Interesting Facts About France
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Interesting Facts About France

 
1. The official name of France is la République française (The French Republic) and its motto is Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité. It means 'Liberty. Equality. Brotherhood.'  
French motto
Above: la devise de la République française - the motto of the French Republic.
  
Above: la devise de Par
is - the motto of Paris -
Il est battu par les flots mais ne som
bre pas. - It is beaten by the waves but does not flounder. 

On the coat of arms of Paris (seen above) the motto is written in L
atin - Fluctuat nec mergitur.  The French word for 'coat of arms' is le blason.

The head of the French Republic i
s elected by the people.  He is called le président de la République française.  His official residence is at le Palais de l'Élysée and the address is 55, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Paris.
 

The current president is called Emmanuel Macron and he is the youngest French president ever: -  just 39 years old when he was elected on 7 May 2017.

Below is the official emblem of The French Republic. 
The letters R and F are entwined in the centre.  
The emblem can be seen on the front cover of le passeport français.

2. The name France means 'Land of the Franks.'  The Franks were a Germanic tribe who lived in Northern Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.

 3.  Apart from France, French is the official language of the following countries -
Benin; Burkina Faso; Central African Republic; Congo; French Caledonia; French Guiana; French Polynesia; Gabon; Guadaloupe; Guinea; Ivory Coast; Luxembourg; Mali; Martinique; Monaco; Niger; Senegal; Togo; the Canadian province of Quebec; the Swiss districts of Vaud, Neuchatel, Geneva and Jura.
French  French  French  French  French  


4. French is one of the official languages in the following countries -
Belgium, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey), Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles and Vanuatu.

5.  French is widely spoken in the following countries - Algeria, Andorra, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Dominica, Egypt, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco,  Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia,  United States (Louisiana, New England) and Vietnam.

6.  A person who speaks French as their first language is called
un Francophone.

Francophone

7. The flag of France is bleu, blanc, rouge.  It is known as le drapeau tricolore (or the tricolour flag).  It has existed since 1794.
  The three colours are represented in equal proportions.  According to the French government's website, the colours are a joining together of:
blue and red - these colours traditionally represent Paris,
 and white - this colour traditionally represents royalty.
 
France

8.  The French national anthem is called La Marseillaise. It was composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792.   It is called La Marseillaise because it was first sung by soldiers from the city of Marseille as they marched into Paris.
To read the words and to hear the French National Anthem sung by the famous French singer Mireille Mathieu, click HERE.
french music

9.  An important emblem of France is le coq (the rooster).  It is used on the sportswear of national French teams.   It is a courageous animal, willing to fight.        
 
Cocorico!

The lily (la fleur-de-lys) and the iris are two flowers also used as emblems for Fran
ce.
  la fleur-de-lis
The French symbol of freedom is the woman known as Marianne.  Her image is seen on coins,  stamps and paintings.  She wears a 'cap of liberty' - un bonnet phrygien - on her head.
       Marianne

10.  The country of France is divided into thirteen régions
These are -   1. Grand Est  2. Nouvelle-Aquitaine  3. Auvergne Rhône-Alpes   4. Bretagne  5.  Bourgogne Franche-Comté   6.  Centre Val de Loire  
7.  Corse   8.  Occitaine    9.  Normandie   10.  Hauts-de-France    11.  Île-de-France   12.  Pays de la Loire  
13.  Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur .

The above arrangement of thirteen régions is quite new.  Until the end of 2015, France was divided into twenty-two régions.  The government decided to merge areas, creating fewer but larger régions.  This new arrangement took place on 1 January 2016.  Paris belongs to the région called Île-de-France.

Each region is divided into sections called départements.  There are ninety-six départements in France.  Each département has a name and a number.  Number 75 belongs to Paris.  Post codes and car number-plates tell you which département they belong to.  The post code for Paris is 75000.

IN ADDITION -There are five overseas régions and départements.  They are: Martinique, Réunion, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Mayotte.  Each one is classed as:-
département et région d'outre-mer
or abbreviated to DROM.

