France has always been a fascination to me, since small it has given me a sense of curiosity. So I write this France, I want to unpeel it, layer by layer, as you would an artichoke, to reveal all that's wonderful within. As you embark on this journey of discovery with me, I wish you a hearty Bon Voyage!
France, officially known as the French Republic, is a country in Western Europe. The part of France located in Europe is called metropolitan France. In addition, there are also islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean that are French overseas territories, and are counted as France. The country has a total area of 674,843 sq km (260,558 sq mi), of which 551,695 sq km (213,010 sq mi) is in metropolitan France.
Guide to France Hotels
Here's a list of hotels in France that you can book online, listed by city, with full description, star rating, address, location map, evaluation, and prices as offered by different booking sites. This helps you to make your room booking with the site that offers the best price.
France has a population of 65.5 million people, of which 62.7 million live in metropolitan France. Paris, a city with a metropolitan population of close to 12 million people, is the biggest city and capital of the country. Due to immigration from former French colonies, the country today includes six million people of North African descent (mostly from Morroco and Algeria), and another 2.5 million blacks. While the cities continue to grow in size, the rural areas of France continue to experience depopulation and urban migration.
France comprises 26 administrative regions, of which 21 are in metropolitan France, four are overseas regions, and the island of Corsica, standing as a territorial collectivity. Each region is subdivided into 100 departments. The departments are subdivided into arrondissements which are subdivided into cantons, which are further subdivided to communes. The communes, numbering 36,680 in total, are municipalities. Paris, Lyon are Marseille are three communes which are subdivided further, to municipal arrondissements.
In addition to metropolitan France, the country has a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and even Antarctica.
Metropolitan France exhibits a wide range of landscapes. Among its major mountain ranges are the Alps in the southeast, the Massif Central in south-central, and the Pyrenees in the south-west. Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe, is located on the border of France and Italy.
Despite being a highly industrialized and developed country, France still has a forest coverage accounting for 28% of its total land area. It is the second most wooded country in the EU, and its forests hold more than 140 different varieties of trees. The country has nine national parks and 46 natural parks.
The currency used in France is the Euro (EUR). The following are the latest rates for Euro in the last 24-hours.
Planning your visit to France
France receives 81.9 million inbound international visitors in 2009, more than any other country in the world. This makes it the world's most popular tourist destination in the last twenty years. The country holds innumerable tourist attractions. Its countryside is picturesque while its many towns are beautiful and well tended. France has many World Heritage Sites (the second highest number after Italy). It also has exciting cities, winter sports resorts, summer beach resorts, history, fashion and food, all delighting different visitors.
You have several options for arriving in France. The majority of travelers enter through Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) in Paris. Air France, the national flag carrier, uses Terminal 2 at CDG as its home base, along with its component members in Skyteam Alliance namely Dutch KLM, AeroMexico, Alitalia, US Continental, NorthWest, Delta Airlines and Korean Air.
You can also reach France by train. The speediest is to take high speed trains. The Eurostar connects Paris with London through the channel tunnel while the Thalys uses the TGV to connect Paris with Brussels. There are other trains run by the French rail company SNCF connecting various French cities with other parts of Europe.
The easiest way to move about in France is by road. France has a well-developed system of highways and expressways. The expressways, called autoroute, are toll roads. You collect the ticket on entry and pay when you exit. Some have toll plazas where you pay on passing through a section.
In France, driving is on the right side of the road, just like in the United States. The country roads were built long before motorcars were introduced. These are often picturesque but time consuming and unwieldy.
Another excellent way to discover France is by rail. Use the TGV high speed trains for long distances (reservations are obligatory), and the local trains to hop from town to town. The slow trains are more likely to reward you with great sceneries. Check out www.tgv-europe.com for details on planning your rail journeys.
In France, there are generally two main types of roads between cities and towns. The Autoroute are the toll roads. They are numbered with an "A" prefix. Most of these radiate out of Paris, but not all. In this website, I usually call them Autoroute, motorway or expressway. You will see the Autoroute sign as you enter one.
Route nationale are the trunk roads. Their use is free except for certain stretches, such as bridges. They are similar to the Autoroute, except no toll is collected. They are numbered with an "N" prefix. I usually refer to them as "Highway" on this website.
The Autoroutes and some of the Route nationale are also European Routes. This is a road designation system developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Their signs use a green background with white numbers prefixed with "E". I usually write the European Route numbers in parenthesis, like this: A62 (E72).
Below these two categories are the roads prefixed with "D". The D refers to départementale, which corresponds roughly to districts. Such roads are lower than Autoroute and Route nationale but they still link towns and cities together. I usually call them "route" or "country road" on this website.
On Google Maps, both the Autoroute and the Route nationale are signaged with white numbers on red background. The "D" roads are signaged white black numbers on chrome yellow background.
Apartments in France
Booking an apartment in France can be a great alternative for your accommodation. A self-catering apartment would give you the chance to enjoy French cheese and wine in the comfort of your temporary home! All-Paris-Apartments.com is one site where you can book apartments in the French capital and has almost 400 apartments to offer.
Recommended Travel Guidebook
My favorite travel guidebook for further reading in preparation of your trip is the France Eyewitness Guide, because it follows a format that I find useful to users, not to mention I have also contributed to some of the titles in the Eyewitness series of guidebooks.
Administrative divisions in France
The country is divided by regions. These are subdivided into départment, which are then divided into commune. Although they don't have exact equivalents in English, I shall refer to départment as "district" and commune as "city", "town" or "village", depending on their size. Within a city or town, there may also be an arrondissement, which I shall refer here as "neighborhood".
In order to explain France, I subdivide the country by region, and then subdivide by cities and towns.