FRENCH Facts & Figures

Size: 260,558 square miles

Population: 65,350,000

Capital:  Paris

Currency: Euro

Weather / Climate:

Metropolitan France is situated mostly between latitudes 41° and 51° N (Dunkirk is just north of 51°), and longitudes 6° W and 10° E, on the western edge of Europe, and thus lies within the northern temperate zone

While Metropolitan France is located in Western Europe, France also has a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica. These territories have varying forms of government ranging from overseas department to overseas collectivity. France's overseas departments and collectivities share land borders with Brazil, and Suriname (bordering French Guiana), and Sint Maarten (bordering Saint-Martin).

Metropolitan France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi), having the largest area among European Union members. France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the south-east, the Massif Central in the south-central and Pyrenees in the south-west.

At 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. Metropolitan France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.

France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 674,843 km2 (260,558 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. However, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,637 sq mi), approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, just behind the United States (11,351,000 km2/4,382,646 sq mi) and ahead of Australia (8,232,000 km2/3,178,393 sq mi). The north and northwest have a temperate climate, while a combination of maritime influences, latitude and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France.

In the south-east a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool to warm summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps and other mountainous regions is mainly alpine, with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snow cover lasting for up to six months.

Taken from wikipedia

FRENCH languages

There are a number of languages of France. French is the sole official language and is by far the most widely spoken, but several regional languages are also spoken to varying degrees. Owing to immigration, a number of non-indigenous tongues are now also spoken in parts of the country. The map to the right displays the historical areas in which regional languages have been spoken. Some of these languages have also been spoken in neighbouring countries; this is true in the case of Dutch (Vlamsch) and Walloon (wallon), a majority of whose speakers reside in Belgium.

Some of the languages of France are also cross-border languages (for example, Basque, Catalan, Picard, Norman, Franco-Provençal, Dutch, Occitan, Franc-Comtois and others), some of which enjoy a recognised or official status in the respective neighbouring state or territory (including French itself in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and in the Val-d'Aoste).

The official language of the French Republic is French (art. 2 of the French Constitution), and the French government is, by law, compelled to communicate primarily in French. The government, furthermore, mandates that commercial advertising be available in French (though it can also use other languages); see Toubon Law. The French government, however, does not mandate the usage of French in non-commercial publications by private individuals or corporations or in any other media.

A revision of the French constitution creating official recognition of regional languages was implemented by the Parliament in Congress at Versailles in July 2008.[2]

The 1999 Report written for the government by Bernard Cerquiglini identified 75 languages that would qualify for recognition under the government's proposed ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. 24 of those languages are indigenous to the European territory of the state while all the others are from overseas areas of the French Republic (in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and South America).

Although ratification was blocked by the Constitutional Council as contradicting the Fifth Republic's constitutional provision enshrining French as the language of the Republic, the government continues to recognise regional and minority languages to a limited extent (i.e. without granting them official status) and the Délégation générale à la langue française has acquired the additional function of observing and studying the languages of France and has had et aux langues de France added to its title. The category of languages of France (in French: langues de France) is thus administratively recognised even if this does not go as far as providing any official status.

The regional languages of France are sometimes called patois, but this term (roughly meaning "dialect") is often considered derogatory. Patois is used to refer to supposedly purely oral languages,[citation needed] but this does not, for instance, take into account that Occitan was already being written at a time when French was not and its literature has continued to thrive, with a Nobel Prize for Frédéric Mistral in 1904.

Taken from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_France

FRENCH culture

 

FRENCH people

As of January 1, 2011, 65,821,885 people live in the French Republic.[1] 63,136,180 of these live in metropolitan France,[2] whereas 2,685,705 live in the French overseas departments and territories.

At the beginning of the 20th century, France's population was low compared to its neighbours and to its past history. However, the country's population sharply increased with the baby boom following World War II. During the Trente Glorieuses (1945–1974), the country's reconstruction and steady economic growth led to the labor-immigration of the 1960s, when many employers found manpower in villages located in Southern Europe and in the Maghreb (or North Africa). French law facilitated the immigration of thousands of colons, ethnic or national French from former colonies of North and West Africa, India and Indochina, to mainland France. 1.6 million European pieds noirs migrated from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.[3] In the 1970s, over 30,000 French colons left Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime as the Pol Pot government confiscated their farms and land properties. However, after the 1973 energy crisis, laws limiting immigration were passed. In addition, the country's birth rate dropped significantly during this time.