11. One of the most important dates in France is le 14 juillet - 14 July.  This is known as Bastille Day and it is a national holiday.  In France it is called la Fête Nationale.  It is a celebration of the storming of the prison in Paris called Bastille Saint-Antoine on 14 July 1789.  The storming of the Bastille is called la prise de la Bastille in French.
On that day, angry protesters invaded the prison, released the prisoners and seized the weapons stored inside. This was the beginning of the French Revolution.
The ordinary people hated the Bastille because so many had been imprisoned there without a fair trial.  For them, the Bastille was a symbol of the unjust society which was ruled by uncaring, wealthy people.
Nowadays, on 14 July, there is a big parade in Paris, the French flag flies from l'Arc de Triomphe and there are celebrations and fireworks all over France.

 
French revolution  
Bastille
                        (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

12.  The French Revolution- la Révolution française - took place because the people of France were not treated equally.  The Revolution began in 1789 and lasted for ten years. 
At the time, there were three classes in French society known as les trois ordres:
1. le premier ordre -
the clergy belonged to this class. Their purpose was to pray for everyone.
2. le deuxième ordre -
royalty and nobility belonged to this class.  Their purpose was to defend and protect the country (and the church) in battles and decision-making and to rule over the peasants and labourers on their land. They did not pay taxes, so they were rich.
3. le troisième ordre,
also known as le Tiers-État - most people belonged to this class - in fact around 80% of the population.  These were the commoners, the labourers and the peasants.  The people of the third class had to work hard, pay taxes, suffer from food shortages and they had to obey the other two classes.  Their opinions didn't count. 
If you were born into this class it was almost impossible ever to move out of it.  You were there for life!
Below is a triangular-shaped graph outlining how French society was divided into three parts:

The people of the third class decided that things had to change!
So, they took up arms and protested. They began by storming the Bastille prison. 
The king and queen and their friends, family and supporters were arrested.  They were no longer allowed to be in charge of running the country.
 
This brought an end to l'Ancien Régime - the old society of three unequal classes.  Eventually, many people, including the king and queen, were executed.
This is why the word égalité - equality - is so important in the la République française and it is part of the motto of France.

13.  During the French Revolution, the King of France was Louis XVI and his wife was Marie-Antoinette (she was Austrian).  She was only fourteen years of age when she married.  In the portrait below, painted by Martin Van Meytins, she is only twelve years old.

King Louis XVI of FranceQueen Marie-Antoinette
(Images from Wikimedia Commons)

14.  The guillotine was the method of execution developed during the French Revolution.  It was invented with the help of surgeon, Dr. Guillotin.  In Paris, it was used regularly in la Place de la Concorde. 

the guillotine
(Images from Wikimedia Commons)

15. The guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until 1981 when the death penalty was abolished.  The last time it was used was as recently as 1977.

16.  The patron saint of France and of Paris is Saint Denis, also known as Denis de Paris.  He was Bishop of Paris in the Third Century and his feast day is 9 October.  

17.  The shrine of Saint Denis is in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, Paris.  The cathedral was built on the saint's resting place.  The French name of this cathedral is la Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis.   It is the official burial site of the kings and queens of France and it is filled with their magnificent sculptured tombs.

   
(Image from Wikimedia Commons by Thomas Clouet.)

18.  Le Musée du Louvre in Paris is the most visited museum and art gallery in the world.   It was first built in 1190 as a castle to defend Paris against enemy attacks.  The construction of the existing Louvre began in 1535 after demolition of the old castle. 

In 1989, an enormous glass pyramid called la Pyramide du Louvre was completed as part of a new entrance to the building and in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.  It was the first major construction to be made from laminated glass.

If you intend to visit the museum by travelling on the Paris underground - le Métro de Paris - then you should stop at the station called Palais-Royale - Musée du Louvre.
Louvre
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Benh Lieu Song.)

To visit the official website of Le Musée du Louvre,
click HERE.

