France is the largest country in western Europe, covering an area of 341,993 sq miles (551,602 sq kms).Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European defense and security apparatus. France is divided into 95 departments, excluding 8 overseas departments and territories. Europe’s highest peak, the Mont Blanc (15,750 ft. or 4800 m) is situated in the French Alps. France has 5500 kms of coastline and 4 sea fronts as well as 15 million hectares of forest. Because of its shape, France has been known as the “hexagon”, with the different regions offering different landscapes and sceneries. France has a temperate climate.
In the Winters are cold and summers are hot in the mountains and the northeast. The northwest is characterized by high humidity and cool summers. Midway, the Paris basin boasts of low precipitation with hot summers and cold winters. The south of France enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and very hot summers. In 1997, France had 67 million overseas visitors, making it the number 1 tourist destination in the world.
The official language of France is French, which has many regional dialects. Breton is spoken by some people in Brittany, Basque and Catalan in the south, Flemish in the north. Alsacian, Provenç al, and Corsican are also spoken in other areas. The capital city of Paris is also the capital of fashion. France is also well-known for its cuisine, considered to be the best in the western hemisphere. The mighty monuments of the proud metropolis tell of the splendor of its bygone days.
Churches crowned by cupolas, magnificent churches, majestic gardens, twisting alleys and elegant boulevards bring the history of Paris back to life. Then there are the signs of a more modern era: the steel finger of the Eiffel Tower pointing towards the skies. When built a little over a hundred years ago, it had been mocked and derided. Today it is the symbol par excellence of the city. Still, the Eiffel Tower is but the forerunner of the glass giants that are today dominating the skyline, such as La Défense, a futuristic suburb on the western edge of the city. Yet what would Paris look like with its classical or modern buildings but without its inhabitants? The Parisians! A self-confident lot. Each and everyone a unique individual. Each and everyone important! Tramp or porter, fashion model or business manager, they all play their part in this grandiose setting.
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