Since the 1980s, France has continued being a country of mass immigration. Meanwhile, the national birth rate, after continuing to drop for a time, began to rebound in the 1990s and currently the country's fertility rate is close to the replacement level. In recent years, immigrants have accounted for one quarter of the population growth - a lower proportion than in most other European countries. According to an INSEE 2006 study, "The natural increase is close to 300,000 persons, a level that has not been reached in more than thirty years. Net migration is estimated at 93,600 persons, slightly more than in 2005."[4]

As of 2008, the French national institute of statistics INSEE estimated that 11.8 million foreign-born immigrants and their direct descendants (second generation) lived in France representing 19% of the country's population. About 5,5 million are of European origin and 4 million of Maghrebi origin.[5][6] Among the 802,000 newborns in metropolitan France in 2010, 27.3% had at least one foreign-born parent and about one quarter (23.9%) had at least one parent born outside of EU.

The modern ethnic French are the descendants of Celts, Iberians, Ligurians and Greeks in southern France,[19][20] later mixed with large group of Germanic peoples arriving at the end of the Roman Empire such as the Franks the Burgundians, Alamanni and Goths,[21] very small portions of Moors and Saracens in the south,[22][23][24][25][26][27][28] and Scandinavians, Vikings who became, by mixing with the local population, the Normans and settled mostly in Normandy in the 9th century.[29][30]

Due to a law dating from 1872, the French Republic prohibits performing census by making distinction between its citizens regarding their race or their beliefs. [31]

Some organizations, such as the Representative Council of Black Associations (French: Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France, CRAN), have argued in favour of the introduction of data collection on minority groups but this has been resisted by other organizations and ruling politicians,[32][33] often on the grounds that collecting such statistics goes against France's secular principles and harks back to Vichy-era identity documents.[34] During the 2007 presidential election, however, Nicolas Sarkozy was polled on the issue and stated that he favoured the collection of data on ethnicity.[35] Part of a parliamentary bill which would have permitted the collection of data for the purpose of measuring discrimination was rejected by the Conseil Constitutionnel in November 2007.[31]

However, that law does not concern surveys and polls, which are free to ask those questions if they wish. The law also allows for an exception for public institutions such as the INED or the INSEE whose job it is to collect data on demographics, social trends and other related subjects, on condition that the collection of such data has been authorized by the National Commission for Computer-stocked data and Freedom (CNIL) and the National Council of Statistical Information (CNIS).[36]

Of European ethnic groups not indigenous to France, the most numerous are people of Italian family origin and it is estimated that about 5 million citizens (8% of the population) are at least partly of Italian origin if their parentage is retraced over three generations.[37] This is due to waves of Italian immigration, notably during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Other large European groups of non-native origin are Spaniards, Portuguese, Polish, and Greeks. Also, due to more recent immigration, between five and six million people of Maghrebi origin[38] and approximately 500,000 Turks inhabit France. An influx of North African Jews immigrated to France in the 1950s and after the Algerian War due to the decline of the French empire. Subsequent waves of immigration followed the Six-Day War, when some Moroccan and Tunisian Jews settled in France. Hence, by 1968, North African Jews were about 500,000 and the majority in France. As these new immigrants were already culturally French they needed little time to adjust to French society. Black people come from both the French overseas territories and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Taken from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_France

FRENCH food

French cuisine(French: Cuisine française, is a style of food preparation originating from France that has developed from centuries of social change. In the Middle Ages, Guillaume Tirel (a.k.a. Taillevent), a courtchef, authored Le Viandier, one of the earliest recipe collections of Medieval France. In the 17th century, La Varenne and the notable chef of Napoleon and other dignitaries, Marie-Antoine Carême, moved toward fewer spices and more liberal usage of herbs and creamy ingredients, signaling the beginning of modern cuisine. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles regionally and nationally, with many variations and appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws.

