FRANCE Cultural Heritage and Diversity France is a country in western Europe. It is Europe's third largest country in area. Only Russia and Ukraine have more land.
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France's capital and largest city is Paris, one of the world's great cities. For hundreds of years, Paris has been a world center of art and learning. Many great artists have produced their finest masterpieces there. Every year, millions of tourists visit such famous Paris landmarks as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre—one of the largest art museums in the world.
Eiffel Tower is the most famous landmark in Paris. It was erected as the symbol of a world's fair called the Universal Exposition of 1889. It was the world's tallest structure then, rising 984 feet (300 meters) above the fairgrounds. Gustave Eiffel, a structural engineer, built the tower to show how steel and iron could be used to erect tall structures. Eiffel was responsible for financing the construction of the tower, which cost more than $1 million. About 2 million people visited the tower in the first year, and the fees they paid covered the building costs.
The French are famous for their enjoyment of life. Good food and good wine are an important part of everyday living for most French people. The delicious breads, appetizers, sauces, soups, and desserts of France are copied by cooks in most parts of the world. The wines of France are considered the world's best.
France is one of the world's leading manufacturing nations. It is, for example, one of the largest producers of automobiles in the world. It also has large chemical and steel industries. It is a leader in growing wheat, vegetables, and many other crops. France stands high among the countries of the world in its trade with other nations, as measured by exports. It also has an important role in world politics. Its foreign policies affect millions of people in other countries.
About four-fifths of the French people live in cities and towns. In the larger cities, most people live in apartments. Many Parisians live in old apartment buildings. In general, the older a building is, the more prestigious it is. Many French city dwellers tolerate buildings with old plumbing and appliances so that they may enjoy antique fireplaces and ceiling beams.
The greatest national sporting event in France is the Tour de France, a bicycle race. Every July, about 200 professional cyclists race around France and sometimes parts of neighboring countries. They ride almost daily for three weeks and finish in Paris. Thousands of spectators line the route and cheer them along.