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Geography of France

With an area of 543,965 sq km, France is the largest country in western Europe. To the South West forms the mountainous Pyrenean boundary with Spain, the West side is the Atlantic coast, and the North West borders with the Channel of Manche. The North East side marks the frontier with Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Saar. On the East, the Rhine river provides a natural frontier with Germany, the Jura Mountains and the Alps divide France from Switzerland and Italy, at whose border stands France's, and the Alps', highest mass, Mont Blanc . Finally, the South East of France skirts the Mediterranean.
France is both a north west and a Mediterranean country. Paris and the northern plains have a temperate climate similar to the climate of southern England , perhaps a little drier. Temperatures rarely fall far below freezing, or rise much above 80F. (26.6C.) in summer. In the W. and SW. the weather is milder but more variable. On the SE. coast winters may be warm, but in the central and eastern mountains they are cold. Winter brings severe westerly gales, too, in the Atlantic regions, and a sharp northerly wind (the Mistral) in the SE. No part of the country has less than 20 in. of rain. The best season for touring would be any time from April to October. If you want hot sun, then restrict yourself to high summer, except in Provence, where even May or October can be pleasantly warm.
,The northern half of the country is mainly flat or rolling, the South is largely hilly or mountainous, especially in the Massif Central and towards the Alps and Pyrenees. There are few lakes of any size, but several mighty rivers such
as the Loire , Rhone, Seine and Saone . The Brittany coast is rocky and rugged, that of Provence steep and luxuriantly lovely. There are several huge forests, notably S. of Bordeaux. Wild flowers abound, especially in Provence. France is among the most richly cultivated countries in Europe.
France has a population of 60,876,136. It has been increasing rapidly, with one of the highest birthrates in Europe; but France is a large country, less densely populated than most of her neighbours. Towns are well spaced, which makes touring pleasant. Greater Paris now has about 10,000,000 people, but no other town has more than 1 million
Since the Second World War, more than 3,000,000 people have left the countryside to live in the towns. But there are still fewer large towns than in Britain or Germany. Apart from the Paris region, the only sizeable conurbations are the Lille-Roubaix industrial area, Lyons and Marseilles, and the coast around Nice. Average provincial capitals like Rennes, Nancy, or Dijon tend to have a population of about r 50,000, and few suburbs.
The French character varies from region to region. The volatile, sun loving Meridional French are different from the stolid Normans or Lorrainers, or the whimsical Bretons. Parisians at times can be brusque towards tourists, as they are to each other. The further you go from Paris, the more sure you are of a welcome. But they prefer you to speak French.
For the most part, they are a Latin people living mainly in a northern climate, but some of them have non Latin origins. The Bretons are Celtic the Basques are a strange ancient race all on their own; and in the N. and E. there are Flemish and Teutonic influences.

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2007 travel guides