France

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V 50Hz. Outlets are CEE7/5 protruding male earth pin and accept either CEE 7/5 Grounded, CEE 7/7 Grounded or CEE 7/16 non-grounded plugs. Older German-type CEE 7/4 plugs are not compatible as they do not accommodate the earth pin found on this type of outlet. However, most modern European appliances are fitted with the hybrid CEE 7/7 plug which fits both CEE 7/5 Belgium & France and CEE 7/4 Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and most of Europe outlets.

Plugs Travellers from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland and other countries using 230V 50Hz which use different plugs simply require a plug adaptor to use their appliances in France. Plug adaptors for plugs from the US and UK are available from electrical and "do-it-yourself" stores such as Bricorama.

Voltage: Travellers from the US, Canada, Japan and other countries using 110V, 60Hz may need a voltage converter. However, some laptops, mobile phone chargers and other devices can accept either 110V or 230V so only require a simple plug adaptor. Check the voltage rating plates on your appliances before connecting them.

When to travel

If possible, try to avoid French school holidays and Easter, because hotels are very likely to be overbooked and traffic on the roads is simply awful.

Holidays: search internet for "French school holidays", as they vary from region to region. Mostly, the winter holidays are 10 Feb-10 Mar. The spring holidays are often 10 Apr-10 May. Also try to avoid travel around the 14th of July. quatorze juillet These times the roads are full of people, leading to the much dreaded Black Friday traffic jams which can grow in length to over 160km 100 miles!

Winter gets very cold, sometimes freezing. Make sure to bring appropriate clothing to keep you warm while visiting.

Hotels are very likely to be overbooked and road traffic will be awful during the 1 May, 8 May, 11 Nov, Easter Weekend, Ascension weekend too.

Understand

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint Exupéry, from The Little Prince

France has been the world's most popular tourist destination for over twenty years 83 million visits in 2012.

Metropolitan France is in Western Europe sharing frontiers with Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland to the east, Italy to the south-east. Spain and the small country of Andorra are to the south-west, across the Pyrenees mountain range. The Mediterranean Sea laps the south of France, with the Principality of Monaco forming a small enclave. To the west, France has a long Atlantic Ocean coastline, while to the north lies the English Channel, across which lies the last of France's neighbours, England part of the United Kingdom.

In the Caribbean, France borders the Netherlands via the French territory of Saint-Martin which borders the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten. Five oversea regions also form part of France: Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, French Guiana in South America, and Reunion and Mayotte, both off the coast of Madagascar. Numerous French oversea territories also exist around the Earth with varying status.

Climate

A lot of variety, but temperate winters and mild summers on most of the territory, and especially in Paris. Mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean and in the southwest the latter has lots of rain in winter. You may likely even see a few palm trees on the Mediterranean coast. Mild winters with lots of rain and cool summers in the northwest Brittany. Cool to cold winters and hot summer along the German border Alsace. Along the Rhône Valley, there is an occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as the mistral.

Cold winters with lots of the snow in the Mountainous regions: Alps, Pyrenees, Auvergne.

Terrain

Mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south west, Vosges, Jura and Alps in east, Massif Central in the mid south.

History

History
 

France has been populated since the Neolithic period. The Dordogne region is especially rich in prehistoric caves, some used as habitation, others are temples with remarkable paintings of animals and hunters, like those found at Lascaux.

History
 

Written History began in France with the invasion of the territory by the Romans, between 118 and 50 BC. Starting then, the territory which is today called France was part of the Roman Empire, and the Gauls name given to local Celts by the Romans, who lived there before Roman invasions, became acculturated "Gallo-Romans".

With the fall of the Roman empire, what was left were areas inhabited by descendants of intermarriages between Gallo-Romans and "barbaric" easterners Mainly the Franks, but also other tribes like the "burgondes".

The legacy of the Roman presence is still visible, particularly in the southern part of the country where Roman circuses are still used for bullfights and rock and roll shows. Some of the main roads still follow the routes originally traced 2,000 years ago, and the urban organisation of many old town centres still transcript the cardo and the decumanus of the former Roman camp especially Paris. The other main legacy was the Catholic Church which can be, arguably, considered as the only remnant of the civilization of that time

History
 

Clovis, who died in 511, is considered as the first French king although his realm was not much more than the area of the present Île de France, around Paris. Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800, was the first strong ruler. He united under his rule territories which extend today in Belgium, Germany and Italy. His capital was Aix-la-Chapelle now in Germany, known as Aachen.

The country was under attack by the Vikings who came from the north and navigated upstream the rivers to plunder the cities and abbeys, it was also under attack from the south by the Muslim Saracens who were established in Spain. The Vikings were given a part of the territory today's Normandy in 911 and melted fast in the Feudal system. The Saracens were stopped in 732 in Poitiers by Charles Martel, grand father of Charlemagne, a rather rough warrior who was later painted as a national hero.

