Where to start? France is a fascinating country and, as a Scot, I am not, perhaps, qualified to write this post, except that the Scots and the French historically had an "Auld Alliance" (mostly against the English, but I think we're over that now!), so I have picked out some interesting snippets for you.
I was told that 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.
Modern France is about the same size as the American State of Texas, and has seven mountain ranges - the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura, Vosges, Auvergne, Morvan and Corsican. It has nearly 3,000 miles of coastline, and is bounded by three major bodies of water, the Atlantic (in the Bay of Biscay), the Mediterranean, and the English Channel, or, as the French call it, "La Manche". France borders eight other European countries - Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Andorra and Monaco. Wow!
The French are world famous for their art, fashion, fragrances and style. From the cave paintings of prehistory in the Dordogne to today, the French have loved and produced great art, as the names on this list of artists shows - Poussin, Watteau, Fragonard, Delacroix, Gericault, Monet, Gaugin, Rodin, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Braque...I could go on (and on) ...
The French are also famous for their romantic ways, but on a friendly level they traditionally greet each other with a kisses on the cheek. The number of kisses varies according to which region you are in, from one at the tip of Brittany (too close to the stiff upper lips of England, perhaps?), to four in Paris and most of the North, and even up to five in Corsica (in the passionate Mediterranean!)
Like the Belgians, the French love good food. Do you know that there are two cookbooks published every day in France? They have at least 365 different varieties of cheese (one for every day of the year) and better still, about 450 AOC wines!
Despite that, they are healthy folk, having some of the best life expectancy rates and lowest rates of obesity in Europe, and they are clever too...France has won the most Nobel Prizes for Literature of any Country in the world (including other nationals who have made France their home) - from the very first , Sully Pudhomme, in 1901 to the most recent, J-M. G. Le Clezio, last year - and the second highest (to the USA) number of recipients of the Fields Medal for Mathematics.
What a wonderful place! She is "La belle France" indeed.
(And please forgive me if I have got anything wrong - I certainly do not mean to offend!)