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France is probably one of the meccas that all travellers will find themselves in at least once in their lifetimes. Romantic, nationalistic, rude-  a slave to all the superlatives that have been accorded upon her, France is best savoured with an open-mind bereft of the baggage of assumption.

Although beautiful in her own right across the year, France is possibly best travelled in spring through summer. This is unless you are a thrill-seeker waiting to somersault down mountains blanketed in snow. Perhaps the best bet would be to keep in mind what you seek from the trip when you decide to pencil in the dates.


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FRANCE PARIS Arc de Triomphe Through all seasons, however, the French still love their baguettes, escargots and (incomprehensible) three-hour long meals. Food is a highlight of France and is taken with more than a pinch of salt. Whether you are dining at a Michelin-rated restaurant or at a random alfresco café by the road, you will soon realise despite differences in price or regional influences, the French take serious pride in producing good food to go with inexhaustible conversations about life and politics. (Important note: politics are dangerous conversation grounds to tread upon)

Thanks to the Louis XIV’s patronage of the arts and the insatiable desires of artists over centuries, France teems with culture. What would France be without her bevy of authors, painters and composers? With over 200 museums in Paris alone, the Louvre is the mere (shining) tip of the iceberg. Art enthusiasts will most definitely be struck with a sense of gloom as it is beyond human capacity to visit, even at best, all of the significant museums in one trip.

Be an intrepid traveller and not zip past France by merely visiting the City of Lights as many do. The well-connected rail that runs through most regions means that you are presented with an opportunity to explore, appreciate and realise the distinct differences in the culture and way of life across the country.

Val de Loire seduces with her palimpsest of historical towns and vast vineyards bursting with potentially award-winning wines. Pas de Calais elucidates the essence of joie de vivre with a myriad of local festivals that boasts fêtes with copious alcohol, food and good music. Provence beckons with breath-taking landscapes of lavender fields and cypress trees that have struck a chord with painters like Van Gogh and Cezanne. Brittany startles with its retention of Celtic charm and melancholic expanse of forests and winding rivers. Grenoble instils a sense of awe with an almost disorienting urban landscape with a backdrop of massive mountains in whichever direction you face.

The French are proud. With a rich history, a more than fair share of snazzy citizens (think Napoleon Bonaparte, Maria Antoinette etc.), achingly good food, intoxicatingly memorable wine, transcendent art and idyllic landscapes- there have a good reason for their pride. Notorious for their nonchalance and general aloofness towards tourists, arm yourself with a couple of phrases that will allow you to wheedle your way through or begin conversations. Most French love to laugh at your feeble attempts at pronouncing their guttural vowels and this is a good way to break the ice.

What do you really do in France? You eat, you drink and you sightsee (repeat ad infinitum). Yet France possess an allure no other country has been able to mimic or come close to. The je ne sais quoi if you must act all Francophile. Perhaps it is their nonchalance towards others and conversely their passion for their culture and their lack of need to even try to impress that blows you away.

To truly experience France, rein in your frazzled tourist self for an afternoon or two and take some time off to do absolutely nothing. Visit the boulangerie that is most probably two inches away from wherever you have chosen to reside, pick up a baguette, squash it under your arm, head off to get a selection of cheese and a bottle of good wine before traipsing to a field anywhere and lie back to watch the afternoon lull by. That feeling of time within your grasp would be what brings you back to France over and again.


Fast Facts

Population  65 million

Area             675,000 square kilometres

Capital         Paris

Language   French

Currency      Euro (€)

Exchange Rate  € 1 = USD1.5 = GBP
Basic Costs    Metro budget accommodation €20; Metro Upmarket accommodation €100; Regional budget accommodation €12; Regional upmarket accommodation €70;

Religions    Roman Catholic 85%, Muslim 10%, Protestant 2%, and Jewish 1%.

Ethnicity      Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Southeast Asian, and Basque minorities

International Phone Code  +33    Emergency Numbers    112 (police, medical & fire)

Visa Requirements   A visa is waived for the citizens of the following countries for a stay under 90 days: European countries,Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Bolivie, Brunei, Bermuda, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay.


