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The France Republic has
land borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco,
Spain and Andorrisland in the Mediterranean. Other French territories include
the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, French Guiana
in South America, Reunion in the Indian Ocean and French Polynesia, New
Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna in Oceania.
Paris is the capital city. Other major cities are Lyon, Marseille, Nantes,
Nice, Toulouse and Strasbourg.
Much of France’s terrain is flat with hills in the north and west. Mountainous
regions include the Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east. The
Loire is France’s longest river. Other major rivers are the Dordogne, Garonne,
Marne, Rhine, Rhone, Seine, and Somme.
France’s climate is varied. Its winters are quite cool with mild summers.
Winter and summer are much warmer along the Mediterranean.
Population: France’s population was estimated at 60,876,136 in 2006. Ethnic
minorities include North African and Indochinese people from the old French
Languages: French is the official language. There are some regional dialects
and languages such as Breton and Corsican.
Religion: Over eighty percent of the French people are Roman Catholic. The
second largest religious group in France follow Islam.
Sport: Popular sports in France are football, rugby, cycling, tennis and
skiing. The traditional game of petanque, or boules, is played in towns
and villages. Tennis is also a French game, originating in France in the
In 1998 France hosted and won the FIFA World Cup. Famous French football
players include Zinedine Zidane who achieved the status of FIFA World Player
of the Year a number of times.
The Tour de France, a cycling race which takes place in July, is a major
sporting event. Motor-racing is another popular sport, especially the French
Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 hour race.a. Its coastal borders are with
the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic and the English Channel. Corsica is
Paris, the capital of France, is located in
northern France on both banks of the Seine River, 145 km (90 mi) from
the river's mouth on the English Channel. A total of 2,135,300 (2002)
inhabitants live in Paris proper, and almost 11 million persons (1999)
live in greater Paris (the Ile-de-France region), which is one of
Europe's largest metropolitan areas. A city of world importance and the
business, historic, intellectual, diplomatic, religious, educational,
artistic, and tourist center of France, Paris owes its prosperity in
large part to its favorable position on the Seine, which has been a
major commercial artery since the Roman period.
Paris has been one of the major cities of Europe since the Middle Ages,
but the development of the city as it exists today occurred in the
second half of the 19th century. Its greatest growth came during a
40-year period after 1850, when the population doubled in size to more
than 2 million; it reached a peak in 1921 (2,906,500), after which
people began migrating away from the city. Since then, as homes have
been replaced by offices in Paris proper, most of the growth has
occurred in the suburbs, where a large portion of the blue-collar work
force lives. Of a total of 2 million commuters, about half travel daily
from the outlying areas to the city center, and half travel from central
Paris to the suburbs.
The economic activities of Paris overshadow those of any other part of
France in importance and complexity. About 65 percent of the nation's
bank and corporate headquarters are in the city. Much of the industry in
central Paris is of the small-scale craft type, based on skill and most
often family owned. Many of these industries make luxury items such as
perfumes, furs, gloves, jewelry, toys, clothing, wooden articles, and
other high-value goods.
Book printing and publishing are major activities in central Paris.
Heavier industries are situated in the suburbs. These include the
manufacture of automobiles, machine tools, railroad rolling stock,
electric and electronic products, chemicals, and processed foods.
Construction and the production of building materials are also
important. Tourism, however, is by far the city's largest source of
income; it is one of Europe's leading tourist attractions.
Paris is divided into 20 unequally sized arrondissements, or districts,
each with its own mayor. Each of these is again divided into four
sections. Two prefects and a mayor administer the city as a whole with
the assistance of a general council.
"Paris is the greatest temple ever built to
material joys and the lust of the eyes."
— Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. novelist.
Paris is the head of barge and ship navigation on the Seine and is the
fourth most important port in France (after Marseille, Le Havre, and
Dunkerque). The Loire, Rhine, Rhône, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers can be
reached by canals connecting with the Seine, and a large amount of the
imports and exports of the city are transported via water. Total freight
carried to and from the port annually amounts to 43 million U.S. tons.
Paris is also a major rail, highway, and air transportation hub. Two
international airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle, as well as Le
Bourget (for domestic flights), serve the city. De Gaulle ranks as the
fifth busiest international airport in the world and Orly as the
The city's subway system, the Métro, was opened on July 19, 1900, its
first line being from Porte de Vincennes to Porte Maillot. Engineer
Fulgence Bienvenüe oversaw the construction phase, while architect
Hector Guimard designed the decorative Art Nouveau entrances. The system
boasts 199 km (124 miles) of track and 15 lines. There are 368 stations
(not including RER stations), 87 of these being interchanges between
lines. A total of 3500 cars transport roughly 6 million people per day,
while the system itself employs 15,000 employees (1989 statistics).
Every building in Paris is within 500 meters (3/10 mile) of a métro
station. The Réseau Express Régional (RER), inaugurated in the 1960s,
connects the city with its outlying suburbs.