19.   Some of the most famous and valuable works of art are exhibited in le Musée du Louvre.  The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is kept there.  It is owned by the French Government and is priceless although some people have estimated its value at around 700 million dollars.  It was acquired by French King Francis I in 1519.  In France, the Mona Lisa is called La Joconde. 
La Joconde
La Joconde


20.  The Eiffel Tower - la Tour Eiffel - was designed by architect Stephen Sauvestre and built by the construction company of Gustave Eiffel between 1887 and 1889.  
It is an iron tower standing over 300 metres high on a park called le Champ-de-Mars beside the River Seine in Paris.   Until 1930, it was the tallest building in the world.  Today, it is the tallest building in Paris.  Its address is:
5, avenue Anatole-France, Paris.  The post code is 75007

Eiffel Tower
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Tognopop.)

It was originally built as a 'temporary gateway' to L'Exposition Universelle de 1889: - a world fair (Expo) which was hosted by Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the French Revolution. 

A competition had been held to find the best design for the special event and it was la Tour Eiffel that won!  In fact, the tower had permission to remain standing for no longer than twenty years, so it was designed to be easily dismantled.

Below is an image of the Eiffel Tower standing as the gateway to the 1889 fair.



 At first, many people considered it to be an ugly construction and complained that it ruined Paris.  A large group of artists and writers wrote an open letter to the organiser of the fair to protest against it.  The letter was entitled Les Artistes Contre La Tour Eiffel - Artists Against The Eiffel Tower.   They really hated it.

When it was discovered that the tower made an excellent radio antenna, the city of Paris decided to keep it!   It is still used for radio transmission and has an aerial mast at the very top.

                

The re-painting of la Tour Eiffel begins around every seven years.  It is painted in three different shades of brown.  The darkest shade is at the lowest part and the lightest shade at the top.  The colour of paint applied is known as le brun Tour Eiffel and it is similar to bronze.
painting Eiffel Tower
To visit the official website of La Tour Eiffel, click HERE.
For a quiz about the Eiffel Tower, clique ICI


21.   L'Arc de Triomphe is a very large monument in Paris to honour soldiers who have fought and died for France.  It was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 but its construction took a very long time and it was completed in 1836.  
Arc de Triomphe
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Benh Lieu Song.)

It is an arch standing just over 50 metres high and 45 metres wide.  It stands in the centre of a huge roundabout where there is always a lot of traffic circling around.  This famous roundabout is known as the 'star' because it has twelve roads running out from the centre, making it look like a 12-pointed star.  In fact, the full name of the monument is l'Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile meaning: the triumphal arch of the
star.  The place where it stands is called la Place de l'Étoile.
 
   Beneath the arch lies la Tombe du Soldat inconnu - The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior from the First World War.  In 1923, an 'eternal flame' - une flamme eternelle - was lit here in memory of all French soldiers lost in war. It has remained lit ever since.    

22.   In 1624, King Louis XIII built a hunting lodge in the village of Versailles, outside Paris.  This building was enlarged by the next king - Louis XIV - who turned it into the magnificent palace we see today.  In French, this palace is called le Château de Versailles.  The gardens of the palace are amongst the most famous and beautiful gardens in the world with lovely fountains (fontaines) and ponds (bassins).

Versailles
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, by Jean-Christophe Benoist)

Below is a photo of the famous Hall of Mirrors - la Galerie des Glaces - created by King Louis XIV in the 17th Century at le Château de Versailles.  At that time, mirrors were one of the most expensive items you could buy. 
Hall of Mirrors
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

23.   In France, many people celebrate their 'name day' or jour de fête.  Every day of the year is a Christian feast day when a particular saint is remembered, for example:  24 June - St. John the Baptist,  3 July - St. Thomas, etc.... 

If you have the same name as a Christian saint (or a name that has something to do with a saint) then you will have a special time on that feast day!  People will wish you - Bonne fête!

24.  The French people call the English people les rosbifs, meaning - the roast beefs!

25.  In France, they eat snails (les escargots), frogs' legs (les cuisses de grenouille) and horsemeat (la viande de cheval).

French food         French food       French food

26.  Before eating a meal, it is polite to say Bon appétit.  This means 'I hope you have a good appetite so that you enjoy your meal.'