FRANCE Caveman aBetween about half a million years ago years ago and as recently as 24,000 years ago, Neanderthals roamed from as far afield as the Altai Mountains in southern Russia to the Iberian peninsula, and from southern Britain to Israel.  About a dozen prehistoric Neanderthal sites have been discovered across France, including 45,000 year old artifacts at Peyzac-le-Moustier in the Dordogne and 60,000 year old flint, bone and a fine adult skeleton within a grave pit at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in Limousin.  Neanderthals were smart, tough and superbly cold-adapted.  Which was just as well, because the Ice Age was in full swing.

Anatomically modern humans emerged in east Africa nearly 200,000 BP (Before Present), and successive groups crossed onto the Arabian peninsula about 80,000 years ago, making their way to the Indian Ocean's coastal rim and to the Central Asian steppes.  About 45,000 years ago- perhaps due to an interglacial period of warmer climate- the latter group surged west from the Black Sea along the Danube corridor and into Europe, becoming what we now call the Cro Magnon people. This was the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic or Late Stone Age, and most of the Cro Magnon crowd headed for the densely populated Franco-Cantabrian region of southwest France and northern Spain in what was perhaps the world's first real estate boom.  Cave prices soared.

A period of coexistence between Neanderthals and Cro Magnons seems to have occurred in Europe between 40,000 and 24,000 years BP, and debate still surrounds the nature of their interaction.  The sudden extinction of Neanderthals some 24,000 years ago has prompted a number of hypotheses including a violent genocide (in which modern humans were the perpetrators), assimilation with Cro Magnons through interbreeding (supported by evidence that modern human genome may possess up to 4% Neanderthal DNA), climate change, and Neanderthal susceptibility to Cro Magnon pathogens.  Competitive advantage has also been posited, as Cro Magnons' more technologically advanced Aurignacian culture (named after the Aurignac site near Toulouse) handily outpaced the Neanderthals'  Mousterian tool culture (named after the le-Moustier site in the Dordogne).

 Lascaux prehistoric (Megaloceros) paintings Wikipedia a28,000 year old Cro Magnon remains were first discovered in a rock shelter of the same name in the Dordogne Valley (see Chapter 16).  The spectacular rock paintings of nearby Lascaux cave- the so-called prehistoric Sistern Chapel-  and more recently discovered 32,000 year old paintings at Chauvet Cave in Vallon-Pont-d'Arc in the Ardeche - the world's oldest- are examples of the revolutionary imagination of Cro Magnon's Aurignacian culture (named after the Aurignac site near Toulouse) with its technologically advanced tools, hunting implements, artifacts and art.  

The Neolithic (New Stone Age) Revolution began in the Syria's Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years BP and spread west with human migration, reaching the European landmass about 7,000 years BP.  The Carnac Stones in Brittany (see Chapter 1) are the world's largest collection of prehistoric standing stones- over 3,000 of them- that were put in place about 6,000 BP, and represent an epic of Neolithic engineering achievement of this period.  Their exact purpose remains a mystery, but the most plausible theories include astronomical alignment to measure annual solstices, proto-Celtic ceremonies and burial grounds, as a number of dolmens are found nearby.  

The Neolithic Period was characterised by widespread transiition from hunting and gathering to a settled agicultural lifestyle, and involved the construction of permanent settlements and the development of written language.  Nomads became village dwellers and wild animals became domesticated.  The ice mass was also retreating and the warmer conditions were ripe for the develoment of a more sophisticated civilization. 

FRANCE Depiction of Cernunnos from the Pilier des Nautes, Paris WIKI As the Neolithic Period rolled into the Bronze and Iron Ages, the population of France became identifiably Celtic and the country was simply known as Gaul. Three main groups (divided by geographical location and language) populated the land during this time; they were the Gauls (the largest group mainly that was mainly comprised of Celts), the Aquitani who were found in present-day Aquitaine, and the Belgae who resided in the north. This vast land mass quickly caught the attention of surrounding empires like the Greeks and Romans, who took to the Gaul coastline to establish their colonies. The Phoenicians established a colony on the Meditarranean coast at Massalia  (later to be known as Marseille) in 598 BC, while Julius Caesar’s campaign against the Gauls between 59-52BC was perhaps the most widespread of these conquests. He managed to overthrow the Gallic tribes, successfully integrating them into the Roman Empire, to create the new Gallo-Roman culture. This empire flourished under the Romans rule until the later stages of the empire, when many Gauls fled the land due to successive invasions.

