France — a marvelous and charming country, drawing millions of tourists all over the world. Indeed, it offers plenty to see, places to relax at and get lots of unforgettable impressions. The French gave us the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame de Paris, creations of great poets and writers, perfumes and the concept of “haute couture”, movies and the Impressionism art, Braille writing system and a hot-air balloon.
They say, that France only begins outside Paris. It is living its quiet life in small villages, cold rooms of the medieval castles, in the bright sun of Riviera, and fragrant lavender fields. You can find France on the former battlefields of the Peninsular War or where the cold Atlantic Ocean hits against the cliffs of the bastions. France is about sweet grapes, slimy oysters, blue cheese, and viscid calvados. Cold hills of the Alps, the Dune of Pilat, goose farms and film fests are simply various faces of one country.
France is deservedly considered to be the founder of haute couture. The French couturier indeed created the elements of clothing we love so much: a little black dress and a clutch with a chain by Coco Chanel, the fuchsia color by Elsa Schiaparelli, women’s trouser suits and unisex clothes from Yves Saint Laurent, stocking boots and a mini-dress by Pierre Cardin, and many others.
This country has one law which functions unconditionally: no matter which way you go after landing in Charles de Gaulle Airport, you will always find good wine, ancient castles, delicious food, and gorgeous landscapes. And if Dumas, Remarque, Stendhal, Hugo, and Hemingway made France their main hero, it would be an awful mistake not to try to love it as it is. And believe us, it’s romantic and tolerant. It’s impossible not to fall in love with it and to list all here virtues. It is better to see and feel everything for yourself.
|Paris||65 060 692||French||Euro||674 685 km²|
The French Republic is the largest transnational country which takes third place in size in Europe (after Russia and Ukraine). Its total area is 675 417 km². France is also the third country in the world (after the USA and Great Britain) in the size of sea possessions.
Its neighbors are 11 countries. In Europe, it borders on Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Andorra; in overseas possessions — with Brazil, Suriname, and Netherlands Antilles. It also has sea boundaries with Great Britain. The coast of France is washed by the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean and North Seas, and the English Channel. The highest point of Europe (excluding the Caucasus Mountains) is situated at the border of Italy and France. It is known by every mountain-climber and mountain-skier — snow-white Mont Blanc Mountain. It’s located in the Western Alps and it 4810 meters in height.
Regions of France
According to the territorial reform, since January 1, 2016, France is divided into 18 regions: 13 of them are located in the metropolitan country and the remaining 5 are on the overseas territories (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte). Each region is divided into departments, which administrative centers bear the titles of the prefectures. They, in their turn, subdivided into districts and cantons. Communes are the basis of the territorial administration in France and there are more than 36 thousand of them.
The overwhelming majority of people start their acquaintance with France from Paris. The title of this city along can make one’s heart beat faster. Tourists come here to see “The Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci, “Christ at the Column” by Antonello da Messina, and other unique masterpieces displayed in the Louvre; to propose at the Eiffel Tower; wander around Montmartre to Sacré-Cœur Basilica and climb to its observation deck which offers the most mesmerizing panoramic views of Paris. If you want to get acquainted with the development of the Parisian fashion, drop in the Palais Galliera. Behind the walls of this palace which dates back to the XIX century, hides the complete history of the French suit’s development starting from the XVII century. The display consists of more than 60 thousand exhibits represented in small scenes to every historical epoch. Among all the fashion-artifacts, you shall find the corset which belonged to Marie-Antoinette, made of whalebone, the dress of Audrey Hepburn from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and Briggite Bardo’s wedding dress, created by Christian Dior. This city has everything a tourist’s soul might desire: hundreds of museums, stunning architecture of various epochs and styles, thousands of cafes, restaurants, numerous boutiques. Paris has such an incredible atmosphere of love floating in the air, which attracts people from all over the world.
On the south of France, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, there is a charming port city called Marseille. It is the second in the number of citizens city in the country. It greets its guests with an azure bay and the Old Port, ancient forts and romantic streets. Your trip here won’t be full without visiting the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde erected in the Byzantine style, and the renowned Château d'If, located on the island of the same name in the Frioul archipelago. While being in Marseille, you must try the classic bouillabaisse. It’s especially delicious in the port.
If you are heading to France to get acquainted with its art of cookery and check out the extraordinary night-time illumination, then a visit to Lyon is a must. The city was founded 2000 years ago by the Romans and is the most important economic, industrial, and cultural center in the country today. The Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, traboules in the Old Town, Odeon Theatre, Museum of Fine Arts, astronomical clock are only a few fascinated places on the list of sights which Lyon has prepared for its guests.
