If you are preparing for your family holiday at our luxury villas in France
, you may be interested in some fun facts about the UKs closest neighbour on the continent. The worlds most popular tourist destination has a rich history and culture for you to explore and the cuisine is considered one of the best in the world. Everyone who visits this beautiful country immediately falls in love with the place and the people, so why not read up on some interesting facts about France before heading off on your exciting holiday adventure?
France produces nearly a billion tonnes of cheese a year, with around 1,200 different varieties. Goats cheese dates back to about 500AD, Roquefort has been mentioned in records as early as 1070 and hard cheeses like Emmental appeared from the 13th century. A French proverb claims un fromage par jour de lannée, there is a different cheese for every day of the year!
French is, of course, the official language and the first language of around 88% of the population, there are various indigenous, regional dialects and languages such as Basque, Breton, Catalan, Occitan, Flemish and around one million people who live along the French-Italian border speak Italian. French is also the second most spoken mother tongue in Europe, before English, and was actually the official language of England from 1066 to 1362.
France is the largest country in the EU with an area of 551,000 sq km and is known as lhexagone or the hexagon due to its six-sided shape. About a quarter of the country is covered by forest too, and its enormous coastline adds up to an astonishing 3427km. The bodies of water surrounding the country are the Mediterranean, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.
French gastronomy has been given UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010, added to the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Experts described the importance of French gastronomy as a social custom aimed at celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups and emphasising togetherness for its function of bringing together close family and friends and strengthening social ties.
Many see France as the home of cycling (despite the gold medal winning streak Team GB has shown in recent years) as the worlds greatest cycle race, the Tour de France, is over 100 years old. Held annually in July, cyclists from around the world race some 3,200km (2,000 miles), primarily around France, in a series of stages over 23 days, with the winner being adorned with the iconic yellow jersey.
As the worlds leading tourist destination, approximately 83 million foreign tourists travel there every year. It has a great deal to offer, from its beautiful coastlines to historic towns. People holiday in France for its skiing, its culture the Louvre in Paris is the most visited art museum in the world and of course the wine, with a staggering 24 million people visiting the wine regions every year.
France has one of the biggest film industries in the world, and the first public screening of a film was by the French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière in 1895. They used their invention, the cinématographe to show around 10 films about one minute long in length at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. Another French filmmaker Georges Méliès led many technical and narrative developments in the early days of cinema.
Art is everywhere in France, particularly in the cities, and Gothic, Romanesque Rococo and Neoclassical influences can also be found in the architecture. Some of the most important and influential artists from the 19th and 20th century were from France Renoir, Matisse, Duchamp, Manet and Monet, who started the Impressionist movement.
Archaeological excavations indicate that France has been continuously inhabited since Palaeolithic times. Along the Mediterranean there are remnants of Greek and Phoenician settlements, in the north, there were Celtic settlements, called Gaul by the Romans, and many Roman ruins. The Romans were then invaded by the Franks, a group of Germanic tribes, passing on their name to modern-day France.
France has tens of thousands of chateaux across the whole country and many of the most famous can be found around the Loire Valley. The biggest and grandest have become very popular tourist attractions. The structures themselves can be both a fortress-like castle to a grand manor house, and vary in age from medieval times to the 17th century.
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