France Uncovered: 14 Tidbits About the City of Love

Lyon-Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes-France

About France

Bienvenue! France, a country known for its romantic ambiance, art, and culinary excellence, beckons you to explore its rich history and vibrant culture. With French as its official language and the Euro (€) as its currency, France invites you to discover its iconic landmarks, delectable cuisine, and world-class art.

France’s landscapes are as diverse as its regions, from the picturesque villages of Provence to the glamorous beaches of the French Riviera. Explore the architectural wonders of Paris, indulge in fine wine in Bordeaux, and stroll through the charming streets of Alsace.

French cuisine is a true delight for food enthusiasts. Savor croissants and café au lait in a Parisian café, indulge in escargot and coq au vin in a cozy bistro, and sample exquisite cheeses in a local market.

France’s history comes alive through its châteaux, cathedrals, and museums. Visit the Palace of Versailles, the Gothic masterpiece of Chartres Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum, home to the Mona Lisa.

France’s vibrant culture includes the world of fashion, cinema, and the enchanting sounds of the accordion. Experience the elegance of haute couture in Paris, attend a film festival in Cannes, and dance to the tunes of French chanson.

Prepare to be captivated by France’s timeless beauty, from the romantic streets of Paris to the lavender fields of Provence. France’s artistry and savoir-faire will enchant your senses.

So grab a croissant, put on your beret, and get ready to experience the chic and stylish country that is France!

Capital City

Paris ( Île-de-France region)

Head of State

Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron, President (2017 -)

Government

semi-presidential republic

Language(s)

French (official) 100%, declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish, Occitan, Picard); note – overseas departments: French, Creole patois, Mahorian (a Swahili dialect)

Religion

Roman Catholic 47%, Muslim 4%, Protestant 2%, Buddhist 2%, Orthodox 1%, Jewish 1%, other 1%, none 33%, unspecified 9%

Currency

Euro €

Population

68,521,974 (2023 est.)

note: the above figure is for metropolitan France and five overseas regions; the metropolitan France population is 62,814,233

National Holiday

14 July (1789) Bastille Day

Area

643,801 sq km ; 551,500 sq km (metropolitan France) 12 time zones

Life Expectancy

82.79 years (2023)  Male 79.75, female 85.97

Location

France is located in Central Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain.

13 Regions in France

Name of Region Capital City  Most visited areas
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon Lyon, Grenoble, Annecy
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Dijon Dijon, Besançon, Auxerre
Brittany (Bretagne) Rennes Rennes, Saint-Malo, Quimper
Centre-Val de Loire Orléans Orléans, Tours, Chartres
Corsica (Corse) Ajaccio Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi
Grand Est Strasbourg Strasbourg, Colmar, Reims
Hauts-de-France Lille Lille, Amiens, Arras
Île-de-France Paris Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau
Normandy (Normandie) Rouen Rouen, Caen, Le Havre
Nouvelle-Aquitaine Bordeaux Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Biarritz
Occitanie Toulouse Toulouse, Montpellier, Carcassonne
Pays de la Loire Nantes Nantes, Angers, Le Mans
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) Marseille Marseille, Nice, Cannes

 

History

The history of France begins around 50,000 BCE, when prehistoric humans first settled in what is now France. Over the centuries, the area was inhabited by various Celtic and Germanic tribes, and then by the Roman Empire from the 2nd century BCE until the 5th century CE.

In the Middle Ages, France was ruled by various feudal lords and later by powerful monarchs such as Charlemagne, who united much of Europe under his rule in the 9th century. The monarchy reached its peak during the reigns of Louis XIV and his successors in the 17th and 18th centuries, but France also experienced a series of revolutions and wars during this time, including the French Revolution in 1789.

The French Revolution marked a major turning point in French history, as it led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic. This was followed by a period of instability, as France experienced a series of political upheavals and wars both within its borders and with other European nations.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, France experienced a period of relative stability and prosperity, with the country becoming a major industrial and colonial power. However, this was followed by two devastating world wars in the 20th century, which left much of France in ruins and had a profound impact on French society and culture.

After World War II, France became a leading member of the European Union and worked to rebuild its economy and infrastructure. Today, France is known for its rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and contributions to art, literature, philosophy, and science. It remains a major global power and a popular tourist destination.

the French Flag - tri colore

French Flag

The French flag, also known as the “tricolore”, consists of three vertical stripes of equal width. The colors of the stripes are blue, white, and red, from left to right. Blue represents the values of liberty, freedom, and democracy, white symbolizes equality, and red stands for fraternity and brotherhood.

The French flag was first adopted on February 15, 1794, during the French Revolution, and has since become an enduring symbol of French national identity. The design of the tricolore has influenced the flags of many other countries around the world, and it is widely recognized as a symbol of the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Iconic Food by Region

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes:

  • Quenelles: dumplings made with flour, eggs, and fish or meat
  • Gratin dauphinois: sliced potatoes baked with cream, garlic, and cheese

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté:

  • Boeuf Bourguignon: beef stew made with red wine, bacon, and vegetables
  • Coq au Vin: chicken stewed in red wine with bacon, mushrooms, and onions

Bretagne (Brittany):

  • Crêpes: thin pancakes often served with a variety of sweet or savory fillings
  • Galettes: savory buckwheat crepes filled with ham, cheese, and eggs

Centre-Val de Loire:

  • Tarte Tatin: an upside-down apple tart caramelized in butter and sugar
  • Pithiviers: a sweet pastry filled with almond cream and baked until golden brown

Corse (Corsica):

  • Civet de sanglier: wild boar stewed in red wine with onions and carrots
  • Fiadone: a Corsican cheesecake made with brocciu cheese, lemon zest, and eggs

Grand Est:

  • Choucroute garnie: a dish of sauerkraut cooked with various meats and sausages
  • Quiche Lorraine: a savory tart made with eggs, cream, bacon, and cheese

Hauts-de-France:

  • Carbonnade Flamande: beef stewed in beer with onions and carrots
  • Ficelle Picarde: a crepe filled with ham, mushrooms, and cream

Île-de-France:

  • Soupe à l’oignon: French onion soup topped with bread and melted cheese
  • Escargots de Bourgogne: snails cooked in a garlic and parsley butter

Normandie (Normandy):

  • Camembert: a soft, creamy cheese made from cow’s milk
  • Moules Marinières: mussels cooked in white wine with shallots and parsley

Nouvelle-Aquitaine:

  • Confit de Canard: duck legs preserved in their own fat and cooked until tender
  • Canelés: small, cylindrical pastries with a caramelized crust and a soft, custardy center

Occitanie:

  • Cassoulet: a hearty stew made with white beans, pork, sausage, and duck confit
  • Brandade de Morue: a spread made with salt cod, olive oil, and garlic

Pays de la Loire:

  • Rillauds: pieces of pork belly cooked in their own fat until crispy
  • Tarte aux Pruneaux: a sweet tart made with plums and a flaky pastry crust

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA):

  • Bouillabaisse: a fish soup made with various types of fish, shellfish, and vegetables
  • Ratatouille: a vegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes

Postcards from the Road