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Summary: Located in western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK, and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain, France is mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in the north and west, and the remainder is mountainous, especially the Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east. France is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations, with a rich history, fantastic wines, and intriguing culture.

Capital: Paris
Time Zone: DST +0200 UTC
Population: 60,424,213
Languages: French
Power: 230 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Euro - Currently 1 EUR € = 1.4607 USD $
Climate: The climate features generally cool winters and mild summers, but milder winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean coast. France has occasional strong, cold and dry north-to-northwesterly winds known as the Mistral.

Paris: Paris figures as one of the leading cities of the world for its culture, its food, and its attractions, most of which are central to the core and very walkable. Sights scatter the city, most notably the Champs-Elysees, leading from the Arc De Triomphe, to the Louvre, and of course, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the array of stalls, or bouquinistes, along the Seine. Almost every visitor to Paris takes a day trip 20 miles to the west to the Versailles, a huge castle and park with beautiful landscaped gardens.

Nice: With something to offer everyone, Nice is a popular choice because of the views along the Promenade des Anglais, the main waterfront with beaches that go from sandy to pebbled to stony, and the fact that it is part of the Cote d'Azur and so close to Cannes, Marseilles and Monaco. Among the sights are the churches and squares in the old part of town called Vieux Nice, art galleries like the Musee Matisse and the Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, and the cafes and shopping near the waterfront.

Vineyards: France is the home of the birthplaces of so many household wines and foods that any wine lover should enjoy ticking off their list one at a time the cities of Bordeaux, Chambord, Cognac, Sauternes, Brandy and Champagne. The Loire Valley with its castles and the walled towns like Vezelay in the Burgundy region to the south of Paris are good places to start your journey, and be prepared to tour wineries and see museums on your journey.

Strasbourg: Sitting so close to the border between France and Germany, Strasbourg has ping-ponged between the two countries, and still draws 3 million tourists every year looking for beauty on the Rhine. The Petit France quarter hides houses from the 16th and 17th centuries, trip over or down the canals, or snack in the Cathedral Plaza and see the elaborate clock of Strasbourg's Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Lyon: Lyon is the closest large French city to the Alps, and with its history as the capital of Gaul during the time of the Roman Empire, it can offer great sites to see in this both ancient and modern metropolis. Of special note are an ancient, and partially ruined, ampitheater still in use, and the Musee des Beaux-Arts as France's second largest museum, behind the Louvre, which displays items from Monets to mummies.


Toll Highways: As through much of Europe, there are two kinds of roads that travel the countryside: direct, toll highways, and winding but free roadways. Keep a supply of change and bills handy, as small stretches can cost 1-3 Euro and large ticketed sections can cost upwards of 20 Euro.

Prime Meridian: The Prime Meridian, also known as the "Rose Line", once passed directly through Paris, France. Brass markers bearing the name "Arago" can be found in the streets of Paris that trace this line. The line passes directly through the church of Saint-Sulpice, the Observatory of Paris and the Gardens of the Palace Royal.

Churches: As religion has been a large part of the regional culture for millenia, there are many churches to see.

Dans le Jardin...: Speaking French is an excellent way to break the ice.

When To Visit: Virtually any time of year is good - Skiers in winter can choose the Alps or Pyrenees, sunbathers in summer the east or south west coasts. Shoppers and wine aficionados are welcomed year-round.

Food: France gave birth to foie gras, truffles, Roquefort cheese, cafe au lait, the croissant, and arguably the best wine in the world.

Phrases: Yes = oui, no = non, please = s'il vous plait, thank you = merci, do you speak english = parlez vous anglais?

Tipping: Tips are regularly included in your restaurant and hotel bills, but it is customary to leave staff a couple of Euro extra.

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