French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Escoffier to become the modern version of haute cuisine; Escoffier, however, left out much of the regional culinary character to be found in the regions of France. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to acquaint people with the rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of the French countryside starting in the 20th century. Gascon cuisine has also had great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in variations across the country.

Knowledge of French cooking has contributed significantly to Western cuisines and its criteria are used widely in Western cookery school boards and culinary education. In November 2010 the French gastronomy was added by UNESCO to its lists of the world's "intangible cultural heritage".[1][2]

There are many dishes that are considered part of the nation's national cuisine today.

A meal often consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée (introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese course) or/and dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert.

Hors d'œuvre

-          Basil salmon terrine

-          Bisque is a smooth, creamy, french potage

-          Velouté de mousseron

Plat principal

-          Pot au feu is a cuisine classique dish

-          Pommes Frites is a simple and popular dish

-          Baguetteoften accompanies the meal

-          some French cheeses

Pâtisserie & Dessert

-          Mousse au chocolat

-          Crème brulée

-          Religieuse au chocolat

-          Mille-feuille

Regional cuisine

French regional cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity and style. Traditionally, each region of France has its own distinctive cuisine.[8]

Parisand Île-de-France

Parisand Île-de-France are central regions where almost anything from the country is available, as all train lines meet in the city. Over 9,000 restaurants exist in Paris and almost any cuisine can be had here. High-quality Michelin Guide rated restaurants proliferate here.[9]

Champagne, Lorraine, and Alsace

Game and ham are popular in Champagne, as well as the special sparkling wine simply known as Champagne. Fine fruit preserves are known from Lorraine as well as the quiche Lorraine. Alsace is influenced by the alemannic food culture; as such, beers made in the area are similar to the style of bordering Germany.[9]

Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany

The coastline supplies many crustaceans, sea bass, monkfish and herring. Normandy has top quality seafood, such as scallops and sole, while Brittany has a supply of lobster, crayfish and mussels. Normandy is home to a large population of apple trees; apples are often used in dishes, as well as cider and Calvados. The northern areas of this region, especially Nord, grow ample amounts of wheat, sugar beets and chicory. Thick stews are found often in these northern areas as well. The produce of these northern regions is also considered some of the best in the country, including cauliflower and artichokes. Buckwheat grows widely in Brittany as well and is used in the region's galettes, called jalet, which is where this dish originated.[9]

Loire Valley and central France

High quality fruits come from the Loire Valley and central France, including cherries grown for the liqueur Guignolet and the Belle Angevine pears. The strawberries and melons are also of high quality. Fish are seen in the cuisine, often served with a beurre blanc sauce, as well as wild game, lamb, calves, Charolais cattle, Géline fowl, and high quality goat cheeses. Young vegetables are used often in the cuisine as are the specialty mushrooms of the region, champignons de Paris. Vinegars from Orléans are a specialty ingredient used as well.[9]:129, 132

Burgundyand Franche-Comté

Burgundy is known for its wines. Pike, perch, river crabs, snails, poultry from Bresse, Charolais beef or game, redcurrants, blackcurrants, honey cake, Chaource and Epoisses cheese are all specialties of the local cuisine of both Burgundy and Franche-Comté. Crème de Cassis is a popular liquor made from the blackcurrants. Dijon mustard is also a specialty of Burgundy cuisine. Oils are used in the cooking here, types include nut oils and rapeseed oil. Smoked meat and specialties are produced in the Jura.[9]

Lyon-Rhône-Alpes

Fruit and young vegetables are popular in the cuisine from the Rhône valley. Poultry from Bresse, guinea fowls from Drôme and fish from the Dombes lakes and mountain in Rhône-Alpes streams are key to the cuisine as well. Lyon and Savoy supply high quality sausages while the Alpine regions supply their specialty cheeses like Beaufort, Abondance, Reblochon, Tomme and Vacherin. Mères lyonnaises are a particular type of restaurateur relegated to this region that are the regions bistro. Celebrated chefs from this region include Fernand Point, Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers and Alain Chapel. The Chartreuse Mountains are in this region, and the liquor Chartreuse is produced in a monastery there.[9]:197,230