Starting with Charlemagne, a new society starts to settle, based on the personal links of feudalism. This era is named middle age. Although generally seen as an era of stagnation, it can more be described as a very complex mix of periods of economic and cultural developments Music and poems of the Troubadours and Trouveres, building of the Romantic, then Gothic cathedrals, and recessions due to pandemic disease and wars.

In 987, Hughes Capet was crowned as king of France ; he is the root of the royal families who later governed France. In 1154 much of the western part of France went under English rule with the wedding of Alienor d'Aquitaine to Henry II Count of Anjou, born in the town of Le Mans. Some kings of the Plantagenet dynasty are still buried in France, the most famous being Richard I, of Walter Scott's fame, and his father Henry II, who lies in the Abbaye de Fontevraud. The struggle between the English and French kings between 1337 and 1435 is known as the Hundred Years War and the most famous figure, considered as a national heroine, is Joan of Arc.

History
 

The beginning of the 16th century saw the end of the feudal system and the emergence of France as a "modern" state with its border relatively close to the present ones Alsace, Corsica, Savoy, the Nice region weren't yet French. Louis XIV who was king from 1643 to 1715 72 years was probably the most powerful monarch of his time. French influence extended deep in western Europe, its language was used in the European courts and its culture was exported all over Europe.

That era and the following century also saw the expansion of France on the other continents. This started a whole series of wars with the other colonial empires, mainly England later Britain and Spain over the control of North America, the Caribbean, South American, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

The French Revolution started in 1789, leading to the overthrow of King Louis XVI of the House of Bourbon and the creation of the First French Republic. Although this period was also fertile in bloody excesses it was, and still is, a reference for many other liberation struggles. In 1791, the other monarchies of Europe looked with outrage at the revolution and its upheavals, and considered whether they should intervene, either in support of the deposed King Louis XVI, or to prevent the spread of revolution, or to take advantage of the chaos in France. The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European Monarchies from 1792 to 1802.

Napoléon Bonaparte seized power in a coup d'état, reunited the country and declared himself Emperor of the French, he crowned by Pope Pius VII as Napoleon I of the French Empire, on 2 December 1804 at Notre Dame de Paris. His militaristic ambition which, at first, made him the ruler of most of western Europe were finally his downfall. In 1815 he was defeated in Waterloo Belgium by the Seventh Coalition - United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Hanover, Nassau, Brunswick, and Prussia. He is still revered in some Eastern European countries as its armies and its government brought with them the ideas of the French philosophers.

History
 

1905 saw the separation of the Church from the State. This was a traumatic process, especially in rural areas. The French state carefully avoids any religious recognition. The Church was badly hurt and lost half its priests. In the long run, however, it gained autonomy—for the French State no longer had a voice in choosing bishops. In the early 21st century, the French Institute of Public Opinion IFOP 2009 study, based on self declaration in a percentage of the total French population, 64.4% of the population identified as Catholic but with only 15.2% regularly attending or occasionally attending Mass, and 4.5% attending Mass weekly.

The First World War 1914-1918 was a disaster for France, even though the country was ultimately a victor. At first many welcomed the war to avenge the humiliation of defeat and loss of territory to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. However very high losses and almost no gain on the Western Front change opinions of the war. A significant part of the male workforce was killed or disabled and a large part of the country and industry destroyed. When World War II 1939-45 was declared there was little enthusiasm and much dread in France at the prospect of enduring another major war. In the spring of 1940 Hitler's army invaded France, the army and government of the Third French Republic collapse and France surrendered in June of 1940. With British troops fleeing France an atmosphere of humiliation and defeat swept over the country. On the other hand, the French Resistance conducted sabotage operations inside German-occupied France. To support the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, various groups increased their sabotage and guerilla attacks.

Since the end of WWII France went through a period of reconstruction and prosperity came back with the development of industry. The Fifth Republic 1958-to the present emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic 1946-58 and replaced the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system. It is France's third-longest-enduring political regime, after the pre-French Revolution Ancien Régime and the Third Republic.

France began the process of decolonisation after a rise in nationalism following WWII.

In 1963 France and West Germany signed the Élysée Treaty, known as the Friendship Treaty, the treaty established a new foundation for relations that ended centuries of rivalry between them. France would play a role in what would eventually became the European Union. One of the most visible consequence being the introduction in 2002 of the Euro €, now the common currency of eighteen of the twenty-eight EU members and also used by seven other European countries.

In 2014, France was a republic with a President elected for a 5-year term officially the French Republic and some would describe it as a "Unitary semi-presidential and constitutional republic". Some current main issues are the further integration of the country into the EU and the adoption of common standards for the economy, defence, immigrant rights, and so on.

The ban on religious symbols of 15 March 2004 in public schools is an application of the French policy of laïcité secularism under which religious symbols such as Muslim veils, Jewish Kippahs and Sikh turbans have been banned from schools. This has meant that the guarantees for freedom of religion have been curtailed for faith groups in France. Although France is extremely safe, anyone from an openly religious, faith community may still need to exercise care when travelling in France.