"Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité," meaning "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," is the motto of the French Republic -- the largest country in Europe and the fifth largest economy in the world. Its people speak French. Its blue, white and red flag is called the "tricolore." A long cultural history makes it the most visited country in the world. In 2009, 74 million tourists visited France -- that's more than its own population!
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The capital city, Paris, is home to the world-famous Louvre museum, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral. Yet the most visited site in France, and indeed in Europe, is the Disneyland park on the outskirts of Paris, called EuroDisney.
France may be smaller than the state of Texas, but it has more miles of beaches than California. The south of France is much hotter that the north, especially in the summer, and visitors come from all over the world to spend their holidays there. Tourists also come to ski down the slopes of France's seven different mountain ranges or to climb Mont Blanc, Europe's tallest mountain peak.
French children start school around 8 a.m. and finish school around 4 p.m. Many schools close on Wednesdays but open on Saturday mornings instead. Children do not wear uniforms at school. Lunch breaks are so long in France that children often go home to eat lunch. If they stay at school, the school serves them a three-course meal. Snacks and soda are not allowed.
Indeed the French love food and wine. Mealtimes are important moments when the whole family will sit down together. Classic French dishes include onion soup, frog's legs and even snails! The French make 350 different cheeses. The traditional "baguette" (a long stick of crunchy bread) is baked several times a day in order to be fresh for every meal.
The biggest national celebration is July 14, called Bastille Day, where the French celebrate the start of the 1789 revolution. There is a big parade in Paris and fireworks in every town. A very French sport is the Tour de France bicycle race which lasts for about three weeks; the course passes through many French towns. Children love to line the streets, to watch the cyclists go by and catch the sweets and other goodies thrown by the traditional publicity caravan.
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