France is a country to love as no matter what you are looking for: mountains, beaches, rivers…you will find it all in France.
The entire country is roughly 80% the size of Texas, so you have so much available geographically and you can can get to it all in very little time. It is bordered by Italy, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium which means it is a great base for European travel. Two-thirds of France is covered with mountains and hills including the famous Alps, the Jura, the Vosges, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. As far as beaches, there’s the English Channel to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Bay of Biscay to the southwest and the Mediterranean to the southeast.
Mainland France, also known as the Hexagon due to its shape, is administratively divided into 22 regions: Alsace, Aquitane, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Burgundy, Brittany, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corsica, Franche-Comté, Haute-Normandie, Île-de-France (where the largest city and capital Paris is located), Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardy, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Rhône-Alpes. It also has four overseas departments: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. Its overseas countries and territories include New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna Islands and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories among others.
Côte d’Azur is well-known as the French Riviera and its hot, dry summers and mild winters make it a very popular beach area that attracts people from all over the world. The mountains tend to be colder with a lot of rain and snow which means there are some great ski resorts.
Besides Paris, its largest cities as far as population are Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Toulouse, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes, Strasbourg, Toulon, Douai-Lens, Rennes, Rouen, Grenoble and Montpellier. All of these cities have rich histories and customs and we’ll take virtual tours of them in later blogs.
Here is a 1980 song by Renaud entitled Hexagone that makes various satirical references to French society and geography.
You can read the lyrics here.
‘Être né sous l’signe de l’hexagone’ ça veut dire quoi pour vous?