One of about 20 French-speaking countries in the world and the one in which a motley crew of Gauls, Romans, and Franks invented a hodge-podge form of Latin that evolved into the suave, sophisticated and oh-so-romantic French language. Producer of great wines, great cuisine and great technology. You should visit.

Strange country located at the heart of Europe. 25% bigger than California, but twice as populous. Beautiful landscapes, from eden-like Provence to rough Brittany, and of course the lovely city of Paris. The socio-economic context is good old social democracy based on a not-so-inefficient welfare-state - and the French seem to like it. Current (1999) president is Jacques Chirac. Current prime minister and likely next president is Lionel Jospin.

From Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman:

The 18th Year of these States

A great year and place,
A harsh discordant natal scream out-sounding, to touch the mother's heart closer than any yet.

I walk'd the shores of my Eastern sea,
Heard over the waves the little voice,
Saw the divine infant where she woke mournfully wailing, amid the roar of cannon, curses, shouts, crush of falling buildings,
Was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running, nor from the single corpses, nor those in heaps, nor those borne away in the tumbrils,
Was not so desperate at the battues of death — was not so shock'd at the repeated fusillades of the guns.

Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued retribution?
Could I wish humanity different?
Could I wish the people made of wood and stone?
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?

O liberty! O mate for me!
Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in reserve, to fetch them out in case of need,
Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy'd,
Here too could rise at last murdering and ecstatic,
Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance.

Hence I sign this salute over the sea,
And I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism,
But remember the little voice that I heard wailing, and wait with perfect trust, no matter how long,
And from to-day sad and cogent I maintain the bequeath'd cause, as for all lands,
And I send these words to Paris with my love,
And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them,
For I guess there is latent music yet in France, floods of it,
O I hear already the bustle of instruments, they will soon be drowning all that would interrupt them,
O I think the east wind brings a triumphal and free march,
It reaches hither, it swells me to joyful madness,
I will run transpose it in words, to justify it,
I will yet sing a song for you ma femme.

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Bob Weir, Mickey Hart

Reprinted with permissions: copyright Ice Nine Publishing

Way down in the south of France
All the ladies love to dance
Kick their heels up in the air
Snap their fingers for romance
While the gentlemen compare
Blonde or black or auburn hair
Check the motion and the style
Oh you know they take their while

Hey to make the motion more complete
Yeah to make it more a treat
Club d'Jour is where to go
Come on down and see the show
When the rhythm's really right
You can burn it down tonight
When the singing's really fine
Sweet as Spanish sherry wine

When the club can't contain the beat
It just rolls out in the street
Spills on down the avenue
Bringing dancers to their feet
When it's good as it can be
It gets better, wait and see

Oh these folks don't ever sleep
Till they're passed out in the street

Way down in the south of France
All the ladies love to dance
Clap their hands and walk on air
Yeah the feeling's really there
Won't you take a little taste
Raise it to your charming face?
When the rhythm's really right
You can burn it down tonight
When the singing's really fine
Sweet as Spanish sherry wine

Recorded on
Shakedown Street by the Grateful Dead
Never performed live.

The France was the last of the big passenger ships to cruise along the Le Havre-New York City line across the North Atlantic ocean. The third ship to bear the name, it was ordered from the Penhoet shipyards in 1956 ; its construction began in 1957, it was chistened in 1960 in the presence of the President of the Republic Charles de Gaulle; his wife Yvonne was the ship's godmother. It was properly finished and inaugurated on January 11th, 1962, by the Prime Minister Michel Debre. Its inaugural cruise was to the Carribean; it afterwards started its regular New York City - Le Havre cruises, which it would cover in 5 days at the speed of 30 knots.

The ship was the pride of France. The government had subsidised one fifth of its expensive construction. It was huge, and supposed to be the showcase of French Luxury and naval industry. Its length was of 315.66 meters - about that of the Eiffel Tower. Its highest height, that of the radar mast, was of 66.90 meters, about that of the Arc de Triomphe. It displaced 57,607 tons. It would carry 2000 passengers. It brought the Mona Lisa to New York City once. It was a National Monument in itself.

Of course the line was hardly profitable. Transatlantic travel was much easier by plane; and when oil prices started to rise in 1973, it was clear France would not keep cruising for a long time. The first attempt to keep it going was around the world cruises; a rarity on that large a boat. The first one was packed, the second was not. The government decided it'd stop paying the line's deficit, and, on July 8th, 1974, the ship's disarmament was announced. On September 11th, the crew, fearing for their jobs, went on strike and started a mutiny, occupying the ship and anchoring it in front of Le Havre, blocking the harbor. Yet the ship's destiny was obvious, and after the end of the occupation the ship's was anchored for five years.

Finally it was bought, and in 1979, it was rechristened as Norway, to become a recreational cruise ship. The shock in France was strange - it was only a ship, after all - but the sale of a National Monument hurt the French's pride, in an era when France's economy was suffering. Indeed, the popular singer Michel Sardou created a song titled Ne m'appelez plus jamais France - Never call me France again - comparing its fate to that of HMS Queen Mary. The song is still aired regularly on radio

The Norway is still cruising in the Northern Atlantic under its new flag; in 2001 it was announced it'd go to the far east, probably to be used as a floating casino. However, its last few "Farewell cruises" were such a success that it is still in service near Miami.

The ship is a "cult boat"; here are two fan websites if you want to know more :

France is an important and influential country, lying on the western edge of the continent of Europe. It has an almost hexagonal shape, covering 543,965 square km, and is bordered by Spain and Andorra on the south, England across the English Channel to the north, Belgium and Luxembourg to the northeast, and Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to the east. The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea is also part of the country.

The capital of France is Paris, and its major towns include Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon, and Nantes.

France's history stretches back as far as the 5th century BC, when the country, then called Gaul, was invaded by the Celts. Charlemagne made France the centre of the Holy Roman Empire during his reign from 768 to 814 AD. The French Revolution in 1789-1799 would see the monarchy overthrown, and lead to the rise of Napoleon.

France was a major battleground in both World War I and World War II. It became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and was an important member of the EEC, and is still a strong player in the EEC's new form, the European Union.

Culturally, France is home to both Gothic and Baroque architecture. Renaissance philosphies of the 16th century led to the Enlightenment in the 18th century, both of which had a major influence on western Europe. French Impressionism also had a profound effect on modern painting styles.

The following E2 nodes may prove of interest. /Msg me with any additions.

French geography


French History
French Art and Literature
French culture
Food and drink
French Language

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc, 1994-2000
The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, 1997 ed., Helicon Publishing Ltd, 1996

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