In the 5th century, Gaul saw the rise of the Frankish empire. Clovis I, who led the Salian Franks, managed to overthrow the Roman rulers, claiming a large portion of northern and central Gaul. He set the foundation for the Frankish rule of Gaul well into the 10th century, and the inspiration for the modern-day name of the country. Clovis established the Merovingian dynasty and selected Paris as its capital. However, this dynasty did not manage to survive after the passing of the King. His dynasty became divided into smaller kingdoms under the rule of his sons and was eventually replaced by the Carolingian empire that was led by Pepin the Short in 751AD. The Carolingians were a Frankish noble family from the west and they were responsible for further expanding the borders of the Kingdom of France. The peak of the Frankish Kingdom is often considered to be under the rule of Charlemagne (see above photo), the son of Pepin the Short, when he united parts of western and central France. Charlemagne had also managed to conquer Italy, earning himself the title of Emperor of Rome, in 800. This vast empire was kept intact by his son Louis as well. However, the Carolingian Empire became divided upon the death of Louis, as it was split between his three sons. These shares were what dictated the divisions of the Kingdom of France (which emerged later down the road). 

FRANCE Charlemagne In the Cathedral of Moulins, WIKI Meanwhile the constant struggle between the Carolingian Empire and Vikings gave birth to a new power called the Robertines who preceeded  the Capetian dynasty that was founded by Hugh Capet in 987. This dynasty quickly rose to power to replace the weakened Carolingian kings by the end of the 10th century. The Capetian kings were now holding onto the Crown of Charlemagne and were the Counts of Paris as well. Hence they were involved in both the political landscape and the religious one, as they also acted as the Kings of France, elected by the Church of France. The Capetians juggled this dual role well until 1328, when they were faced with attackers from across the sea. While the Capetians were busy creating a monarchy in the French mainland, other groups that were affiliated to the land (such as the Normans, Plantagenets and Hautevilles) had successfully claimed territories outside of France. The Plantagenets were one such group that had ties with both England and France. They were responsible for waging the Hundred Years War against a branch of the Capetians, who were known as the Valois. This war saw a few present-day French territories playing on the English side (e.g. Burgundy, Aquitaine, Brittany)and it was a particularly dark period in French history, as the kingdom also suffered from the Black Death and several famines.  The Hundred Years War finally ended in 1453 with a predominant French victory, cementing the old regime as an absolute monarchy.

The following centuries saw the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation in France. The Renaissance was a notable period in French history as this was when the reformed French language emerged. Before this, many of the locals were speaking their own dialects, which were influenced by the Italian, Spanish and German tongues. The birth of a reformed French language aided in building a more cohesive nation. The French language, culture and nationalism only expanded further in the 16th century, when the French kings began claiming territories in North America. This was the beginning of the New France kingdom that was founded in present-day Canada. 

FRANCE PARIS War of Religion Depiction of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre by François Dubois 

Meanwhile, the Wars of Religion (1562-1589, see above illustration of Francois Dubios' St. Bartholomew's Day massacre) was raging on back at home. This war occurred between the French Catholics and the Protestants (also known as Huguenots). The Huguenots hailed from southwest France and Normandy and were largely comprised of lesser nobles and merchants. They were a minority group that often garnered the support of the Dutch and German Calvinists. Hence their uprising was a threat to the nobles who were already in power in France. This violent war was marked by several massacres, execution of nobles and destruction of churches. Numerous religious buildings in France still bear the marks of this poignant conflict. The Wars of Religion ended in 1589, when Henry of Navarre (a Huguenot who was crowned King of France), was converted to become a Catholic. He became known as Henry IV and managed to provide fairer regulations (via the Edict of Nantes) that allowed the Protestants and Catholics to coexist on the land. His son, Louis XIII took over in 1610, ensuring the spread of the absolute monarchy. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was the successor to the throne in 1674. He gained a reputation for being a great patron of the arts, as he nurtured talents like Jean-Baptiste Lully, Molière and Mansart. Hence great artworks and architecture were left behind long after Louis XIV’s reign. One such architectural feat was carried out by his architect Vauban, who was responsible for building mighty fortresses (which can still be sighted today) all around France, as wars were taking place intermittently during this period as well. France had also managed to spread its powers well beyond its seas, as it became a noted colonial empire, along with England, in other parts of the world. This aggravated the existent animosity between the two countries.  The expansion of the French state also allowed the birth of new ideas regarding the role of a king and how much power the state should have. This planted the seed for one of the most important turning points in French history- the French Revolution. 

