The one minute summary on France
This is it: one minute to the best info on France. This info alone will put you ahead of 99% of foreigners visiting France, garner the admiration of the locals who will instantly want to be your friends, and the envy of your fellow travelers. Read on. You’ll make friends faster that way, become a traveler instead of simply being a tourist, and also enjoy your travels a lot more.
France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. It plays an influential global role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the G-8, the G-20, the EU and other multilateral organizations. France rejoined NATO’s integrated military command structure in 2009, reversing DE GAULLE’s 1966 decision to take French forces out of NATO. Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier, more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent decades, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common currency, the euro, in January 1999. In the early 21st century, five French overseas entities – French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion – became French regions and were made part of France proper.
That was it. I promised one minute.
For other condensed info check also my other posts on local culture (don’t make the mistakes I made), local food or local drinks. And when you call your friends to tell them you were by far the most knowledgeable at the party, do that with confidence that you’ll not get hit with a 6.99 per minute bill. You’ll also pick the local food from the tray, and order a local drink with confidence.
- Cultural Mistakes To Avoid in France
- Does my current phone work in France ? Tips to cell phone usage in France
- Local food you should try in France and No miss drinks in France
Now, cheers to the most France aware person at the cocktail party.
What are the key history moments for France?
France has been populated since the Neolithic period. The Dordogne region is especially rich in prehistoric caves, some used as habitation, others are temples with remarkable paintings of animals and hunters, like those found at Lascaux. Rise and fall of the Roman empire Written History began in France with the invasion of the territory by the Romans, between 118 and 50 BC. Starting then, the territory which is today called France was part of the Roman Empire, and the Gauls (name given to local Celts by the Romans), who lived there before Roman invasions, became accultured “Gallo-romans”. With the fall of the Roman empire, what was left were areas inhabited by descendants of intermarriages between gallo-romans and “barbaric” easterners (Mainly the Franks, but also other tribes like the “burgondes”).
The legacy of the Roman presence is still visible, particularly in the southern part of the country where Roman circuses are still used for bullfights and rock and roll shows. Some of the main roads still follow the routes originally traced 2,000 years ago, and the urban organisation of many old town centres still transcript the cardo and the decumanus of the former Roman camp (especially Paris). The other main legacy was the Catholic Church which can be, arguably, considered as the only remnant of the civilization of that time Middle-Ages Clovis, who died in 511, is considered as the first French king although his realm was not much more than the area of the present Île de France, around Paris. Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800, was the first strong ruler. He united under his rule territories which extend today in Belgium, Germany and Italy. His capital was Aix-la-Chapelle (now in Germany, known as Aachen).
The country was under attack by the Vikings who came from the north and navigated upstream the rivers to plunder the cities and abbeys, it was also under attack from the south by the Muslim Saracens who were established in Spain. The Vikings were given a part of the territory (today’s Normandy) in 911 and melted fast in the Feudal system. The Saracens were stopped in 732 in Poitiers by Charles Martel, grand father of Charlemagne, a rather rough warrior who was later painted as a national hero. Starting with Charlemagne, a new society starts to settle, based on the personal links of feudalism. This era is named middle age. Although generally seen as an era of stagnation, it can more be described as a very complex mix of periods of economic and cultural developments (Music and poems of the Troubadours and Trouveres, building of the Romantic, then Gothic cathedrals), and recessions due to pandemic disease and wars. In 987, Hughes Capet was crowned as king of France ; he is the root of the royal families who later governed France.
