Humans have been living in France for an estimated 1.8 million years. There are many cave drawings in France left from the Paleolithic era. The first colony in France was founded by Greeks in 600 BC in the modern city Marseille, then known as Massalia.
The Franks, a Germanic pagan tribe that gave France its name, settled in Gaul and took it over, dividing the region into four regions for the sons of Frankish King Clovis I. These kingdoms were later reunited by Charlemagne (Charles the Great).
France played a major role during the Crusades from 1095 and 1291.
From 1337 to 1453, France fought with England in the Hundred Year's War, followed by civil wars, known as the Fronde at the same time as a war with Spain from 1635 to 1659.
During the period of European exploration, France established colonies in the New World. The Seven Years War (1756-1763) in the New World resulted in the loss of the New France territories to Britain, under the rule of Louis XV. As a result, France was a major ally of American colonists seeking independence from Britain during the American Revolution, leading to the 1783 Treat of Paris.
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Napoleon Bonaparte took over the Republic in 1799, eventually becoming Emperor. The French empire began conquering Europe, led by Napoleon; until his defeat in 1815.
During the nineteenth century, France became the second largest colonial power of all time, with colonies in North America, Southeast Asia, North, West and Central Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Many of these colonies are still part of the Republic of France. France was an integral part in both World War I and World War II and was a founding member of NATO in 1949.
France is the largest country in western Europe, bordering Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Monaco, and Andorra. The major bodies of water around France are the Mediterranean Sea, English Channel, North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Rhine River. Other major geographic features of France are the Alps, the Pyrenees Mountains, and the Massif Central.
France's other five territories are considered part of the Republic of France and vary in geographical primarily featuring islands.
Because France takes up a large area, the climate varies from one place to another. Areas closer to the Mediterranean have a Mediterranean climate, while the inland climate is a typical continental climate, and the Alps have much more extreme temperatures.
France has been under the Fifth Republic's constitution since September 28, 1958. The government is headed by a President, who is elected by the people and the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President. France has a parliament with a National Assembly and a Senate.
France is divided into twenty-seven regions, which are further divided into 101 departments, then further into arrondissements (341), cantons and finally communes or municipalities. Paris, Lyon and Marseille are three of the major communes in France and these communes are divided into municipal arrondissements.
Five departments of France are overseas, away from the main or metropolitan part of France. These five departments are French Guiana, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion are treated similarly to the departments of metropolitan France. France also has other overseas territories like French Polynesia that are considered collectivities.
France is a very popular destination for travelers from around the world. Known for its chic fashion, romantic atmosphere, sophisticated people and cuisine, France has plenty to offer all types of tourists. Quaint villages in the countryside and big bustling cities and geographic diversity, including the Alps and the French Riviera give travelers many options to choose between.
Paris itself has a plethora of attractions like the iconic Eiffel Tower, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, to the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and the Moulin Rouge. An abundance of other cities in France draw visitors to their beauty, including Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse. With such a long history, there are uncountable historic sites and UNESCO World Heritage sites located in every region of France.
Culture is an important part of the French experience, with food and wine playing a central role. The French are known for being proud of their language and often expect tourists to make some effort in speaking the language during their visit, so it's a good idea to study some commonly used expressions before traveling to France.
France's system of education is handled by the Ministry of National Education, a centralized organization that regulates primary, secondary, and higher education. The education system used in France is credited to Jules Ferry, the Minister of Public Instruction, in the 1880s. School is public and free, and is now mandatory for students between the ages of six and sixteen.
France's education system is ranked twenty-fifth in the world. Because of the Ministry of Eduction, school curriculum is mostly standardized in schools across the country. Primary school lasts from age six to eleven, junior high (collège) lasts from age eleven to fifteen, and high school (lycée) goes from fifteen to eighteen. The grade numbering system in France count starting from grade eleven, which is the first year, to first grade at age sixteen or seventeen, and terminale for seventeen and eighteen year old students. At the end of the final year of secondary schooling, students must take the baccalauréat to qualify for university or a profession.
Higher education in France is state funded, and thus tuition fees are generally very low. Three degrees are available, equivalent to bachelor, master, and doctorate.
France is the most visited country in the world - an estimated 82 million tourists travel to France every year.
Almost one-fifth of France's territory is not in Europe.
About one-fifth of France's population resides near Paris.
The French greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, but the number of kisses exchanged varies by region, and range from one kiss to five.
The French have one of the highest life expectancies in the EU.
French toast and French fries did not originate in France.
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