Handout 1:  Geography

Paris,Seine              The Alps             Brittany village      Chateau Chambord,Loire    Collioure, Languedoc    Etretat, Normandy

Homework for this topic:

1-View :-MAP of regions /   Maps  , clickable map:http



2- Power point on the French Regions

3- Read article below.
4-  Choose one French region :

To do this you can either, and/or:

- View one video documentary in Lang lab 403(FH 4th floor)/Waterfield Media Center

·        Videos: e.g "Touring France/France beyond Borders /  Paris City of Lights…and others.

- Check: (discovering France) http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/

5. Questions:  You need to be able to :

1- Identify on a map
mountains, rivers, main cities, rural/wine areas, touristic areas, neighbouring countries and seas.

2- Identify the regions and their main cities   
3- Give 3 details about one region (main city, historical fact, other fact)

Article- GEOGRAPHY OF FRANCE  by Armand Frémont
 Armand Frémont, a former Chief Education Officer, chairs the Scientific
 Council of DATAR, France's town and country planning and regional
 development agency. The views expressed in this article are those of the

 France is the largest country in Western Europe, with a surface area of
 551,500 square kilometres. She had 58,416,300 inhabitants at the 1999
 census, not including the overseas departments and territories, and
 60,081,800 if these are included, which makes her population the
 second-largest in the European Union, behind Germany, and
 approximately the same size as those of the United Kingdom and Italy.
 However, France's surface area is in no way comparable with those of the
 giants of the other continents, e.g. the United States, Russia, India and

     1- Metropolitan France
     2- A European crossroads
     3- Diversity, unity and centralism
     4- Three faces of France
     5- Map of France

 1-Metropolitan France
 In French, metropolitan France is sometimes referred to as the
 Hexagon because of its six-sided shape. Starting in the Middle
 Ages, it took over a thousand years and the stubborn determination
 of her kings, and then of the Republic, to unify her. She has three
 sea and three land frontiers and her present territorial boundaries
 were shaped by the outcomes of the Franco-German wars of the
 nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

 In the south, the Pyrenees, rising to the 3,404 metres high Pic Aneto
 (in Spain), form the frontier with Spain and, to the east, the Alps
 and Jura those with Italy and Switzerland, whilst the middle
 reaches of the Rhine separate France from Germany. These are
 "natural" frontiers, long impenetrable, and there are still serious
 problems crossing them through passes, bridges, road and rail
 tunnels given the increase in European traffic. The Pyrenees, Alps
 and Jura give France mountainous areas shared with her
 neighbours. The French Alps to the north form the most extensive
 ski slopes in Europe and most mountain sports originated there.
 Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain, rises to 4,807 metres.

 In the north, by contrast, the border with Germany, Luxembourg
 and Belgium is much more open. It cuts across the ancient massif
 of the Ardennes at fairly low altitudes, and across the great north
 European plain. It was for a long time the most threatened border,
 that of conflicts, battles and invasions. Now, at many points, it sees
 intense cross-border activity between the Lille region and Belgium,
 between Lorraine, Luxembourg and the Saar. But, boosted by
 European agreements, other transborder regions are taking shape
 elsewhere, around the middle reaches of the Rhine between
 Alsace and Baden-Württemberg, in the areas around
 Basle-Mulhouse and Geneva, in the Nice region, in Catalonia and
 the Basque country.

 France has the exceptional privilege of having three seaboards, if
 not four. To the south lies the Mediterranean, with a very sunny
 coast, sheer cliffs and picturesque shores in Provence and on the
 Côte d'Azur, and long sandy beaches in the Languedoc.
 South-western France borders the Atlantic, with a more humid but
 mild and sunny climate and many sandy beaches rimmed by
 marshes and dunes. In the north-west, France faces the Channel
 and the North Sea, the world's busiest stretch of water, linking the
 Atlantic and the great Belgian, Dutch, British, and German North
 Sea ports. France has two port complexes of European standing:
 Le Havre/Rouen on the Seine, serving Paris and the surrounding
 area, and Marseille on the Mediterranean at the mouth of the
 Rhône. She has, however, never been - and this is even more the
 case today - the great maritime power she could have been. The
 main activity of France's coastal regions is now tourism, which has
 developed everywhere, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.
 The quality of her coastline helps make France, with her
 mountains, countryside and historic towns, the leading tourist
 destination in Europe and indeed the world.