Poitou-Charentes and Limousin

Oysters come from the Oléron-Marennes basin, while mussels come from the Bay of Aiguillon. High quality produce comes from the region's hinterland, especially goat cheese. This region and in the Vendée is grazing ground for Parthenaise cattle, while poultry is raised in Challans. Poitou and Charente purportedly produce the best butter and cream in France. Cognac is also made in the region along the Charente River. Limousin is home to the high quality Limousin cattle, as well as high quality sheep. The woodlands offer game and high quality mushrooms. The southern area around Brive draws its cooking influence from Périgord and Auvergne to produce a robust cuisine.[9]:237

Bordeaux, Périgord, Gascony, and Basque country

Bordeaux is known for its wine, as it is throughout the southwest of France, with certain areas offering specialty grapes for its wines. Fishing is popular in the region for the cuisine, sea fishing in the Bay of Biscay, trapping in the Garonne and stream fishing in the Pyrenees. The Pyrenees also support top quality lamb, such as the "Agneau de Pauillac", as well as high quality sheep cheeses. Beef cattle in the region include the Blonde d'Aquitaine, Boeuf de Chalosse, Boeuf Gras de Bazas, and Garonnaise. High quality free-range chicken, turkey, pigeon, capon, goose and duck prevail in the region as well. Gascony and Périgord cuisines includes high quality patés, terrines, confits and magrets. This is one of the regions notable for its production of foie gras or fattened goose or duck liver. The cuisine of the region is often heavy and farm based. Armagnac is also from this region, as are high quality prunes from Agen.[9]

Toulouse, Quercy, and Aveyron

Gers, a department of France, is within this region and has high quality poultry, while La Montagne Noire and Lacaune area offers high quality hams and dry sausages. White corn is planted heavily in the area both for use in fattening the ducks and geese for foie gras and for the production of millas, a cornmeal porridge. Haricot beans are also grown in this area, which are central to the dish cassoulet. The finest sausage in France is commonly acknowledged to be the saucisse de Toulouse, which also finds its way into their version of cassoulet of Toulouse. The Cahors area produces a high quality specialty "black wine" as well as high-quality truffles and mushrooms. This region also produces milk-fed lamb. Unpasteurized ewe's milk is used to produce the Roquefort in Aveyron, while in Laguiole is producing unpasteurized cow's milk cheese. The Salers cattle produce quality milk for cheese, as well as beef and veal products. The volcanic soils create flinty cheeses and superb lentils. Mineral waters are produced in high volume in this region as well.[9]:313 Cabécou cheese is from Rocamadour, a medieval settlement erected directly on a cliff, in the rich countryside of Causses du Quercy. This area is one of the region’s oldest milk producers; it has chalky soil, marked by history and human activity, and is favourable for the raising of goats.

Roussillon, Languedoc, and Cévennes

Restaurants are popular in the area known as Le Midi. Oysters come from the Etang de Thau, to be served in the restaurants of Bouzigues, Meze, and Sète. Mussels are commonly seen here in addition to fish specialties of Sète, Bourride, Tielles and Rouille de seiche. In the Languedoc jambon cru, sometimes known as jambon de montagne is produced. High quality Roquefort comes from the brebis (sheep) on the Larzac plateau. The Les Cévennes area offers mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, honey, lamb, game, sausages, pâtés and goat cheeses. Catalan influence can be seen in the cuisine here with dishes like brandade made from a purée of dried cod wrapped in mangold leaves. Snails are plentiful and are prepared in a specific Catalan style known as a cargolade. Wild boar can be found in the more mountainous regions of the Midi.[9]

