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France

Popular Attractions

France is a treasure house of natural beauty, grand art and architecture, a great historical and cultural background and so many other facets combined together to make a tour of the country worthwhile.

www.mygreatworld.com - Wahrzeichen The tourist attractions are large and it is only a few famous sights that a tourist can get to see in a short period of a week or less. If not anywhere else, a traveler with little time must make it a point to visit the capital city of Paris, the hub of art and culture of France and the romantic city of lights. Among the greatest attractions of Paris are the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum. Built in 1889 in commemoration of one hundred years of French Revolution, the Eiffel Tower represents an architectural marvel in iron. From its height of 300 meters, the city of Paris can be seen in all her stunning glory. A tourist can reach the summit by foot if ready to climb up the 1,665 stairs.

www.mygreatworld.com - Arc de Triomphe - seen from Champs-Élysé Home to the world’s most precious art collections, a tourist must visit the Louvre Museum in Paris at least to see the smile of Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Avenue des Champs-Elysees is a place that must be walked to experience the beauty of Paris in evening light. The avenue lined with trees is one of the most beautiful streets of the world. The beauty of the Gothic architecture finds superb expression in the 110 ft high Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. Started in 1163, the monumental structure took 200 years to be finished. Modern paintings from Impressionist and Post-Impressionist ages are displayed in Musee d’Orsay, another famous museum in Paris. If a tourist wants to see Paris from the highest point in the city, he or she must visit Basilica of Sacred Heart. The stunning beauty of the Dome is a must see on any tour of Paris. Of the many monuments and museums in Paris, the must see are Arc de Triomphe and Centre Georges Pompidou. The Disneyland Paris is another tourist that must be visited with family and children.

Culture

France has a rich cultural heritage reflected in her art, music, language, architecture, fashion, food and other aspects of life. A visit to France is an opportunity to come in contact with her diverse cultural manifestations developed over thousands of years. The ethnic diversity of French people has further contributed to the growth of this broad multi-ethnic culture.

www.mygreatworld.com - St. Malo People of France are acknowledged by the world to be artistically and culturally sophisticated. France’s contribution to the world of fashion is undisputed. Paris remains the hub of the country’s culture and fashion. The city is regarded as the fashion capital of the world. French people are mainly Roman Catholic but never suffer from religious bigotry. They are rather secular in their religious outlook recognizing religion as a belief to be practiced privately and not to be imposed or politicized. Constitution of France guarantees religious freedom. Language bears the cultural identity distinctive of the people of France. Painting and literature of France has been the backbone of her culture through ages. The Lascaux cave paintings date back to over 10,000 years thus belonging to prehistoric time. France produced such famous artists and painters during the Impressionism period as Degas, Renoir and Monet. Gauguin, Cezanne and Lautrec are famous French painters of 19th and 20th Centuries. www.mygreatworld.com - Sénanque Abbey Victor Hugo, the famous French author produced such classic works of literature as ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘Les Miserables’. Alexandre Dumas is another renowned French author. France has been the home to world renowned musicians and composers like Ravel, Debussy and Berlioz. Boulez and Messiaen are famous contemporary French composers. Popular music and dance compositions in France are Jazz and Ballet.

As for sports, people of France have a passion for soccer. It was in France that the modern Olympics were started in 1894. French cuisine and wine reflects the rich culture of the country and has refining influence on other countries. Famous wines of France include Champagne, Bordeaux and Bourgogne Wines. The Cubism art evolved by Picasso who made Paris his home at the turn of the 20th Century influenced the art of France.

Geology

During the Upper Paleolithic geologic era some 50,000 years ago, France received the first footprints of modern man known by the scientific name ‘Homo sapiens’. The prehistoric Lascaux cave paintings bear testimony to this. Of the total area of France, about 20% is covered by Burgandy, Auvergne, Limousin and the Loire River Valley, the four main regions into which Central France is divided. These regions do not have borders with any other foreign country and the beautiful countryside does not have much water. As a result though covering a large part of France, these areas are sparsely populated (9% of the total French population).

www.mygreatworld.com - Over the hills and far away Massif Central’, a pronounced geological region of Central France is a beautiful place for the tourists. It is only half an hour’s drive from Vesdun. Another notable tourist attraction is the ‘Les Pierres-Jaumatres’ located near Boussac in Central France. A small climb up a gentle hill takes one to this beautiful rocky geological site. Nearby is the place Toulx-Ste-Croix where stands an 11th Century church. France is famous for caves that draw a large number of tourists. It is rightly called ‘The Cave Country of Europe’. The caves lie to the south of the Basel-Bordeaux line. The caves are large, beautiful and impressive. The formations are mainly seen in areas like Pyrenees, Alpes du Sud, Massif Central, Provence, Perigord and Jura.

The tourists on a visit to France can see at least 150 caves. The caves have influenced the country so much that the study of caves or ‘speleology’ originated here. The famous French pioneers who studied the caves were Martel, Casteret and de Joly. Other geological attractions of France are Mont Blanc (4,810 m) in the Alps which is the highest point in Western Europe. Other famous mountains of France are the Pyrenees on the border with Spain and the Vosges Mountains in the northeast which are covered with forest and vegetation. Barring the northernmost part of the country, France basically consists of a plateau and four river basins. Impressive geologic formations like massifs and caves are scattered across a large part of the country.

