France

 

History of France

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France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. It plays an influential global role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the G-8, the G-20, the EU and other multilateral organizations.

Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent decades, its reconciliation and co-operation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe.

France was a founding member of NATO in 1949 but in 1966 President Charles de Gaulle decided to take French forces out of NATO because he felt there was too much power being wielded by the UK and US. This resulted in the NATO headquarters being moved from Paris to Brussels. However, in 2009 France rejoined NATO's integrated military command structure. France was also a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC) (now the European Union (EU)) in 1957 and also participated in the introduction of the Euro (EUR) in a two-phased approach in 1999 (accounting phase) and 2002 (monetary phase) to replace the French Franc (FRF). France is also a member country of the Schengen Area in which border controls with other Schengen members have been eliminated while at the same those with non-Schengen countries have been strengthened.

Cities

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  • Paris - the "City of Light", romance and the Eiffel Tower
  • Bordeaux - city of wine, traditional stone mansions and smart terraces
  • Bourges - gardens, canals and a cathedral listed as a UNESCO heritage site
  • Lille - a dynamic northern city known for its handsome centre and active cultural life
  • Lyon - France's second city with a history from Roman times to the Resistance
  • Marseille - Third French city, big harbour and the heart of the Provence, hosting the European Capital of Culture in 2013
  • Nantes - the "Greenest City" and according to some the best place to live in Europe
  • Strasbourg - famous for its historical centre, and home to many European institutions
  • Toulouse - the "Pink City", for its distinctive brick architecture, main city of Occitania

Culture

France has been a center of Western cultural development for centuries. Many French artists have been among the most renowned of their time, and France is still recognized in the world for its rich cultural tradition.

The successive political regimes have always promoted artistic creation, and the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 1959 helped preserve the cultural heritage of the country and make it available to the public. The Ministry of Culture has been very active since its creation, granting subsidies to artists, promoting French culture in the world, supporting festivals and cultural events, protecting historical monuments. The French government also succeeded in maintaining acultural exception to defend audiovisual products made in the country.

France receives the highest number of tourists per year, largely thanks to the numerous cultural establishments and historical buildings implanted all over the territory. It counts 1,200 museums welcoming more than 50 million people annually. The most important cultural sites are run by the government, for instance through the public agency Centre des monuments nationaux, which is responsible for approximately 85 national historical monuments.

Weather and Climate

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France enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year: not too hot and not too cold, with a plentiful mix of rainfall and sunshine. Naturally, each region has its own particular climate: cooler and wetter to the north and west and warmer and drier in the Mediterranean.

In winter , there is plenty of snow for winter sports enthusiasts to enjoy in mountainous areas. More rarely, snow falls on the plains, mainly north of the Loire, and extremely rarely in Paris.

In spring, temperatures quickly rise above 20°C in the south, with the first swimmers appearing in Nice and Cannes. From the month of May, the whole of France puts on a tee-shirt. The days lengthen and it's time to take a trip to the countryside and enjoy an aperitif on the terrace.

Summers are hot and peaceful, the sun shining across the whole country. There are temperatures to to suit everyone: often reaching 30°C in Ajaccio and Marseille, 25°C in Brest and Deauville. People top up their tans and throng the beaches. It's the perfect time to go on a long trek in the mountains or explore the various regions of France.

Autumn marks the return of the rain, with the weather turning cooler as Christmas approaches. All across the country, the trees begin to show off their new colours. Walkers go out a little more wrapped up and the days start getting shorter.

Public Holidays

France Public Holidays Year 2015
New Year's Day 1 January, 2015 Thursday
Good Friday 3 April, 2015 Friday
Easter Monday 6 April, 2015 Monday
Labour Day 1 May, 2015 Friday
VE Day 8 May, 2015 Friday
Ascension Day 14 May, 2015 Thursday
Whit Monday 25 May, 2015 Monday
Bastille Day 14 July, 2015 Tuesday
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 15 August, 2015 Saturday
All Saints' Day 1 November, 2015 Sunday
Armistice Day 11 November, 2015 Wednesday
Christmas Day 25 December, 2015 Friday

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for France. Exercise normal security precautions.