27.  The word Salut means both 'hello' and 'goodbye.'

28.  The most popular French bread is la baguette (little stick).  It is a loaf 5 or 6 cm. wide and up to a metre in length.  If it is a thinner version, it is called une ficelle (a string) and if it is wider it is called une flûte.  Bread rolls are called petits pains (little breads).  La baguette magique is 'the magic wand'!  The shape of la baguette makes it very easy to carry under your arm!
French bread

29.  The word for breakfast is le petit déjeuner (the little lunch).  In France you dunk your croissant into a milky drink at breakfast-time.  The word 'croissant' actually means 'crescent' because the pastry is a crescent shape.  The shape is very good for dunking! 
Although croissan
ts are associated with France, they actually started in Austria!
Symbol of Turks (Ottoman Army)
There are various versions of the story but one version is as follows:
The crescent was the symbol of the Turks.
When the Austrians defeated the Turks in a battle over three hundred years ago, the French chef employed by the Emperor of Austria decided to make crescent-shaped pastry in the shape of the Turks' emblem for the Austrians to eat in celebration - meaning they were crushing and chewing their enemies! 

French breakfast
When the chef returned to France, he made his 'invention' popular there too. This type of pastry is referred to in French as la viennoiserie, meaning - Viennese pastry  (Vienna is the capital city of Austria).

30.   Officially, it is said that - Il existe un fromage différent pour chaque jour de l'année.  This means that in France there exists a different cheese for each day of the year - 365.   However, it is believed that there are many more than this!
French cheese is grouped into eight categories known as 'families' - les huit familles de fromage.  The eight categories are:
1. fresh cheese -  le fromage frais
2. soft cheese - le fromage à pâte molle with natural rind such as Brie and Camembert
3.  soft cheese with washed rind
4.  hard cheese - le fromage à pâte pressée
5. hard, cooked cheese such as Emmental, Beaufort nd Gruyère
6.  goat's cheese - le fromage de chèvre
7.  blue cheese - le fromage à pâte persillée
8.  processed cheese - le fromage fondu such as Boursin

31.  France has won the Football World Cup twice - in 1998 and 2018.  The French football team is nicknamed Les Bleus (The Blues).  The French word for 'football' has been 'borrowed' from the English language - le football
If you like, you can just say 'le foot.' 
'Allez Les Bleus!'

French football

32.   France produces many cars.  The main makes are Renault, Peugeot and Citroën.

33.  In the south of France, close to the Pyrenees Mountains, there is a little town called Lourdes. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world visit this place every year. 
Inside a cave beside the town, there is a very special spring of water, discovered by a young girl called Marie-Bernarde Soubirous in 1858.  The cave is called la Grotte de Massabielle.

In a vision, she was told by Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to dig in a certain place inside the cave.  When she dug, she discovered the spring of water.  
It is believed that the water is very special and that it has miraculous healing powers.  It is said that many sick people have been cured by touching the water.  Every day, sick people visit this place in the hope that the water will cure them.
The young girl who discovered the spring was canonised in 1933 is and is now called Sainte Bernadette de Lourdes.  Below, is her photo.  To learn more click HERE.
Saint Bernadette
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, source: Lourdes Rosary Shrine)

34.  Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) is a national heroine of France.  She was born in Domrémy, Northern France, in 1412.  During this period, the English were invading Northern France.  In fact, even Joan's village had been attacked by English soldiers.
Joan said that God, saints and angels spoke to her in visions and told her to lead the French soldiers in their battle against the English.  She visited the future French King, Charles VII, and he believed her.  Joan dressed as a soldier and led the French army into battle over a period of two years.

She was captured at the age of nineteen years.  On 30 May 1431, she was executed by the English in the city of Rouen, Normandy.
She was made a saint in 1920.  She is also known as The Maid of Orléans or La Pucelle in French.  La pucelle means 'maiden.'
Below, is a portrait of Joan dressed as a soldier
and her signature.