In 1154 much of the western part of France went under English rule with the wedding of Alienor d’Aquitaine to Henry II (Count of Anjou, born in the town of Le Mans). Some kings of the Plantagenet dynasty are still buried in France, the most famous being Richard I, of Walter Scott’s fame, and his father Henry II, who lies in the Abbaye de Fontevraud. The struggle between the English and French kings between 1337 and 1435 is known as the Hundred Years War and the most famous figure, considered as a national heroine, is Joan of Arc. Reading up Before you leave you may want to read a book like French or Foe by Polly Platt or Almost French by Sarah Turnbull interesting, well written records from English speaking persons who live in France. For the adult reader interested in the famous reputation enjoyed by Paris for romance and sensuality, try “SENSUAL PARIS: Sex, Seduction and Romance in the Sublime City of Light” by Jonathan LeBlanc Roberts The making of a modern state nation
The beginning of the 16th century saw the end of the feudal system and the emergence of France as a “modern” state with its border relatively close to the present ones (Alsace, Corsica, Savoy, the Nice region weren’t yet French). Louis XIV who was king from 1643 to 1715 (72 years) was probably the most powerful monarch of his time. French influence extended deep in western Europe, its language was used in the European courts and its culture was exported all over Europe. That era and the following century also saw the expansion of France on the other continents. This started a whole series of wars with the other colonial empires, mainly England (later Britain) and Spain over the control of North America, the Caribbean, South American, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
The French Revolution started in 1789, leading to the overthrow of King Louis XVI of the House of Bourbon and the creation of the First French Republic. Although this period was also fertile in bloody excesses it was, and still is, a reference for many other liberation struggles. In 1791, the other monarchies of Europe looked with outrage at the revolution and its upheavals, and considered whether they should intervene, either in support of the deposed King Louis XVI, or to prevent the spread of revolution, or to take advantage of the chaos in France. The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European Monarchies from 1792 to 1802.
Napoléon Bonaparte seized power in a coup d’état, reunited the country and declared himself Emperor of the French, he crowned by Pope Pius VII as Napoleon I of the French Empire, on 2 December 1804 at Notre Dame de Paris. His militaristic ambition which, at first, made him the ruler of most of western Europe were finally his downfall. In 1815 he was defeated in Waterloo (Belgium) by the Seventh Coalition – United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Hanover, Nassau, Brunswick, and Prussia. He is still revered in some Eastern European countries as its armies and its government brought with them the ideas of the French philosophers. 20th and 21st centuries 1905 saw the separation of the Church from the State. This was a traumatic process, especially in rural areas. The French state carefully avoids any religious recognition. The Church was badly hurt and lost half its priests. In the long run, however, it gained autonomyfor the State no longer had a voice in choosing bishops.
In the early 21st century, the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) 2009 study, based on self declaration in percentage of total French population, 64.4% of the population identified as Catholic with only 15.2% regularly attending or occasionally attending Mass, and 4.5% attending Mass weekly. The First World War (1914-1918) was a disaster for France, even though the country was ultimately a victor. At first many welcomed the war to avenge the humiliation of defeat and loss of territory to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. However very high losses and almost no gain on the Western Front change opinions of the war. A significant part of the male workforce was killed or disabled and a large part of the country and industry destroyed. When World War II (1939-45) was declared there was little enthusiasm and much dread in France at the prospect of enduring another major war. In the spring of 1940 Hitler’s army invaded France, the army and government of the Third French Republic collapse and France surrendered in June of 1940.
With British troops fleeing France an atmosphere of humiliation and defeat swept over the country. On the other hand, the French Resistance conducted sabotage operations inside German-occupied France. To support the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, various groups increased their sabotage and guerrilla attacks. Since the end of WWII France went through a period of reconstruction and prosperity came back with the development of industry. The Fifth Republic (1958-present) emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic (1946-58), replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system. It is France’s third-longest-enduring political regime, after the pre-French Revolution Ancien Régime and the Third Republic. France began the process of decolonisation after a rise in nationalism following WWII. In 1963 France and West Germany signed the Élysée Treaty, known as the Friendship Treaty, the treaty established a new foundation for relations that ended centuries of rivalry between them. France would play a role in what would eventually became the European Union. One of the most visible consequence being the introduction in 2002 of the Euro (), the common currency of sixteen European countries.
