominent displays here include his sculptures, The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell. Also on display here are paintings collected by Rodin by great artists such as Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh.

France is the land of free thought and sophisticated culture. French philosophers have also been actively involved in socio-cultural movements. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘On the Social Contract’ is said to have laid the foundation for democratic governance in many countries. Jean–Paul Sartre defended Marxism vehemently in his ‘Critique of Dialectical Reason’ and emphasized the humanist values of Marxist philosophy in social organization. Simone de Beauvoir, author of ‘The Second Sex’, is often referred to as mother of the modern feministic movement. The French society very closely reflects this philosophical outlook.

France is a multifaceted country. French folklore and Charles Perrault's fairytales are part of early leaning, the world over. French political consciousness blends well with the country's architectural skill to fashion the most amazing structures. A classic example is The Statue of Liberty, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi. The statue is France's gift to the United States. The beauty of the Riviera, the enthralling perfumes, luscious wines, diverse culture, and booming industry make France a favorite of the world.

Last Updated : March 18, 2014


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