History

France during ancient times was known by the names Gallia or Gaul which were names of the Celtic territory of which France was a part. This third largest nation of Europe derived the name France from ‘Francia’, a Latin word. Franks were a group of Germanic people and the word ‘Francia’ means ‘Country of the Franks’.

During the 5th century fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, the Franks invaded and conquered Gaul which during the 9th century became France, a country with separate identity. The events taking place in Europe and the world started to be greatly influenced by France since 17th century.

www.mygreatworld.com - Château Chambord The country was ravaged by two successive World Wars in the 20th century that resulted in social and political turmoil in the country. She lost in the process many of her colonies including those in Algeria, West Africa and Indochina. France reconstructed herself from the ruins of these two wars to emerge as a major nation of European Community contributing substantially to the Common Market in the areas of industrial and agricultural productions. Now the mainland France and Corsica together is referred as ‘Metropolitan France’. The Mediterranean island of Corsica since 1768 has been an integral part of France located off the coast of Italy.

France still has control over overseas territories like the South American French Guiana, the West Indian Martinique and Guadeloupe, the Comoros island of Mayotte, Reunion, another island in the Indian Ocean and the two east coast islands of Canada, viz. Miquelon and Saint Pierre. Besides there are other widely scattered South Pacific islands possessed by France collectively called French Polynesia.

The Celtic people around 2500 BC settled down in Gaul and ruled the place for over 2000 years and till the Romans led by Julius Caesar invaded southern France. It was the Romans who imported Christianity in the 2nd century AD to Gaul as France was known then. The town of Lutetia built IN 52 BC was the foundation for future Paris. The French Revolution towards the end of the 18th century established the rule of common people in France.

Political

The first democratic government of France known as ‘The First Republic’ signaled the end of rules by kings and queens after the French Revolution of 1789. After France was liberated in 1944 by the Allied Army, the empire was replaced by the national assembly of the French Union and the power of presidency was considerably reduced. The Fourth Republic formed at the end of 1946 was headed by Charles de Gaulle. In 1958 a Fifth Republic was formed with a new constitution that strengthened the power of the president. De Gaulle was elected President of this Republic.

www.mygreatworld.com - Place Charles de Gaulle/ Place de l'Étoile People of France got disillusioned with the policies of de Gaulle and after the turbulent strikes by students and workers in 1968, Georges Pompidou took over as successor and introduced laissez faire economic policies. In 1974 Valery Giscard d’Estaing formed a conservative government in France.

However the socialists headed by Francois Mitterrand came to power in 1981. It was Mitterrand who was instrumental in drafting the Maastricht Treaty that paved the way for France’s economic ties with the European Union. The Presidential Election of 2002 saw the incumbent Jacques Chirac of the Union for a Popular Movement Party (UMP) winning a landslide majority in parliament to form the government. In the 2007 elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, the UMP nominee won and became the French President.

In France, every election sees swinging of votes between the socialists, the conservatives (UMP) and the center liberal party. In the political parlance of France, Trotskyism, communism and nationalism are also heard. The main political parties of France are Le Parti Socialiste, UMP and UDF.

In the political framework of France, the President is the head of the State who appoints the Prime Minister to head the government. In the multiparty system, the Prime Minister exercises the executive power. France though a democratic republic represents a semi-presidential type of government. Legislature is done both by the government and the National Assembly and the Senate. The Judiciary of France performs independently of the legislature and the executive. The political beliefs among the French populace have oscillated between left right spectrums.

Infrastructure/Getting Around

www.mygreatworld.com - Metro station A tourist must know the details of the available infrastructure and getting around the country before visiting France. The public transport in France is quite large in network and reliable. She is well connected by rail, air and road with most major centers of the world. Many towns in France including Paris have besides trams and metro systems good and comprehensive network of buses connecting different town centers and suburbs. For moving around places fast within a city of France, these transports provide smooth and tension free travel besides being economical. For a tourist visiting Paris, the quickest and the most convenient mode of transport will be the metro which has a network of 15 lines spreading across 300 stations. The metro Regional Express Network (RER) is very well connected with the suburbs making traveling to these places easier. The metro service continues for 19 hours in a day from 5.30 in the morning up to 12.30 am. The Paris outskirt railway lines are also covered by the SNCF.  

www.mygreatworld.com - Orlybus - Ticket Station No. 4 (Airport SNCF Line offers the tourists with the added facility of bus or metro travel in Paris when one purchases a ticket from the Paris outskirts to any railway station at Paris. The Paris Visit Ticket issued to a tourist has validity period of up to 5 consecutive days permitting during the period unlimited travel in the entire zones of the RER, bus and metro network and also on the Montmartre Funicular.

Free maps of all the networks are available at RER or metro stations. The timings of RER for crossing Paris and Ile-de-France on all their 5 lines are the same as that for the metro. However the ticket charges for traveling outside Paris is different from that within the city and information on the actual fare can be got from the station of departure. The buses in Paris usually operate from 5.30 am to 8.30 pm. There is however ‘Noctambus’ service (night bus service) between central Paris and the suburbs. The maps for the 8 different zones of Paris and outskirts are freely available from any RER or metro station.



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