FRANCE PARIS Maximilien Robespierre WIKI 

The French Revolution (see above illustration, Storming of the Bastille) officially began in 89. However, there were many triggers prior to this, such as feudal oppression and fiscal mismanagement. Nonetheless King Louis XVI’s meeting with the Assembly of Notables to fix the problem of the state’s weakening treasury is often cited to be the main trigger. Although new taxation ideas were proposed during the meetings, none of them were implemented, as the assembly could not reach a consensus. Finally, an Estates-General meeting was called upon by the king. The discord between the concerned parties ensued leading the Third Estate to form the new National Assembly. This Assembly was announced as a sovereign power and it quickly gained the support from the members of the other estates as well. Revolts took place soon after this announcement, to express their discontentment with the feudal oppression. This event caused the assembly to draw up the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Although this simmered things down slightly, the assembly became divided yet again due to varying interests. The pressure from neighbouring countries to put Louis XVI back on the throne also caused further problems. The assembly (now known as the National Convention) declared France a Republic, abolishing the monarchy. However, the Convention’s war against Prussia and Austria was unsuccessful; and they were eventually overthrown by the citizens.  

Although things seemed to stabilize after this, the election of Maximilien Robiespierre (see above painting) as the new head, sparked the birth of the Reign of Terror during which he unjustly executed over 15,000 people. His time came an end when the French army returned from curbing the problems at the borders, giving way to the rise of a new group known as the Directory (a more conservation version of the earlier National Convention). 

FRANCE General Bonaparte at the siege of Toulon WIKI This group also began abusing its power, until it was overthrown by the up and coming General Napoleon Bonaparte. He founded the French Empire and declared himself the Emperor, in 1804. Napoleon drew up a Napoleonic code that was more constitutional and advanced as compared to the older monarchies. However, his rule was an autocratic one and was filled with battles that were waged on surrounding countries, despite the ongoing war with Britain. After a few losses, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to Elba in 1814. This led way for the monarchy to return to power again, as Louis XVII ascended the throne. Several changes in regime (Second Republic, Second Empire) occurred all the way until 1870, when the Third French Republic was formed. The following years saw major changes like the reformation of the education system (making it secular), as well as separation of the church from the state. 

 FRANCE World War II soldiers a

France then entered the 20th century with more ideas for colonial expansion and was busy concentrating on its local problems. Hence, it had little contribution to the rise of the First World War. However, it was still involved in the conflict, as it was part of the Triple Entente. France fought the Central Powers, alongside the United Kingdom, Russia and its allies. The Second World War had a more pronounced effect on France, as it fought against the Axis Powers, alongside the Allied forces. The Second World War had changed the landscape of France, much like that of most countries around the world. While the majority of France was occupied by the Germans, southern France came under the rule of the Vichy regime. However the French, led by General Charles de Gaulle, retaliated and managed to liberate France, as the Allied forces won the war in 1945. 

A brief period of political reconstruction ensued, and the Fourth Republic was formed. This movement was rather unsuccessful and unstable, causing General Charles de Gaulle to return to power, when he founded the Fifth French Republic in 1958 (the current government of France). Large –scale decolonization took place around the world soon after this, with the remaining parts of the colonies becoming French departments or collectivities. By the end of the 20th century, France had been involved in the Gulf War and had seen an oil crisis, followed by a recession. It had also seen significant changes under Presidents François Mitterrand (1981-1995) and Jacques Chirac (1995-2007). The French rectified the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union via a referendum that was passed in 1993. France was also one of the founding members of the UN and a leading member of NATO. Nicolas Sarkozy was the 23rd Presidentnd the current President of the Republic is François Hollande, who took office on 15 May 2012.



