Introducing France

There really is something for every one in France, something that will delight and enthrall each visitor, whether they come in search of good food and fine wines, or simply to enjoy a relaxing holiday on golden-sand beaches (with or without your clothes).

Here you can absorb the culture and outstanding architectural heritage, from amazing chateaux to World Heritage Sites, from beautiful villages where a game of boules is about as energetic as it gets, to the vibrant scenes of Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg...and many more.

For those with energy to burn the winters offer excellent skiing and hard mountain climbs, while the warm breezes of summer are perfect for rambling, cycling, horse riding and the tendencies of those who like to launch themselves into the air attached to little more than an over-sized item of ladies' underclothing...they call it parapente.

With such a large country, the geology is diverse, and that means constantly changing countryside as you pass through, from the agricultural plains of the north to the river- and volcano-fashioned landscapes farther south, and the high mountains – the Alps and the Pyrenees – that frame the country east and south.

Geographical information

The country is divided in 22 administrative regions: Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrénées, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charente, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes.

Each region is divided into départements, with a total of 96. There are 38,851 cities, towns and villages, across a land area of 550,000 sq km (212,356 sq miles). The highest point is Mont Blanc (4,807m/15,771 feet), and the coastline is 5,500km (3,438 miles) long.

Until 2 January 2002, the currency was the Franc. It has since changed to European currency, and now the Euro is the legal tender. 1 Euro (€) = 100 Euro centimes.

On January 1, 2012 there were 65.35 million people in the country, with more of them living for longer and more of them being over 65 years old.

Some political stuff
The country is a republic with a written constitution (5th Republic).

The President is François Hollande (who has a 5-year mandate, from 2012).

The Prime Minister is Jean-Marc Ayrault.

France is a secular republic, although about two-thirds of the population say they are Catholic, and only 2% Protestant. But fewer than 10% of the Catholics are regular church-goers, and the incidence of those admitting to being atheist or agnostic is on the increase.

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