Let’s take a quick look at some of interesting and unusual facts about France:
- The name “France” comes from “Frank”, a Germanic tribe that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 6th century and founded the first independent kingdom covering most of today’s France.
- French language is spoken by 270 million people worldwide (almost the population of the USA)
- In spite of stereotypes, the French can speak at least one foreign language – 45% are able to participate in a conversation in a foreign language (Eurobarometer 2005) English is the most widely spoken (34%).
- The only Disneyland in Europe is located near Paris.
- The Canal du Midi is Europe’s oldest functional canal. It was built from 1666 and 1681. It is 240 km (150 miles) long, has 63 locks, 126 bridges, 55 aqueducts, 7 canal-bridges, 6 barrages and 1 tunnel.
- The word “Denim” originated in France, it was material from Nimes, in the south of France – Tissu de Nîmes
- The Eiffel Tower was made using 9441 tons of iron
- Nearly 20% of France lies outside Europe. These regions are known as “DOM-TOM” (département outre-mer / Térritoire Outre Mer), where 2.5 million French citizens live
- Foie Gras was invented by the Egyptians in about 4,500BC
- The Statue of Liberty was made in France, and given to the United States as a gift. The statue’s face is carved in the image of Isabella Eugenie Boyer, the Parisian sewing machine manufacturer Isaac Singer’s wife
- April fool’s day (April Fish to the French) is believed to have originated in France when the nation switched to the Gregorian calendar. Those who were not aware about the change in calendar thought April 1st was New Year’s Day. Since then fools day was marked to make fun of them
- Nicotine was named after Jean Nicot (1530-1600), a French diplomat and scholar who introduced the tobacco plant to France in 1559 (from Portugal).
- The largest canyon in Europe is the Les gorges du Verdun, Verdon Gorge, where Provence meets the Alps. It is the world’s second largest gorge, at about 25 kilometers in length and up to 700 meters deep.
- France is considered to be the birthplace of Gothic art as well as Baroque architectural style. Gothic art was initially known as French Art.
- 66 of the 95 metropolitan départements in France are named after rivers.
- French cuisine is considered to be the best in the world, so too are its wines (although there are differences of opinion on both of these)
- Farms in France occupy 10% of the land area
- The world’s first true department store was Le Bon Marché in Paris, founded by Aristide Boucicaut in 1838.
- As late as in 1880, only 20% of the population could actually speak French fluently.
- King Richard The Lionheart spoke French, not English, and was killed in Châlus, Haute Vienne from arrow wounds during a dispute about a gold cup with The Duc de Limousin
- Mount Blanc is the highest Mountain in the Alps and in Western Europe
- Gavarnie Falls, in the Pyrénées Mountains, is the tallest waterfall in France that ranges up to 422 meters
- More tourists visit France each year than any other country in the world, with 67 million annual tourist arrivals (more than the country’s population).
- The largest urban population is recorded in Paris
- In France, in exceptional cases it is possible to marry a deceased person with the authorisation of the President of the Republic.
- The river Loire is the longest river with a length of 1,013 kilometers
- France has the highest wealth tax of any European country.
- La Marseillaise is the National Anthem of France
- The Iris is the national flower of France (you may know it as The Fleur de Lys)
- The Millau Viaduct, completed in 2005 in the south of France, is the tallest bridge in the world.
- The cockerel is the national animal symbol of France
- The National Day is celebrated on the 14 July (the taking of the Bastille Paris during the revolution – La Prise de La Bastille)
- In the town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Provence, a municipal law of 1954 prohibits flying saucers from landing within the borders of the municipality
- Mona Lisa, probably the best known painting in the world, is in the Louvre Gallery in Paris
- French was the official language of England for over 300 years
- There are about 2 new cook books published every day in France.
- France produces more nuclear powered electricity when compared to Germany, Spain, Russia and the UK
- 72% of the adult French population finds it difficult to understand French wine labels.
- Marianne is the national emblem of the French Republic
- France was one of the first allies of America