It seems that France has it all. It is famous for its poets, painters, composers, a long and rich history fighting for freedom and equality, its diverse landscapes starting from mountains and cliffs, and ending on beaches and forests, its cuisine is renowned and fabulous and wines are one if not the best in the world.
Tempted to visit? Well, if you are here we present you with 19 interesting facts about France (and its mountain areas) that you should know, as well as useful links, including pages of useful books and guidebooks to the French mountains and some accessible adventures to sign up to!
1. Paris is the fifth most visited city in the world, in fact, in 2015 around 15 million people toured the city. What is even more impressive, despite the fact that Paris is only fifth among the cities, with 83,7 million visitors in 2015, France is the first among the most visited countries in the world!
2. France is the largest country in the European Union (551,000 sq km / 212, 742 sq mi), it actually takes almost a 1/5 of the territory of the EU.
3. French cuisine is considered to be one of the best ones in the world. One of many famous traditional meals is snails! Actually, French eat as much as 30,000 tons of snails every year, which means that on average a one person in France eats almost 0,5 kg of these slimy delicacies.
4. French make a wide variety of different kinds of cheese and produces almost a billion tons of it every year. Making cheese is an old trade in France, dating back to 500 A.D. Surprisingly, the variety is so great that the famous French saying un fromage par jour de l’année, meaning that there is a different kind of cheese for every day of the year, is actually incorrect - French cheese makers produce around 1,200 types of cheese, so it is more like three kinds of cheese for each day!
5. What is this list without including the noble Frenchmen who not only enriched France’s culture but also impacted and dictated art movements in the whole western world. France is a place where Rococo and Impressionism was born, baroque, classicism, expressionism and many other movements were represented by many now famous figures, such as Claude Monet, Victor Hugo, Albert Camus, Vincent van Gogh, and many more.
6. The record for the world’s oldest human ever belongs to the French woman who lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days, her name was Jeanne Louise Calment. She was born on 21 February 1875, was almost 40 then World War I came about and almost 70 when the second ended, she lived through both of the World Wars and many other history events that are now on school quizzes. Eventually Jeanne Louise Calment died on 4 August 1997.
7. There are 5 mountain ranges in France: the Alps, on the border with Italy, the Pyrenees, on a frontier with Spain, the Massif Central, in the geographical heart of the country, the Jura along the Swiss border and the Vosges just next to Germany.
8. The highest mountain in the Alps – Mont Blanc - 4,809 meters (15,777 feet) is located in France. It is also the highest mountain in Europe when taking Russian mountains of the list.
9. Speaking about Mont Blanc, it is fare to say that this one is very popular for its height. It gathers around 20,000 visitors every year. However, as there are so many climbers there is quite a large number of deaths that occur on the mountain, it is estimated that around a hundred people die on Mont Blanc each year.
10. Gorges Du Verdon is the largest canyon in Europe that stretches for 25 km (16 mi) and is often referred to as “the Grand Canyon of France”.
11. If you pursue a passion for mountain biking, France is the country to go to. The full system of mountain biking routes comes close to 600,000 km (372,822 mi). It stretches through both the French Alps and the Pyrenees. And if mountain biking is not enough for you, you should try glacier biking! You won’t be disappointed!
12. France has some of the most breathtaking horse riding trails in the world. You can ride on the beaches of Bordeaux, by the castles and caves in Malbec, fortresses and forests of the Dordogne and in many many more outstanding locations.
13. In southern western part of France, the Europe’s highest sand dune stands – Dune du Pilat (110 m / 360 ft). The amount of sand is not the only mesmerizing thing about the dune. From the top, an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding forests opens up.
14. Etretat cliffs in northern France are one of the most popular natural sites in France. It often appears in French arts, for example, some of Monet’s paintings features these cliffs.
15. Commonly unknown Nied-Waterfall in Bouzonville, Lorraine is an example when the smaller can be more beautiful and impressive than higher. This waterfall is pretty unique as at the right temperature it freezes and makes perfect shapes of ice, that can only be properly admired by your own eyes.
16. The first 8,000 m mountain to be climbed was Annapurna in Nepal and it was done by French mountaineers - Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal in 1950. During the climb, both of them lost all of their toes and Herzog even lost most of his fingers.
17. The Massif Central is actually a chain of volcanoes that has not been active for 10,000 years. What is more, this mountain range covers around 15 % of the territory of France.
18. The highest French Pyrenean mountain is Mount Vignemale - 3,298 m (10,820 ft) and it is only the seventh highest peaks in the whole Pyrenees’s mountain range.
19. The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc occurred over 230 years ago in 1786. Jacque Balmat and Michel Paccard were the first men to conquer this noble peak.