Provenceand Côte d'Azur

See also: Provencal cuisine

The Provence and Côte d'Azur region is rich in quality citrus, vegetables and fruits and herbs – the region is one of the largest suppliers of all these ingredients in France. The region also produces the largest amount of olives, and creates superb olive oil. Lavender is used in many dishes found in Haute Provence. Other important herbs in the cuisine include thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, savory, fennel, marjoram, tarragon, oregano, and bay leaf. Honey is a prized ingredient in the region. Seafood proliferates throughout the coastal area. Goat cheeses, air-dried sausages, lamb, beef, and chicken are popular here. Garlic* and anchovies are used in many of the region's sauces, as in Poulet Provençal, which uses white wine, tomatoes, herbs, and sometimes anchovies, and Pastis is found everywhere that alcohol is served. The cuisine uses a large amount of vegetables for lighter preparations. Truffles are commonly seen in Provence during the winter. Thirteen desserts in Provence are the traditional Christmas dessert,[10] e.g. quince cheese, biscuits, almonds, nougat, apple, and fougasse.

Rice is grown in the Camargue, which is the most-northerly rice growing area in Europe, with Camargue red rice being a specialty.[9]:387,403,404,410,416

Anibal Camous, a Marseillais who lived to be 104, maintained that it was by eating garlic daily that he kept his “youth” and brilliance. When his eighty-year-old son died, the father mourned : “ I always told him he wouldn’t live long, poor boy. He ate too little garlic !” (cited by chef Philippe Gion)

Corsica

Goats and sheep proliferate on the island of Corsica, and lamb are used to prepare dishes such as "stufato", ragouts and roasts. Cheeses are also produced, with "brocciu" being the most popular. Chestnuts, growing in the Castagniccia forest, are used to produce flour, which is used in turn to make bread, cakes and polenta. The forest provides acorns used to feed the pigs and boars that provide much of the protein for the island's cuisine. Fresh fish and seafood are common. The island's pork is used to make fine hams, sausage and other unique items including coppa (dried rib cut), lonzu (dried pork fillet), figatella, salumu (a dried sausage) salcietta, Panzetta, bacon, figarettu (smoked and dried liverwurst) and prisuttu (farmer's ham). Clementines (which hold an AOC designation), lemons, nectarines and figs are grown there. Candied citron is used in nougats and stephen o grady eats cakes, while and the aforementioned brocciu and chestnuts are also used in desserts. Corsica offers a variety of wines and fruit liqueurs, including Cap Corse, Patrimonio, Cédratine, Bonapartine, liqueur de myrte, vins de fruit, Rappu, and eau-de-vie de châtaigne.[9]:435,441,442

Specialties by season

French cuisine varies according to the season. In summer, salads and fruit dishes are popular because they are refreshing and produce is inexpensive and abundant. Greengrocers prefer to sell their fruit and vegetables at lower prices if needed, rather than see them rot in the heat. At the end of summer, mushrooms become plentiful and appear in stews throughout France. The hunting season begins in September and runs through February. Game of all kinds is eaten, often in elaborate dishes that celebrate the success of the hunt. Shellfish are at their peak when winter turns to spring, and oysters appear in restaurants in large quantities.

With the advent of deep-freeze and the air-conditioned hypermarché, these seasonal variations are less marked than hitherto, but they are still observed, in some cases due to legal restrictions. Crayfish, for example, have a short season and it is illegal to catch them out of season.[11] Moreover, they do not freeze well.

Foods and ingredients

French regional cuisines use locally grown vegetables, such as pomme de terre (potato), blé (wheat), haricots verts (a type of French green bean), carotte (carrot), poireau (leek), navet (turnip), aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini), and échalotte (shallot).

French regional cuisines use locally grown fungi, such as truffe (truffle), champignon de Paris (mushroom), chanterelle ou girolle (chanterelle), pleurote (en huître) (oyster mushrooms), and cèpes (porcini).

Common fruits include oranges, tomatoes, tangerines, peaches, apricots, apples, pears, plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries, grapes, grapefruit, and blackcurrants.

Varieties of meat consumed include poulet (chicken), pigeon (squab), dinde (turkey), canard (duck), oie (goose, the source of foie gras), bœuf (beef), veau (veal), porc (pork), agneau (lamb), mouton (mutton), lapin (rabbit), caille (quail), cheval (horse), grenouille (frog), and escargot (snails). Commonly consumed fish and seafood include cod, canned sardines, fresh sardines, canned tuna, fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mussels, herring, oysters, shrimp and calamari.