Joan of Arc Signature of Joan of Arc
To learn more about Joan of Arc click HERE
  
 
35.  Some famous French painters are -
16th Century, François Clouet and Jean Clouet.
17th Century, Nicolas Poussin.  
18th Century, Antoine Watteau.   
19th Century, Eugène Delacroix, Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
Henri Matisse,  Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, 

Henri-Marie Toulouse-Lautrec.  
20th Century,  Jacques Villon.

painting by Toulouse-LautrecPainting by Watteaupainting by Matissepainting by Renoir
(Paintings from left to right by Toulouse-Lautrec, Watteau, Matisse and Renoir.)

36.   Mary Stewart, also known as Mary, Queen of Scots was half French.  Her mother was Marie de Guise.  In French she is called Marie Stuart, the surname being spelled in the French way. The House of Stewart is la Maison Stuart. 
Mary was sent to France at the age of five and married the future King Francis II in la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris in 1558.
  She became Queen Consort of France in 1559 when she was seventeen years old.   Mary loved France and the French language.  

Below is Mary's signature and a portrait of Mary with her French husband.  Portrait by Francois Clouet, 1558.

Signature Mary Queen of Scots    Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II
(Portrait from Wikimedia Commons.  Image of signature from English history.net)

37.   The French King Francis I was the grandfather of Mary, Queen of Scots' husband.  He was nicknamed 'Le Roi Grand Nez' (King Big Nose) because he had such a large nose!  His real name and title in French was François I, Roi de France.
King Big Nose
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.  Portrait by Jean Clouet, visible at Le Musée du Louvre.)

 
King Francis loved art and he greatly admired Leonardo da Vinci.  He acquired the famous painting Mona Lisa and hung it and other works of art in his bathroom at Fontainebleau Palace - le Château de Fontainebleau.  This bathing area was a suite of rooms called l'appartement des bains.
  C''''''''''''''''est magnifique!La Joconde  

38.  There is a story that the origin of the word 'marmalade' comes from the French words 'Marie est malade' (Mary is ill).  Whenever Mary, Queen of Scots was unwell, she liked to eat fruit jam to make her feel better.

39.  In French history, the heir to the French throne was called le Dauphin - which also means 'dolphin.'

40.  Denim is a fabric that came originally from the French town of Nîmes (de Nîmes = of/from Nîmes).

41.  Le Moulin Rouge (meaning- The Red Mill) is a very famous cabaret club in Paris.  It was built in 1889.  It is recognised by an imitation red windmill on its roof.
Le Moulin Rouge 
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, by author Arpingstone.)
 

42.  The cancan is a very energetic and acrobatic dance that first appeared in Parisian ballrooms in the 1830s.  It is performed by ladies dressed in frilly skirts who have to kick their legs high, perform cartwheels and the splits.  The ladies squeal and screech at moments as they dance.
The word cancan means 'scandalous gossip'.  In fact, the dance has always been considered most 'scandalous' because the dancers lift their petticoats and show their legs.

Lautrec
(Painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: La Troupe de Mlle. Eglantine, 1896.  Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

To hear the traditional cancan music composed by Jacques Offenbach in 1858, click on the button and go to Track 40. 
french music french music

43.  The two most famous cancan dancers were Jane Avril and La Goulue.  They were regular performers at Le Moulin Rouge. Below is a photo of La Goulue.  Her real name was Louise Weber and she lived from 1829 to 1866.
cancan 
(Source: Wikimedia Commons.)
The famous artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted the two famous dancers. In fact, he painted many pictures of life at Le Moulin Rouge.  His paintings are printed as posters that everyone recognises!

La Goulue by Toulouse-Lautrecpainting by Toulouse-LautrecJane Avril by Toulouse-Lautrec

44.   A very famous singer from Paris was Edith Piaf
She was very small and always performed wearing a black dress.  It was said that she looked like a little sparrow, so she was given the nickname La Môme Piaf which means 'little sparrow' in Parisian slang.  Her real name was Edith Gassion and she was born in 1915.  She died in 1963.  She sang in Parisian nightclubs, including Le Moulin Rouge.