Bordered by four seas (the North Sea, the Channel, the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean), by three mountain ranges (the Alps, the Jura and the Pyrenees), and the edge of the central European lowlands, France is a country with diverse climatic conditions, resulting in very different weather patterns. When visiting France, it is often usful to consult the weather forecast! The variety of France's weather patterns is further complicated by ongoing climate change and global warming, which in recent years have lead to a surprising number of unexpected and extreme weather conditions.
Like many places on Earth, France has weather conditions that are strongly influenced by barometric pressure: low pressure tends to leave France open to the influence of the Atlantic airstream, bringing with it clouds and rain; but when a ridge of high pressure builds up over the heart of western Europe, a large part of France, sometimes even the whole country, can be protected from the prevailing westerlies under a vast covering of dry air, often accompanied by winds from the east.

In short, the weather in France is determined by the balance of power between oceanic weather systems from the west, and continental anticyclones from the east. It is the differing relative influence of these systems that determine the two main climate zones of France, and within these two zones the different sub-zones.

These zones can bee seen in the map on the left. In the western and north-western half of France, stretching from the Belgian border to the Pyrenees, the climate is generally oceanic, In Atlantic and northern regions, the influence of Atlantic weather systems is predominant;but further south and east, the influence of Atlantic weather systems diminishes.

In practical terms, this means that these western areas of France benefit from a mild climate, with moderate rainfall possible at all times of the year. The "oceanic" area, and notably Brittany, jutting out into the Atlantic, has a particularly mild climate, but can be quite rainy even in summer months - though this is not always the case by any means. The semi-oceanic area, also called the intermediate area, has less rainfall particularly in summer, as it is more often under the influence of continental high-pressure systems. This band includes the great cereal growing areas of France, Champagne, the Beauce (south of Paris) and the Midi Toulousain, round Toulouse.

The eastern side of France has a more continental climate, Apart from the mountain areas, it is generally drier than western France, with winters that are colder and summers that are hotter, for a given latitude, The south coast of France benefits from a continental climate moderated by the influence of the Mediteranean, generally drier than the rest of France, and without the cold winters of the rest of the continental climate zone.

The climate of eastern and south-eastern France is particularly influenced by three famous winds, la Bise, le Mistral and le Tramontain. La Bise is the dry east wind that can blow over from central Europe; in winter it can be bitterly cold, in summer blisteringly hot. Blocked over France by the Atlantic weather systems and by the Massif Central mountains, la Bise is forced south and notably channeled down the Rhone valley towards Provence, where it becomes le Mistral. Le Mistral is thus a dry wind that can blow over central Provence for weeks on end, and in winter can be surprisingly cold. The wind that skirts round the Massif Central or blows over the top of it towards the Mediterranean is known as Le Tramontain.

The microclimate of the Riviera: the extreme southeast of France, the area around Cannes, Nice and Monaco, benefits from its own microclimate; protected from the Mistral by the mass of the Alps, the climate on this narrow coastal plain is pure Mediterranean, with mild winters and warm summers.

The mountain areas of France; like all mountain areas, France's mountain areas have a cooler climate than surrounding areas, with more precipitation. Since the wet winds in France are those that come from the west or to a lesser extent from the south, it is the southern and western sides of the mountain ranges that are wetter. This is particularly the case with the Massif Central, whose eastern half is drier. The Cevennes mountains, the south eastern part of the Massif Central, are generally quit dry, but can receive deluges of heavy rain if wet air moves up from the Mediterranean, which happens most often in the Spring or Autumn.

During summer, the upland areas of central southern France are generally warm and sunny, but dramatic skies can brew up on sultry summer afternoons, often developing into short but spectacular thunder storms.

In the Pyrenees, it is the French side of this range, i.e the north eastern side, that is wetter than the Spanish side. This is because moist oceanic air is pulled through southwest France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. In all the mountain areas of France, thunderstorms are a common feature in summer. 

With the exception of the areas of mountain climate, which are determined largely by altitude and topography, the borderlines betwen the different climate zones of France are variable, and will move north and south, east and west, depending on the strength of conflicting weather systems. It is quite possible for the whole of France to come under the influence of the prevailing Atlantic westerlies, with their clouds and showers; conversely, though less often, the whole of France can be dominated by continental air masses, leaving hardly a cloud in the sky over the whole country.