In 2013, France is a republic with a President elected for a 5-year term. Some current main issues are the further integration of the country into the EU and the adoption of common standards for the economy, defence, immigrant rights, and so on. The ban on religious symbols of 15 March 2004 in public schools is an application of French policy of laïcité (secularism) under which religious symbols such as Muslim veil, Jewish Kippah and Sikh turban has been banned from schools. This has meant that the guarantees for freedom of religion have been curtailed for faith groups in France. Although France is extremely safe, still anyone from an openly religious faith community may need to exercise care when travelling in France.
Best places to see in France
Thinking of France, you might imagine the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe or the famous smile of Mona Lisa. You might think of drinking coffee in the lively Paris cafés where great intellectuals lingered in past times, or of eating croissants in a local bistro of a sleepy but gorgeous village in the countryside. Probably, images of splendid châteaux will spring to your mind, of lavender fields or perhaps of vineyards as far as the eye can see. Or perhaps, you’d envisage the chic resorts of the Cote D’Azur. And you wouldn’t be wrong. However, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to France’s many sights and attractions.
Cities Paris. the “City of Light” and the capital of romance has been a travellers’ magnet for centuries and a real must-see. Of course, no visit would be complete without a glance at its world famous landmarks. The Eiffel Tower is hard to miss, especially when it is lit beautifully at night, but the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur are both famous and stunning sights too. With no less than 3,800 national monuments in and around Paris, history is literally around every corner. Stroll through the city’s spacious green parks, with the Luxembourg Gardens as one of the favourites, and make sure to spend some time on the famous banks of the river Seine. Also, don’t miss the magnificent Palace of Versailles, the most grand reminder of the Ancient Regime located just 20 km away from the capital.
Bordeaux is famous for its wine but is also a bustling city with lots of historic sights to discover. It is listed as a World Heritage Site for being “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble”.
Lyon, the country’s second largest city, is listed too, and boasts a beautiful old centre as well as a number of Roman ruins. Strasbourg, one of the EU headquarters, has a character of its own, with clear German influences. Montpellier is one of the best places in the south, with lots of monumental buildings and nice cafés.
In the west there’s the beautiful historic city of Nantes, home to the Château des ducs de Bretagne and many other monuments. The Capitole de Toulouse is situated right at the heart that famous university city’s street plan.
Last but not least, don’t overlook Arles, with its World Heritage Listed Roman and Romanesque Monuments. French Riviera.
And then there are the magnificent cities of the Côte d’Azur, once the place to be for the rich and famous but now equally popular with a general crowd. Its sandy beaches, beautiful bays, rocky cliffs and lovely towns has made it one of the main yachting and cruising areas in the world as well as popular destination for land-bound travellers.
There’s bustling Nice, where some 4 million tourists a year enjoy the stony beaches and stroll over the Promenade des Anglais. Avignon with its splendid ramparts and Palais-des-Papes was once the seat of popes. Although Saint-Tropez gets overcrowded in summer, it’s a delightful place in any other season. The same goes for Cannes, where the jet-set of the film industry gathers each year for the famous Cannes Film Festival. From there, you can hop on a boat to the much more peaceful Îles de Lérins. Much smaller in size but just as gorgeous (and popular) are the perched villages of Gourdon and Èze, which is located on a 427 meter high cliff, much like an eagle’s nest. Both offer some stunning panoramic views. From Èze, its a very short trip to the glitter and glamour of Monaco. For the world’s millionaires and aristocracy, the green peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is an old time favourite with the impressive Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild full of impressionist art as its main sight.