 2-A European crossroads

 France is situated on the rather rounded isthmus which, in Western
 Europe, separates the Mediterranean from the Channel and the
 Atlantic, and links the Iberian peninsula to the rest of the continent.
 Consequently, throughout history, the Paris basin has played - and
 still plays - a critically important role because of the ease of
 communications and its size, high- quality agricultural land and
 two great rivers, the Seine and the Loire. Here is the cradle of the
 French nation, the domain of the kings, the nucleus to which the
 other provinces were added, the Republic's foremost region. It is
 dominated by Paris, one of the greatest cities and most important
 urban regions of Europe and the world: 2,116,000 people live in
 Paris and 10,925,000 in the Ile de France region. There are also a
 whole host of towns on the basin's periphery including Caen,
 Rouen, Le Havre, Amiens, Rheims, Orléans and Tours. National
 traffic between all these towns, dominated by Paris, is increased by
 the heavy European traffic travelling through the region between
 the United Kingdom, Benelux, Germany and, further south, Italy
 and the Iberian peninsula.

 Moreover, France has two major trade routes which make her one
 of the most important crossroads in Western Europe, at all events
 the most extensive one and the least easy for international traffic to
 bypass. To the east, lie the cities of Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, Lyon,
 Grenoble, Saint-Etienne and Marseille, and the great north-south
 axis formed by the valleys of the Rhine and Moselle, and Saône
 and Rhône - all now well connected by motorways and high-speed
 trains (TGV) railway lines. Similarly, to the south, the
 Mediterranean coast, together with the Garonne valley and
 Aquitaine basin, link such cities as Nice, Marseille, Montpellier,
 Toulouse and Bordeaux. It is now in these towns and metropolises,
 and the Paris region, that the bulk of the population and industry
 and tertiary activities are concentrated, rather than in the former
 industrial basins founded on coal, steel and textiles, such as
 Lorraine and Nord-Pas de Calais. Three great conurbations each
 have around a million inhabitants: Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing, within
 reach of Belgium and Britain; Lyon, the most important
 communications crossroads and economic centre after Paris, close
 to Switzerland and Italy; and Aix-Marseille, the gate to the

 To the west of the country, on the Armorican massif and its fringes,
 and above all in central France, in the Massif Central and the area
 immediately surrounding it, there is greater isolation and there are
 fewer large towns: Rennes, Brest, Poitiers, Nantes, Limoges and
 Clermont-Ferrand. Here the rural influence is strongest and the
 area is dotted with small and medium-sized towns.

 3-Diversity, unity and centralism

 All in all, therefore, France is a country of an astonishing diversity
 and the French make the most of it. Others take pleasure in making
 fun of them, but they are envied for the variety of their cheeses,
 wines and culinary customs.... They also remain very attached to
 their communes [smallest administrative subdivision in France]
 which, with the departments and regions, form the three tiers of the
 Republic's local government system. France's 36,000 communes are
 unique in Europe and the world because of their number and often
 very small size. Although of a more reasonable one, the 22 regions
 and 100 departments of metropolitan France are nevertheless
 generally smaller than their foreign equivalents.

 France, at the crossroads of history and geography, enjoys almost
 unparalleled variety in so many other spheres too: her climates,
 ranging from Mediterranean to oceanic, and from maritime to
 continental; her topography, ranging from the great plains of the
 centre of the Paris basin to the Alpine and Pyrenean peaks, and
 from the high rolling hills of the Massif Central and the Vosges to
 the great valleys of the Rhône and the Loire; the territories brought
 under French jurisdiction, starting with the Île de France, the heart
 of the country since the first Capetian kings, and including Savoie,
 the earldom of Nice, and Alsace and Lorraine, fought over until the
 nineteenth and twentieth centuries; native tongues, dialects and
 customs; towns, most of them with very ancient histories; and
 regions. This geographical mosaic symbolizes what France long
 was: rural, agricultural, rooted in centuries-old traditions, with rich
 (or poor) farmers still concentrating primarily on cereal production -
 particularly high yields in the Paris basin - an enduring tradition of
 stock farming in the West and Massif Central, and a
 Mediterranean-type agriculture based on wine-growing, fruit and
 vegetables. Hence the diversity and beauty of the countryside:
 plains, pasture lands, forests, scrubland, hillside vineyards and
 irrigated areas. Hence a leading European agricultural country,
 especially for cereals, beef, dairy products, wine, fruit and
 vegetables. For good measure, the islands of the Caribbean, Indian
 Ocean and Pacific add a tropical touch.

