192-Part Guide To The World: France

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The Independent Travel

Official name: La République Française

Official name: La République Française

Language: Not English, annoyingly enough. Instead one must make do with the language of Moliÿre, Voltaire, Baudelaire, Zola, Balzac, Flaubert, Proust et al. Otherwise, you could try Breton, Occitan, Corsican, Basque, Catalan or Arabic.

Size: About 544,000 square kilometres. Sixteen times larger than Belgium.

Population: 58,333,000.

National dish: By default, frogs, snails and onions: because the regions of Normandy, Alsace, Burgundy, the Dordogne, the Languedoc and Provence will never agree to a single dish. Whatever the answer, wash it down with a glass of Champagne and finish it off with a slice of Camembert or Roquefort.

Best monument: The cathedral of Notre-Dame is too medieval, the Eiffel Tower too industrial. The Louvre, on the other hand - once home to the French court, now home to the world's greatest art collection - is spot on for its haughty Frenchness.

Most famous citizen: Eric Cantona or Auguste Renoir? Brigitte Bardot or Marie-Antoinette? Jacques Chirac or Louis XIV? Gérard Depardieu or Jean-Paul Sartre? Unfortunately, one suspects that the little Corsican upstart Napoleon Bonaparte will beat all of this lot into the ground.

Best moment in history: The French are still terribly fond of their 1789 revolution, despite continued attempts by the British establishment to blacken its name.

Worst moment in history: Either Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, in 1815, or the German occupation of France in 1940.

Essential accessory: A packet of Tetley teabags.

What not to do: Add Coca-Cola to your Champagne.

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