Edith Piaf
(Image from Wikipedia, source Brittanica.com.  Copyright holder United Press International/Bettman Newsphotos. )

To hear Edith Piaf singing her two most famous songs,
click on the button and go to Tracks 41 and 42.
french musicfrench music

45.  Le Tour de France is the most famous cycling race in the world.  It is held every year over a three-week period and began in 1903.  At first, the race was planned to last for five weeks, but this was considered too demanding for the cyclists.
The race takes place in stages and is for teams.  Every day, a member of each team rides for a stage.  The speed and performance of each cyclist's stage is recorded.  At the end of the three-week period, all of the individual results are calculated to decide which team is the winner.  The stages take place in France and neighbouring countries.   
 

46.    Le Tournoi de Roland-Garros is a famous French tennis championship known as The French Open.  It takes place each year on a clay court - un court sur terre battue - in the stadium called le Stade de Roland-Garros.  The current champion is Spanish player Rafael Nadal who has won this tournament eleven times!
 
The stadium and tournament are named in honour of the great French pilot called Roland Garros who wa
s killed in combat during the First World War in 1918.  He also has an airport named after him on the French island of La Réunion!  It is called l'Aéroport de La Réunion Roland-Garros.

47.   Le Réveillon de Noël is Christmas Eve dinner.  On the night of 24 December, French families eat a big, special meal to celebrate the very beginning of Christmas Day. 

 French children leave their shoes out in front of the fireplace in the hope that le Père Noël (Father Christmas) will fill them with treats and will place gifts on and around the Christmas tree -le sapin de Noël- for when they awake on Christmas morning.   

(To find out more about Christmas in France CLICK HERE).

Many French children also believe in a Christmas bogeyman called le Père Fouettard who visits any children who have been naughty!  He carries a whip, is dressed in black and his face is the colour of coal.  He brings no presents. 
Pere Fouettard
     
48.  During the first days of January, a special cake is prepared called la galette des Rois (King Cake) to celebrate the Three Kings (les Rois Mages) who followed the star to find the Baby Jesus (l'Enfant Jésus). This occasion is called  l'Épiphanie.
Inside the cake, a special trinket (une fève) is hidden. 
On the 6 January parties take place in France and the cake is served.  The lucky person who receives the trinket becomes the 'king' or 'queen' of the party.

49.  Every May, there is a famous film festival in the southern seaside city of Cannes. It is called le Festival de Cannes and it began in 1946.  Lots of films are watched by panels of judges who decide which films and which actors should receive an award.  The most prestigious award given is La Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) for the best film. 

Some famous French actors are -Brigitte Bardot, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Marceau, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Jacques Tati, Gerard Depardieu and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

The city of Cannes is actually the twin city - la ville jumelle - of the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea!  It has been so since 1970.

50.  The most famous mountain in France is Mont Blanc, meaning White Mountain.  It is also known as La Dame Blanche, meaning 'The White Lady.'  It has a summit 4,800 metres high and is the highest mountain of the Alps.  The mountain stands between Italy and France and its summit officially marks the border between the two countries.  Inside the mountain there is a tunnel running between France and Italy.  The tunnel is very busy with traffic.  It is 11.6 km long and was opened in 1965. 
(Below is a photo of Mont Blanc, from Wikimedia Commons, by Tinelot Wittermans.)

Mont Blanc

51.  The Statue of Liberty - la Statue de la Liberté - was a gift from France to America in 1886 as a sign of friendship between the two nations.

The internal part of the statue was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel - the designer of the Eiffel Tower!   Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was the sculptor.

52.  In the south of France, near to Cannes, there is a town called Grasse and it is very famous for growing flowers.  Every year there are two important flower festivals there - la Fête du Jasmin and l'Exporose - The International Rose Festival.

Until the Sixteenth Century, Grasse was a manufacturer of leather gloves but when a fashion for 'perfumed gloves' began in the 1600s, the town began to produce perfume too.  The flowers that grow abundantly in the area were put to good use and the town became the most important perfume-producer in the world.  Nowadays, the flowers of Grasse are grown for some of the famous perfume companies, including Chanel.

