Land and People
France is located in western Europe. Clockwise from the northeast, France borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. France has over 550,000 square kilometers (212,000 sq mi) of territory.
The country has fine beaches along the English Channel, Atlantic Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea. There are also majestic snowcapped mountains in the Alps (between the Swiss and Italian borders) and the Pyrenees, bordering Spain.
The climate in northern France is generally cold in winter and mild in summer. However, by the Mediterranean Sea (the French Riviera) and in the southwest of France, mild winters and hot summers are usual. Along the Rhône Valley, in the south, there sometimes blows a strong, cool, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind, known as the Mistral. In July and August, it is the peak of summer. In the winter, lots of snow falls in the mountainous regions.
Because of its long history, France’s culture is a patchwork of local customs. Many regions have their own traditions, types of food, and sometimes even local language.
There is a wide variety of food in France. Each region has its own specialties. There are also hundreds of varieties of cheese in the country. It is said that you can eat a different cheese every day of the year! No wonder the average yearly consumption of cheese is 25 kilograms (55 lb) per person!
Of course, France is also renowned for its variety of wines that provide a wide palette of colors, aromas, and flavors. Restaurants often help guests to choose the right wine for their meal, either a red, a white, a rosé, or even Champagne. Mealtimes are more than just refueling stops. French people often take their time at mealtimes, eating several small portions of food while enjoying the company of friends. Wine is considered a food, and is rarely consumed outside of mealtimes. Traditional family meals consist of an aperitif (a drink and snacks), a starter, a main course, a cheese course, a desert, and then coffee or herbal tea. Each course may be accompanied by a different wine. No wonder such meals can last up to three hours or more!
France is one of the world's top tourist destinations, with more than 80 million visitors a year.
Because of France’s long history, there are many museums to visit, such as the Louvre and the Orsay museums in Paris.
In these museums, you can discover the works of famous painters and artists, who have portrayed France’s history and its landscapes throughout the centuries. Past centuries have left many marvelous landmarks, such as the Eiffel tower and the royal Chateau of Versailles. And throughout the country there are many sites to visit that provide a glimpse of France’s rich historical heritage.