Eggs are fine quality and often eaten as: omelettes, hard-boiled with mayonnaise, scrambled plain, scrambled haute cuisine preparation, œuf à la coque.

Herbs and seasonings vary by region, and include fleur de sel, herbes de Provence, tarragon, rosemary, marjoram, lavender, thyme, fennel, and sage.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and meat, can be purchased either from supermarkets or specialty shops. Street markets are held on certain days in most localities; some towns have a more permanent covered market enclosing food shops, especially meat and fish retailers. These have better shelter than the periodic street markets.

Structure of meals

Breakfast

Le petit déjeuner(breakfast) is often a quick meal consisting of tartines (slices) of French bread with jelly or jam, croissants, pain aux raisins or pain au chocolat also named chocolatine in the south of France (a pastry filled with chocolate) along with coffee or tea.[12] Children often drink hot chocolate in bowls along with their breakfasts. Breakfast of some kind is always served in cafés opening early in the day.

Lunch

Le déjeuner(lunch) is a two hour mid-day meal, but it has recently seen a trend towards the one hour lunch break. In some smaller towns and in the south of France, the two hour lunch may still be customary. Sunday lunches are often longer and are taken with the family.[13] Restaurants normally open for lunch at noon and close at 2:30 pm. Some restaurants close on Monday during lunch.[14]

In large cities, a majority of working people and students eat their lunch at a corporate or school cafeteria, which normally serve complete meals as described above; it is therefore not usual for students to bring their own lunch food. It is common for white-collar workers to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs; however, workers having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three dishes of a traditional lunch due to price and time considerations. In smaller cities and towns, some working people leave their workplaces to return home for lunch, generating four rush hours during the day. Finally, an alternative also popular, especially among blue-collar workers, is to lunch on a sandwich, possibly followed with a dessert; both dishes can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets for budget prices.

Dinner

Le dîner(dinner) often consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée (introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), and a cheese course or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert. Yogurt may replace the cheese course, while a simple dessert would be fresh fruit. The meal is often accompanied by bread, wine and mineral water. Main meat courses are often served with vegetables, along with potatoes, rice or pasta.[13]:82 Restaurants often open at 7:30 pm for dinner, and stop taking orders between the hours of 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Some restaurants close for dinner on Sundays. [14]:342

Beverages & Drinks

In French cuisine, beverages that precede a meal are called apéritifs (literally: that opens the appetite), and can be served with amuse-bouches (literally: mouth amuser). Those that end it are called digestifs.

Apéritifs

The apéritif varies from region to region : Pastis is popular in the south of France, Crémant d'Alsace in the eastern region. Champagne can also be served. Kir, also called « Blanc-cassis », is a common and popular apéritif-cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine. The word Kir Royal is used when white wine is replaced with a Champagne wine. A simple glass of red wine, such as Beaujolais nouveau, can also be presented as an apéritif, accompanied by amuse-bouches. Some apéritifs can be fortified wines with added herbs, such as cinchona, gentian and vermouth. Trade names that sell well include Suze (the classic gentiane), Byrrh, Dubonnet, Noilly Prat.

Digestifs

Digestifs are traditionally stronger, and include Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados and fruit alcools.

Taken from wikipedia

Places to go in FRANCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing business in FRANCE

A member of the G8 group of leading industrialised countries, it is ranked as the world's fifth largest and Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP;[154] with 39 of the 500 biggest companies of the world in 2010, France ranks world's 4th and Europe's 1st in the Fortune Global 500 ahead of Germany and the UK. France joined 11 other EU members to launch the euro on 1 January 1999, with euro coins and banknotes completely replacing the French franc (?) in early 2002.[155]