A bit more inland but well-worth a visit are the towns of Grasse, famous for its perfumeries, and Biot, known for its glass blowers. The huge city and arts-hub Marseille is usually not considered part of the Cote D’Azur, but is very close. It has plenty of historic sights and nearby are the stunning Calanques, a series of miniature fjords it shares with Cassis. Countryside & villages You haven’t seen the best of France if you haven’t had at least a taste of its amazing countryside, dotted with wonderful medieval villages and castles. There are great examples in any part of the country, but some 156 small towns have been identified as the most beautiful villages in France. The country’s landscapes vary from the snow-covered peaks of the Alps and the Pyrenees with their many winter sports resorts to lush river valleys, dense forests and huge stretches of farmland and vineyards.
The Provence, backing a good part of the Côte d’Azur, is one of the most beloved regions. It has a typical Merranean atmosphere and is famous for its lavender fields and rosé wines. It’s also home to the stunning Verdon Gorge, one of the most beautiful gorges in Europe. The rolling riverine landscape of the Loire Valley is home to many great castles, of which Châteaux Amboise, Château de Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord and Châteaux du Pin are some of the finest examples. The western region of Brittany reaches far into the Atlantic and boasts many megalith monuments such as those near Carnac. The beaches of Normandy, also on the Atlantic coast, are famed for the D-Day Allied invasion on June 6, 1944. Although the humbling Normandy American Cemetery and countless museums, memorials and war time remains keep memory of those dark days alive, the region is now a pleasant and popular destination. Its picturesque coast line includes both long stretches of beach and steep limestone cliffs, such as those near Étretat).
The region is also home to the splendid and World Heritage listed Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay. The lush hills of the Dordogne form another region famous for its castles, with over 1500 of them on its 9000 km2 area.
As the French have a real taste for art, the country has numerous art galleries and museums. Several of them are widely considered to be among the finest museums in the world of art, art-history, and culture.
The grandeur and fame of the Musée du Louvre in Paris can hardly be matched by any other museum in the world. It boasts a fabulous collection of art from antiquity to the 19th century and is home of the Mona Lisa and many other renowned works. At just a 15 minute walk from there is the Musée d’Orsay, another world class museum that picks up roughly where the Louvre’s collections ends. It’s located in an old railway station and houses the national collection of art works from the 1848 to 1914 period. Its excellent collection includes some of the best French Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Art Nouveau works, including Degas’ ballerinas and Monet’s waterlillies. The Musée National d’Art Moderne in Centre Pompidou, still in France’s capital, is the largest museum for modern art in Europe.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon has an excellent collection varying from ancient Egypt antiquities to Modern art paintings and sculptures. In Lille you’ll find the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, one of the country’s largest museums. Its varied collection is second in size after the Louvre and boasts anything from antiquities to modern art. Smaller but still outstanding are the collections of the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi and the Picasso Museum in Paris. Marseille has many galleries and its Musée Cantini has a good collection of modern art associated with Marseille as well as several works by Picasso. Fondation Maeght houses modern art too and is situated in Saint-Paul de Vence.
Parks & natural attractions
Disneyland Resort Paris is by far France’s most popular park, visited by families from all over Europe. The country’s national parks have quite some visitors too though, due to their splendid scenery and great opportunities for outdoor sports.
Vanoise National Park is the oldest and one of the largest parks, named after the Vanoise massif. Its highest peak is the Grande Casse at 3,855 m. The impressive natural landscapes of Parc national des Pyrénées are right on the southern border of France and extend well into Spain, where they are part of the Parc National Ordesa y Monte Perdido The whole area is listed as UNESCO World Heritage. In the French part, the glacial cirques of Gavarnie, Estaubé and Troumouse are some of the best sights, as is the wall of Barroud.
The again mountainous Cévennes National Park covers parts of the Languedoc-Roussillon (including te popular Ardèche), Midi-Pyrénées and the Rhône-Alpes regions. Its headquarters is in the castle of Florac, but there are towns all over the park. Donkey rides are available and the Cave formation of Aven Armand is one of the parks’ best sights.
Not yet under a protective status but highly popular is Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe and attractive for climbing, hiking and skiing. From the French side, it is mostly explored from Chamonix, a well known resort on the foot of the mountain.