France is the largest country in
western Europe, covering an area of
341,993 sq miles (551,602 sq kms).Although ultimately a victor in World
Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth,
manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France
today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader
among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential
democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier
parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and
cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration
of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. Presently,
France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the
momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and
capable European defense and security apparatus.
France is divided into
95 departments, excluding 8 overseas
departments and territories. Europe's highest peak, the
Mont Blanc (15,750 ft. or 4800 m) is
situated in the French Alps. France
has 5500 kms of coastline and 4 sea fronts as well as 15 million
hectares of forest. Because of its shape, France has been known as the "hexagon",
with the different regions offering different landscapes and sceneries.
France has a temperate climate. Winters are cold and summers are hot in
the mountains and the northeast.
The northwest is characterized by high
humidity and cool summers. Midway, the Paris basin boasts of low
precipitation with hot summers and cold winters. The south of France
enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and very hot summers.
In 1997, France had 67 million overseas visitors, making it the number 1
tourist destination in the world.
France's population is estimated at 58.1 million composed of 92% French,
3% North African, 2% German, 1% Breton, and the last 2% account for
Provencal, Catalan and Basque peoples.
13 million people live in the capital city of Paris. The French have
been known to consume 3.7 million tons of bread every year, and more
than half of the population (51%) own 16 million pets (dogs and cats)
The official language of France is French, which has many regional
dialects. Breton is spoken by some people in Brittany, Basque and
Catalan in the south, Flemish in the north. Alsacian, Provenç al, and
Corsican are also spoken in other areas.
The capital city of Paris is also
the capital of fashion. France is also well-known for its cuisine,
considered to be the best in the western hemisphere. The mighty
monuments of the proud metropolis tell of the splendour of its bygone
days. Churches crowned by cupolas, magnificent churches, majestic
gardens, twisting alleys and elegant boulevards bring the history of
Paris back to life. Then there are the signs of a more modern era: the
steel finger of the Eiffel Tower
pointing towards the skies.
When built a little over a hundred years ago, it had been mocked and
derided. Today it is the symbol par excellence of the city. Still, the
Eiffel Tower is but the forerunner of the glass giants that are today
dominating the skyline, such as La Défense,
a futuristic suburb on the western edge of the city.
Yet what would Paris look like with its classical or modern buildings
but without its inhabitants? The Parisians! A self-confident lot. Each
and everyone a unique individual. Each and everyone important! Tramp or
porter, fashion model or business manager, they all play their part in
this grandiose setting.
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