France has a mixed economy which combines extensive private enterprise (nearly 2.5 million companies registered)[157][158] with substantial (though declining[159]) state enterprise and government intervention (see dirigisme). The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, nuclear power and telecommunications.[159] It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s.[159] The government is slowly corporatising the state sector and selling off holdings in France Télécom, Air France, as well as the insurance, banking, and defence industries.[159] France has an important aerospace industry led by the European consortium Airbus, and has its own national spaceport, the Centre Spatial Guyanais.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), in 2009 France was the world's sixth-largest exporter and the fourth-largest importer of manufactured goods.[160] In 2008, France was the third-largest recipient of foreign direct investment among OECD countries at $117.9 billion, ranking behind Luxembourg (where foreign direct investment was essentially monetary transfers to banks located in that country) and the United States ($316.1 billion), but above the United Kingdom ($96.9 billion), Germany ($24.9 billion), or Japan ($24.4 billion).[161][162] In the same year, French companies invested $220 billion outside of France, ranking France as the second most important outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the United States ($311.8 billion), and ahead of the United Kingdom ($111.4 billion), Japan ($128 billion) and Germany ($156.5 billion).[161][162] With 39 of the 500 biggest companies of the world in 2010, France ranks 4th in the Fortune Global 500, behind the USA, Japan and China, but ahead of Germany and the UK.[163]

Financial services, banking and the insurance sector are an important part of France's economy. The Paris stock exchange market (French: La Bourse de Paris) is an ancient institution, as it was created by Louis XV in 1724.[164] In 2000, the stock exchanges of Paris, Amsterdam and Bruxelles merged into Euronext.[165] In 2007, Euronext merged with the New York stock exchange to form NYSE Euronext, the world's largest stock exchange.[165]Euronext Paris, the French branch of the NYSE Euronext group is Europe's second largest stock exchange market, behind the London Stock Exchange.

French companies have maintained key positions in the Insurance and Banking industries: AXA is the world's largest insurance company, and is ranked by Fortune the ninth richest corporation by revenues.

The leading French banks are BNP Paribas and the Crédit Agricole, ranking as the world's 1st and 6th largest banks in 2010[166] (determined by the amount of assets), while the Société Générale group was ranked the world's eight largest in 2008–2009.

Franceis the smallest emitter of carbon dioxide among the seven most industrialized countries in the world, due to its heavy investment in nuclear power.[167] As a result of large investments in nuclear technology, most of the electricity produced in the country is generated by 59 nuclear power plants (78% in 2006,[168] up from only 8% in 1973, 24% in 1980, and 75% in 1990). In this context, renewable energies (see the power cooperative Enercoop) are having difficulties taking off the ground.

Agriculture

Francehas historically been an important producer of agricultural products.[169] Large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and EU subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe[170] (representing alone 20% of the EU's agricultural production[171]) and the world's third biggest exporter of agricultural products.[172]

Wheat, poultry, dairy, beef, and pork, as well as an internationally recognized processed foods are the primary French agricultural exports. Rosé wines are primarily consumed within the country, but champagne and Bordeaux wines are major exports, being known worldwide. EU agriculture subsidies to France have decreased for the last years, but still amounted to $8 billion in 2007.[173] This same year, France sold 33.4 billion euros of transformed agricultural products.[174]

Agriculture is thus an important sector of France's economy : 3.5% of the active population is employed in agriculture,[171] whereas the total agri-food industry made up 4.2% of French GDP in 2005.[171]

Labour market

The French GDP per capita is similar to the GDP per capita of other comparable European countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom.[175] GDP per capita is determined by (i) productivity per hour worked, which in France is the highest of the G8 countries in 2005, according to the OECD,[176] (ii) the number of hours worked, which is one the lowest of developed countries,[177] and (iii) the employment rate. France has one of the lowest 15–64 years employment rates of the OECD countries: in 2004, only 69% of the French population aged 15–64 years were in employment, compared to 80% in Japan, 79% in the UK, 77% in the US, and 71% in Germany.[178]

This gap is due to the very low employment rates at both age extremes: the employment rate of people aged 55–64 was 38.3% in 2007, compared to 46.6% in the EU15;[180] for the 15–24 years old, the employment rate was 31.5% in 2007, compared to 37.2% in EU25.[181] These low employment rates are explained by the high minimum wages which prevent low productivity workers – such as young people – from easily entering the labour market,[182] ineffective university curricula that fail to prepare students adequately for the labour market,[183] and, concerning the older workers, restrictive legislation on work and incentives for premature retirement.[184][185]

