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Thursday 23rd May
France Facts
Mont Blanc (4,807 m), in the Alps, is the highest point in France.

Gouffre Mirolda cave in Haute-Savoie (5,335 ft or 1,626 metres) is one of the deepest caves in the world.

The Rhone, France's deepest river, is an important source of water power.

Early human remains of homo sapiens sapiens were discovered in 1864 at Cro-Magnon in the Dordogne.

Thousands of megaliths (stone prehistoric monuments) can be found in Brittany. Carnac is especially noted for its megalithic remains.

Recent studies point to a very early migration of people to America across the Atlantic. One theory is that the Solutrean Neolithic people from southwest France may have made the journey.

The name of Paris is derived from the Parisii, a Celtic tribe that lived in the region in the third century BC.

From early times people inhabited the Ile de la Cite, an island in the River Seine in Paris. The Romans built a town on the Left Bank.

The River Seine was known as the Tin Road because it was used to transport metal mined in Brittany and Cornwall (England) to the centre of Europe.

Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (France) between 58 and 51 BC.

People from Britain and Ireland migrated to Brittany and Normandy at the end of the Roman occupation.

Normandy gained its name from Viking invaders whom the French called Normands.

The Bayeux Tapestry is embroidered with pictures illustrating the Norman invasion of England.

The University of Paris, the Sorbonne, was founded in the early thirteenth century.

During the Great Schism (division) of the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourteenth century, various popes lived in Avignon called the City of Popes.

Towards the end of The Hundred Years' War, between France and England, Joan of Arc, a young peasant girl, helped Charles VII reclaim his throne from the English. Joan was burnt at the stake as a heretic in 1431.

Mary Queen of Scots married the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin, in 1558.

Michel de Nostredame, known as Nostradamus, was a sixteenth century physician and astrologer born in 1503 in St. Remy de Provence.

Descartes and Pascal are among famous mathematicians born in France.

The programming language Pascal is named after Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher.

The Montgolfier Brothers built a balloon that made the first recorded manned flight in 1783.

The Marseillaise is the French national anthem dating from the French Revolution.

Marianne is the mythical French heroine embodying the French Republic. Marianne represents the Republic's values: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". Official models for Marianne have included Briget Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Laetitia Casta.

The Place de la Concorde, was designed by Jacques Ange Gabriel in 1763. During the French Revolution it became the home of the Guillotine, the method of death for over a thousand aristocrats including Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette. Even revolutionaries such as Danton and Robespierre eventually met their fate at the Guillotine.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, is a novel about an English character, Sir Percy Blakeney, who rescued people sentenced to death during the French Revolution.

The Catacombs of Paris, originally Roman stone quarries, contain the skeletons of around six million people including victims of the French Revolution. Bodies were moved to the catacombs in 1785 from Parisienne graveyards.

The French Resistance of the Second World War had its headquarters in the Catacombs.

During the Franco-Prussian War the people of Paris rose up against the national government setting up The Commune (1871). A civil war known as Bloody Week put an end to the revolutionary government.

In Lourdes, at the foot of the Pyranees Mountains, St Bernadette saw a vision of the Virgin Mary (1858). Bernadette was told to dig the earth where a spring began to flow. Pilgrims from all over the world visit Lourdes, many of whom are hoping for miraculous cures for illness.

Saint Therese (1873-1897) who lived in the convent in Lisieux wrote the Story of a Soul.

Andre Ampere, (1775-1836) a mathematician, studied electricity and magnetism. Units of electric currents, amps, are named after him.

Louis Braille (1809-1852) developed the system of Braille, the "Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Song by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged by Them".

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) studied the spread of disease by microbes. He gave his name to the pasteurization of milk and beer.

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty and Gustave Eiffel its structural engineer. The statue was presented to the American people by the people of France on 4th July 1884 and shipped to the US in early 1885. Gustave Eiffel built the Tower in Paris in 1889.

Marie Curie, was the first female winner of a Nobel Prize. Born in Poland, she studied at the Sorbonne where she met her husband, Pierre, with whom she researched radioactivity.

Claude Monet rented a house at Giverny near Rouen. The garden is the subject of many of his paintings.

Louis Bleriot built one of the first monoplanes and made the first crossing of the English Channel by plane (1909).

During the First World War many thousands of men lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme in Picardy. On the first day of the Battle, the British, alone, suffered over nineteen thousand dead and twice as many seriously wounded.

The Michelin Guide, first published in 1900 by the French tyre manufacturer, awards grades to restaurants and hotels for the quality of food.

The development of Concorde, the supersonic airliner, was shared between Britain and France.

The Channel Tunnel is the first land link between Britain and France since the Ice Age.

Popular French singers of the twentieth century include Maurice Chevallier, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavor.

Brigitte Bardot, the famous film star of the 1950s, set up a Foundation for the care of animals in 1986.

Oscar Wilde, the playwright and novelist, and Jim Morrison of "The Doors" are two of the people buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car accident in the Place de l'Alma underpass in central Paris on 31 August 1997.

The CERN Large Hadron Collider, located underground across the borders of France and Switzerland, was activated on 10 September 2008. The particle accelerator will collide particles with the aim of recreating conditions moments after the creation of the universe.

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea!" - Antoine Saint Exupery "Le Petit Prince".

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