Toulouse is an original city and the scientific center of France where people conduct the main research in the domain of aviation and space exploration. Just like many other cities, Toulouse keeps the most interesting attractions in its historical center: the Capitole square, Cathedrale Saint-Etienne de Toulouse, Basilica of Saint-Sernin, Augustins museum (by the way, it’s one of the oldest museums in France). The buildings made of red bricks add an extraordinary charm to the city. Toulouse is even called “La Ville Rose” which means a “pink city”.
People interested in political news have most likely heard about Strasbourg. That’s the place where the Council of Europe and the European Parliament assemble. The city greets tourists with special cordiality, demonstrating them its attractions: the monumental Palais Rohan, Strasbourg Cathedral, Place Kleber, St. Paul’s Church. After you have explored and enjoyed the architectural masterpieces, don’t hesitate to take a boat trip along the Ill river, and visit a couple of cafes and bars at the waterfront.
Fans of bohemian holidays should head to the French Riviera, to Nice. The richest and the most famous people in the world come to enjoy their vacation here. We can clearly understand them and even envy a little. Here, fantastic beaches, stunning nature, a diversity of nightclubs, marvelous architecture exist side by side in the atmosphere of total relax on the bank of the Mediterranean Sea. The Musée Matisse is one of the most renowned attractions in Nice. It displays almost all paintings of the great artist.
“The French care about what really matters in life - being French”, - that’s the conclusion made by the authors of the book called “The Xenophobe's Guide to the French” by Michel Syrett and Nicholas Yapp.
The local citizens frequently predetermine the attitude of travelers to the country. They are frank and sociable people who value their freedom and independence. The French have self-respect and are without the least hint of indulgence to others. Nevertheless, what should we expect of them?
In France, all the national aspects are treated with great respect and inspiration. They honor their history, adore national cuisine, literature, culture, and, especially, their language. The French would be delighted if you try to ask a question in French or at least try to do so. In such situations, they would most definitely smile back to you and answer in English. However, if you start a conversation in English, there is a high chance of being ignored or misinformed.
An active, sociable, athletic, always in a hurry and smiling - that’s a typical image of a Frenchman. And their smiles are not put on like in Hollywood but are quite sincere. The French are polite and pleasant to talk to. You can feel it yourself as soon as you come to France.
Not everyone knows that the French have a specific dress-code. For example, if a woman is wearing a dress with a leopard print or it’s too short, translucent, and in addition to that she’s wearing heels, people can easily assume that she’s a representative of the world’s oldest profession. It’s not acceptable to wear sports clothing in public. In France, it must be wear for doing sports only. So, you should consider these aspects if you don’t want to get into an awkward situation.
If a Frenchmen notices that you are in a bad mood, confused, lost, looking for something, or getting into trouble, he or she will come up to you and talk. It’s typical here to get acquainted with anyone anywhere and anytime. This unique aspect of French life impresses all the visitors.
Sports in France became a lifestyle. These are not only conversations about football. Almost every citizen jogs both in the morning and evening: in the parks, public gardens, by the house or at the stadium. At the gym, you can meet people of various social status and age. Sports and healthy eating for the French are the earnest of health, slenderness, and longevity.
The Frenchwoman equals elegance. When you look at them, you are ready to give her your seat, help with the luggage at the railway station or the airport, and open all the doors. Every woman is ready to favorably listen to compliments, while the men are used to praise them anytime. A dalliance is a lifestyle. Otherwise, there’s no need to put on beautiful clothes and perfect your manners if you don’t want to impress someone.
The French easily drink tap water without any additional cleaning. At the same time, they are very thrifty: water rates are high, there are water meters everywhere. Thus, taking a bath is too much of a luxury, and locals prefer taking a shower.
Of course, France is a country of culinary tourism. Locals love eating delicious food. The lunch breaks at work can last for more than one hour, followed by the discussion of the latest gossips. The evening meal in an ordinary French family can last up to 4 hours with a continual changing of dishes. The feast typically ends with cheese served with wine only.
Except for the megalopolises, life in the rest of France stops after 7 pm. Everyone hurries home and the streets get extremely quiet. Only restaurants and cafes are open. By the way, these are the places not for adults only, but children as well. A family is essential to the French and the weekends are devoted to spending time with your dear ones.