 The paradox - or is it a complementarity? - is that this mosaic gave
 birth to Europe's most centralized State, and one of the most
 centralized in the world. The State affirms the unity of the Republic
 through its representatives (préfets) at department and commune
 level, through the public services and particularly the education
 system. France's industrial expansion of the nineteenth and
 twentieth centuries, transport network, universities and higher
 education facilities, which had initially focused heavily on Paris,
 together with the establishment of an often State-sponsored
 capitalism and the large national companies all helped fashion a
 highly centralized country in which Paris stood apart from the
 provinces, which included both very dynamic regions such as
 Rhône-Alpes and other much less favoured ones, such as Auvergne
 and Limousin. This situation was reflected in the transport network
 in which the star shape of the main nineteenth-century rail routes
 corresponded to that of the old royal roads, and now the air and
 TGV routes correspond to those of the old railways. Everything
 goes to Paris. Everything comes from Paris. Certainly, since the
 Second World War a very determined proactive town and country
 planning policy has counteracted this trend, as did the 1982
 decentralization legislation. France remains, however, highly
 centralized, not - as before - in the spheres of industrial production
 and the major services, but Paris is still the place where some of
 the most important decisions are made and the capital of fashion,
 art, and culture.

 4-Three faces of France

 France's average population density of 100 inhabitants per square
 kilometre - considerably lower than that of any of her neighbours -
 conceals wide disparities according to the areas concerned.
 Indeed, since the economic crisis which hit the agricultural and
 industrial regions hard, France may be divided into three.

 Paris and Île de France are a still unique genus. They form an
 ever-growing vast urban region spilling over the bounds of Île de
 France and which in Europe is comparable only to Greater London.
 Over 10 million people live and work there. It is still - and by far -
 the leading French region in practically every respect. Despite
 government efforts to counteract this, the most substantial public
 investments still have to go to Paris. A prestigious capital, Paris is a
 city with worldwide influence in every sphere, but this, admittedly,
 is greater on the political front and for tourism, the arts and culture
 than in the economic sphere. The population of Paris and Île de
 France has almost stopped growing, but the outskirts of Paris now
 extend into the neighbouring regions. Paris and its suburbs are
 France's largest "melting pot" with an immigrant population of
 some 1,300,000.

 It is France's urban areas, found in almost region, which are
 currently seeing the greatest population growth, commensurate
 with their economic dynamism.

 Some regions are still very scarred by the industrial crisis of the
 1970s and 1980s, such as Lorraine, Nord-Pas de Calais, and
 Haute-Normandie. Old industrial centres like Saint-Etienne, Le
 Havre and Montbéliard have declining populations. These tend to
 be the exceptions. Almost everywhere, the expansion of services
 and some industrial successes are bringing urban growth. New
 developments are appearing on the outskirts of towns and adjacent
 country areas are being revitalized. Almost every region of France
 is being affected by this urban sprawl, both in the vicinity of
 conurbations of 200,000 inhabitants in the west such as Caen, Le
 Mans and Angers, and in that of the larger metropolises of eastern
 and southern France, such as Grenoble, Montpellier or Bordeaux.
 The sharpest increases are seen where metropolises are buoyed by
 the greatest economic successes, for example the economic hub
 formed by Nantes and Saint-Nazaire on the Loire estuary
 (approximately 680,000 inhabitants), western France's principal
 industrial and services metropolis, and Toulouse, the European
 aerospace capital (760,000 inhabitants).

 In between these urban areas, a purely rural France survives,
 animated only by small, often charming towns. Agriculture, in
 family farms with low yields, is increasingly giving way to waste
 land, set-aside and reforestation. The population is shrinking both
 because of the fall in the birth rate and of emigration, with almost
 all of those willing to leave having done so. Population densities
 are down to below 20 inhabitants per square kilometre. Following
 deindustrialization and the large number of farmers who have
 given up farming, the public services hang in the balance. Tourism,
 weekend or summer season, is becoming the main economic
 activity. To some extent, all France's regions are suffering from this
 flight from the countryside, but it is those in the centre, from
 southern Lorraine to the Pyrenees, including the Auvergne and
 Limousin, which are particularly affected. This is the "empty"
 swathe of France, but also an inestimable treasure-trove of history,
 nature and culture, a living and still captivating heritage, a place of
 remembrance and of silence.

 The extreme diversity of France's regions reflects that of Europe,
 but is even more marked. "An old country", as General de Gaulle
 wrote, with its millennium-long history, layers of customs and
 traditions, and an ageing population. Nevertheless, France's
 population is not ageing as fast as that of the rest of Europe.
 Likewise, the reduction of the excess of births over deaths is not so
 marked. France is also a land of welcome, as she has been
 throughout her history, absorbing successive waves of great
 invasions and immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and
 now from the Maghreb, Africa and tropical islands. Today, France
 has some 3,263,000 immigrants, but relatively few have come over
 the past decade. The France of the great metropolises has now
 replaced the France of old rural areas and small towns. Over three
 quarters of her population now live in towns and even more in
 their suburbs and outskirts - it is here that the new France profonde
 (broad mass of French people) is to be found. Today France can be
 summed up as a firmly united nation, with a highly disparate
 population living in a country with a wealth of different landscapes.

 5- Source : Images de la France (SIG)  Embassy of France in US - 12 June 2001