Franceby Emma Howard
France is the most visited country of Europewith around 75 million tourists, the World Tourism Organization puts it well in the lead of Spain (on 53 million) and the United States (around 50 million). With everything a tourist could possibly require in an area not quite the size of the state of Texas, France is noted for the beauty of its countryside, the… See more details below
France is the most visited country of Europewith around 75 million tourists, the World Tourism Organization puts it well in the lead of Spain (on 53 million) and the United States (around 50 million). With everything a tourist could possibly require in an area not quite the size of the state of Texas, France is noted for the beauty of its countryside, the antiquity of its cities, the richness of its culture, the diversity of its cuisine, and the style of its fashionable people.
The visitor to France is always struck by the complexity of this many-layered countrya cosmopolitan mixture of urban chic and agrarian conservatism. France relishes both the fierce individuality of its regions and the centralization of its political and cultural establishment. Nowhere is this more obvious than in French cuisine, a glorious mixture of classical haute cuisine and the gastronomic tradition of the regionsfrom the apples and cream of the northwest to the Mediterranean flavors of the southeast; the African spices of the couscous house to the Germanic influences in Alsace-Lorraine.
“How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” said one of France’s most famous leaders, Charles de Gaulle, and the country is known for its turbulent political life. Ruled by Rome for five hundred years after its conquest by Julius Caesar in the first century b.c., it was conquered by the Franks, who gave it the name we use today. The Frankish period ended with France as part of Charlemagne’s Carolingian dynasty, but France as we know it was progressively unified under the Capetian, Valois, and Bourbon monarchies, whose apogee was the glorious reign of the Sun King-Louis XIVwho died in 1715. Less than a century later, the French monarchy lost its life and its lands to the French Revolution, whose great principles of democracy were overturned by the imperial dreams of one of the world’s great generals. Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaigns led to great glory and great carnage, but his administrative powers laid the bureaucratic foundations for the modern French state.
Today, France is one of the world’s great powers: a founder member of the United Nations and European Union, it has one of the strongest economies in the world. But for all its political standing, it is France’s history and its landscape that provide the background to the country’s unique character, and the reasons for its enduring magic.
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