The unemployment rate decreased from 9% in 2006 to 7% in 2008 but remains one of the highest in Europe.[186][187] In June 2009, the unemployment rate for France was 9.4%.[188] Shorter working hours and the reluctance to reform the labour market are mentioned as weak spots of the French economy in the view of the right, when the left mentions the lack of government policies fostering social justice. Liberal economists have stressed repeatedly over the years that the main issue of the French economy is an issue of structural reforms, in order to increase the size of the working population in the overall population, reduce the taxes' level and the administrative burden.

Keynesian economists have different answers to the unemployment issue, and their theories led to the 35-hour workweek law in the 2000s (decade), which turned out to be a failure in reducing unemployment. Afterwards, between 2004 and 2008, the Government made some supply-oriented reforms to combat unemployment but met with fierce resistance,[189] especially with the contrat nouvelle embauche and the contrat première embauche which both were eventually repealed.[190] The current Government is experiencing the revenu de solidarité active to redress the negative effect of the revenu minimum d'insertion on work incentive.[191]

Tourism

With 81.9 million foreign tourists in 2007,[23] France is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world, ahead of Spain (58.5 million in 2006) and the United States (51.1 million in 2006). This 81.9 million figure excludes people staying less than 24 hours in France, such as Northern Europeans crossing France on their way to Spain or Italy during the summer.

The most popular tourist sites include: (according to a 2003 ranking[197] visitors per year): Eiffel Tower (6.2 million), Louvre Museum (5.7 million), Palace of Versailles (2.8 million), Musée d'Orsay (2.1 million), Arc de Triomphe (1.2 million), Centre Pompidou (1.2 million), Mont-Saint-Michel (1 million), Château de Chambord (711,000), Sainte-Chapelle (683,000), Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg (549,000), Puy de Dôme (500,000), Musée Picasso (441,000), Carcassonne (362,000).

Transport

The railway network of France, which as of 2008[update] stretches 29,473 kilometres (18,314 mi)[198] is the second most extensive in Western Europe after the German one.[199] It is operated by the SNCF, and high-speed trains include the Thalys, the Eurostar and TGV, which travels at 320 km/h (199 mph) in commercial use.[200][201] The Eurostar, along with the Eurotunnel Shuttle, connects with the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel. Rail connections exist to all other neighbouring countries in Europe, except Andorra. Intra-urban connections are also well developed with both underground services and tramway services complementing bus services.

There are approximately 1,027,183 kilometres (638,262 mi) of serviceable roadway in France, ranking it the most extensive network of the European continent.[202] The Paris region is enveloped with the most dense network of roads and highways that connect it with virtually all parts of the country. French roads also handle substantial international traffic, connecting with cities in neighboring Belgium, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. There is no annual registration fee or road tax; however, motorway usage is through tolls except in the vicinity of large communes. The new car market is dominated by domestic brands such as Renault (27% of cars sold in France in 2003), Peugeot (20.1%) and Citroën (13.5%).[203] Over 70% of new cars sold in 2004 had diesel engines, far more than contained petrol or LPG engines.[204] France possesses the Millau Viaduct, the world's tallest bridge,[205] and has built many important bridges such as the Pont de Normandie.

There are 475 airports in France.[70]Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport located in the vicinity of Paris is the largest and busiest airport in the country, handling the vast majority of popular and commercial traffic and connecting Paris with virtually all major cities across the world. Air France is the national carrier airline, although numerous private airline companies provide domestic and international travel services. There are ten major ports in France, the largest of which is in Marseille,[206] which also is the largest bordering the Mediterranean Sea.[207][208] 12,261 kilometres (7,619 mi) of waterways traverse France including the Canal du Midi which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean through the Garonne river.[70]

Taken from wikipedia

FRANCE: useful links

www.franceguide.com

www.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/998481.stm

www.lonelyplanet.com/france

www.justfrance.org

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