Grasse perfumeGrasse perfume
(Images from Wikimedia Commons. On the left: a bronze statue of a perfume seller from Grasse.  On the right: A photo of a street in the town of Grasse.)

To read about the Chanel perfume and fashion company,
click HERE.

53.   In Avignon, a town in the south of France, there are the ruins of a very famous bridge.  The bridge is known as le Pont d'Avignon or le Pont Saint-Bénézet.  The bridge was built across the River Rhône between the years 1177 and 1185.  Originally, it was a very long bridge standing on many arches.  It was about 900 metres in length. 
Eventually, the bridge fell into a very poor condition and now only four arches remain.

Bridge of Avignon
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, by Chimigi.)
The story of the bridge:-  
A shepherd boy called Bénézet saw angels who told him to build a bridge across the dangerous river where many people had drowned. 
So, obeying the angels, the shepherd-boy lifted a very large and heavy stone all by himself and declared that it was the first stone of the bridge that he was going to build. 
The local people were very impressed and decided to help build the bridge.  They believed that the boy's strength, when lifting the heavy stone, had come from God.


The shepherd-boy is now known as Saint Bénézet and many Christian pilgrims visit the bridge that he built. 

Bénézet died young from exhaustion, at the age of 18 years.  He did not live to see the completed bridge.  The bridge took very many years to construct and was completed a year or so
after his death.   Bénézet's feast day is 14 April.


Saint Bénézet is the patron saint of architects because of the great bridge that he built.  He is often seen in images as a shepherd boy carrying a heavy stone.  (Below)
Saint Benezet
(Image from Horizon Provence.  La bannière de la confrérie des portefaix.)

Bénézet's tomb is in the Church of Saint-Didier, Avignon.

There is a famous French song about people dancing on the bridge.  It is called Sur le pont d'Avignon. 

54. The tallest bridge in the world is in the south of France.  It is called le Viaduc de Millau and it was opened in December, 2004.  It crosses over the valley of the River Tarn and it belongs to the motorway called Autoroute A75.  It has four lanes.  At one part, it is 343 metres tall (1,125 ft.) and slightly higher than the Eiffel Tower! 
It was designed by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and the British architect Norman Foster.

Tallest bridge in the world
(Photo by Mike Lehmann.  Wikimedia Creative Commons)

 55.  Underneath Paris, there is a very famous and vast network of secret tunnels and passageways called les carrières souterraines de Paris.  There are plaques on the walls indicating the roads directly above.

Photo by Jean-François Gornet

The only part where the public can visit is called les Catacombes de Paris.  Otherwise, it is forbidden to enter the tunnels because they are considered too dangerous.


Photo of a secret tunnel by Jérôme Bon

  There are some adventurous people who go exploring the tunnels in secret.  The name for these secret explorers is les Cataphiles.
The underground tunnels were originally used as mines and quarries  because, for centuries, the Paris ground was mined for its stone. 
The earliest known Paris mines are mentioned in a piece of text from the year 1292!

There is a special group of inspectors who check the safety of the underground tunnels and spaces, so that the buildings on the streets above will not collapse.  This group of inspectors was formed in 1777 and their work is still very important today! They are officially called l'Inspection Générale des Carrières

56.   A very famous bridge is le Pont du Gard in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France.  It is a small part of a very long aqueduct, about 50km long, that crosses the river called le Gard (or le Gardon), so that at that part it looks like a bridge crossing the river. 
It was built by the ancient Romans around two thousand years ago.  
Its purpose was to transport water along a 50km journey from the area of springs called Fontaine d'Eure to the Roman town of Nîmes.

pont du gard pont du gard
At the part where the aqueduct crosses the river, it seems very high, on three levels. 
Above, you can see two photos of le Pont du Gard.  The black and white image is from the 1850s!
It took around 1000 workers approximately three years to complete the 50km of aqueduct. 

When it was complete, every day it carried fifty thousand gallons of spring water to a big well in Nîmes.  The well was called the Castellum.  You can see a picture of the well, below.
pont du gard castellum  











































































 






























 

 

 
























 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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