France has beautiful land. It has lush green forests, sparkling rivers, and mountains. The highest point is on Mount Blanc, the mountain range that runs across the border of France and Italy. Mount Blanc rises 15,771 feet at its highest point in the French Alps. The longest river is Loire River. The Loire River is 634 miles long. It begins 85 miles north of the Mediterranean Sea, and flows north for about 300 miles. The Loire River then turns southwest and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most attractive sites is a granite plateau in Massif Central. Vichy is dotted with volcanoes, crater lakes, and hot spring.

France’s landscapes vary from flat empty plains to Mount Blanc. The land in northern France is made up of mostly the Paris Basin. The Paris Basin is land that is very flat in many places, and gradually slopes down. In the center of the basin is the city of Paris. The east side of the basin is made of limestone, and is a good strong natural defense. On the west side, ridges form cliffs along the English Channel. The north side of the Paris Basin moves into the plains of Flanders and Northwestern Europe. To the northeast and east are the Ardennes and Vosges mountains. In the southwest the Paris basin is connected to the other large lowland in France called the Aquitaine Basin by a piece of land called the Gate of Poitou. The south-central part of France is mostly peaks of land as high as 4,000 – 6,000 feet. This land is mostly made by volcanic activity. It is known as the Massif Central.

Some of Europe’s mountains border France to the southeast and southwest. East of Massif Central the Jura mountain range moves into the Alps. In France, the Alps begin at the Mediterranean Sea where they are called the Maritime Alps. Then they travel north and turn east entering Switzerland and Northern Italy.


The Pyrenees Mountains rise between France and Spain, but the Alps in some ways are more impressive. The highest point of the French Pyrenees is called Pic de Vignemale, and is 10,820 feet high. The Pyrenees is higher on the Spanish side, with peaks higher than 11,000 feet.  

France has three main rivers – the Seine, the Loire, and the Rhone. The Seine River is in northeast France. It starts its 485-mile northwest journey running through Pairs, and empties into the English Channel. It is the second longest river in France. Next is the Loire River. The Loire River is the longest river in France, at 634 miles long. It gets water from melting snow from the mountaintops, and it flows through the Paris Basin and coastal plain. Last is the Rhone River. The Rhone River flows from the Swiss Alps to the  Mediterranean Sea. It divides into two branches about 25 miles before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. The Grand Rhone runs southeast, and the Petit Rhone runs southwest. The total length of the Rhone River is a little more than 500 miles.

France has beautiful land, mountains, and rivers. It has coastal water on the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. The countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain also surround France, and across the English Channel is the United Kingdom.


Culture, whether in France, Europe or in general, consists of beliefs and values learned through the socialization process as well as material artifacts.[1][2] Culture guides the social interactions between members of society and influences the personal beliefs and values that shape a person's perception of their environment: "Culture is the learned set of beliefs, values, norms and material goods shared by group members. Culture consists of everything we learn in groups during the life course-from infancy to old age."[3]

The conception of "French" culture however poses certain difficulties and presupposes a series of assumptions about what precisely the expression "French" means. Where as American culture posits the notion of the "melting-pot" and cultural diversity, the expression "French culture" tends to refer implicitly to a specific geographical entity (as, say, "metropolitan France", generally excluding its overseas departments) or to a specific historico-sociological group defined by ethnicity, language, religion and geography. The realities of "Frenchness" however, are extremely complicated. Even before the late nineteenth century, "metropolitan France" was largely a patchwork of local customs and regional differences that the unifying aims of the Ancien Régime and the French Revolution had only begun to work against, and today's France remains a nation of numerous indigenous and foreign languages, of multiple ethnicities and religions, and of regional diversity that includes French citizens in Corsica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and elsewhere around the globe.

The creation of some sort of typical or shared French culture or "cultural identity", despite this vast heterogeneity, is the result of powerful internal forces — such as the French educational system, mandatory military service, state linguistic and cultural policies — and by profound historic events — such as the Franco-Prussian war and the two World Wars — which have forged a sense of national identity over the last 200 years. However, despite these unifying forces, France today still remains marked by social class and by important regional differences in culture (cuisine, dialect/accent, local traditions) that many fear will be unable to withstand contemporary social forces (depopulation of the countryside, immigration, centralization, market forces and the world economy).

In recent years, to fight the loss of regional diversity, many in France have promoted forms of multiculturalism and encouraged cultural enclaves (communautarisme), including reforms on the preservation of regional languages and the decentralization of certain government functions, but French multiculturalism has had a harder time of accepting, or of integrating into the collective identity, the large non-Christian and immigrant communities and groups that have come to France since the 1960s.

The last fifty years has also seen French cultural identity "threatened" by global market forces and by American "cultural hegemony". Since its dealings with the 1993 GATT free tradeexception culturelle, meaning the right to subsidize or treat favorably domestic cultural production and to limit or control foreign cultural products (as seen in public funding for French cinema or the lower VAT accorded to books). The notion of an explicit exception française however has angered many of France's critics[4]. negotiations, France has fought for what it calls the

The French are often perceived as taking a great pride in national identity and the positive achievements of France (the expression "chauvinism" is of French origin) and cultural issues are more integrated in the body of the politics than elsewhere (see "The Role of the State", below). The French Revolution claimed universalism for the democratic principles of the Republic. Charles de Gaulle actively promoted a notion of French "grandeur" ("greatness"). Perceived declines in cultural status are a matter of national concern and have generated national debates, both from the left (as seen in the anti-globalism of José Bové) and from the right and far right (as in the discourses of the National Front).

According to Hofstede's Framework for Assessing Culture, the culture of France is moderately individualistic and high Power Distance Index.

French cuisine is a style of cooking originating from France, having evolved from centuries of social and political change. The Middle Ages brought Guillaume Tirel, better known as Taillevent. The modern age, starting in the 17th century, however, saw a move toward fewer spices and more liberal usage of herbsLa Varenne and further developing with the notable chef of Napoleon and other dignitaries, Marie-Antoine Carême. and refined techniques, beginning with

French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Georges Auguste Escoffier to become the modern version of haute cuisine. Escoffier's major work, however, left out much of the regional character to be found in the provinces of France. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to bring people to the countryside during the 20th century and beyond, to sample this rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of France. Gascon cuisine has also been a great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France.

Ingredients and dishes vary by region. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in variations across the country. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles regionally and nationally with many variations and appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws.



Bon Jour! Hello!
Bonjour Monsieur Capin! Hello Mr Capin!
Bonjour madame! Hello! (to a woman)
Salut Marie! Hi Marie!
Bon aprés-midi Paul! Good afternoon Paul!
Bon Soir! Good evening!
Bon nuit! Good night!
Au revoir madamoiselle! Goodbye! (to a girl)
à beintôt!   tout à l'heure! See you soon!
Comment ça va? How are you?
Ça va bein merci! Well thank you!
Allez! OK then!

Here are some words which should be familiar to you, and will soon allow you to construct some sentences.


voyage journey   route car journey
anniversaire birthday   vacances holiday
santé health   rue street
taxi taxi   pomme apple
fromage cheese   biére beer
addition bill   appétit appetite


je I   moi me
vous you     he
  she     we


sur on   dans in
pour for   avec with




Enchanté de faire votre connaissance Pleased to meet you
Comment vous appelez-vous? What's your name?
Je m'appelle Marc. My name is Marc.
Vous êtes d'où? Where are you from?
Moi, je suis de Sydney. Me. I'm from Sydney.
Bon Soir! Good evening!
Bon nuit! Good night!
Au revoir madamoiselle! Goodbye! (to a girl)
à beintôt!   tout à l'heure! See you soon!
Comment ça va? How are you?
Ça va bein merci! Well thank you!
Allez! OK then!

                                                                                                                                                                                                               REGIONS OF FRANCE:   1. NORD  2. BRITTANY  3. NORMANDY  4. PARIS  5. ÎLE-DE-FRANCE  6. PICARDY  7.  NORD-PAS DE CALAIS  8. CHAMPAGNE-ARDENNE  9. ALSACE  10. PAYS-DE-LA-LOIRE  11. CENTRE  13. BURGUNDY  14. POITOU-CHARENTES  15.  LIMOUSIN  16. AUVERGNE  17. RHÔNE VALLEY  18.  FRENCH ALPS  19.  AQUITAINE  20.  MIDI-PYRÉNÉES  21. LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON  22. PROVENCE  23. CÔTE D’AZUR  24. CORSICA

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