France

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France (in French, République Française), country in western Europe, bounded on the north by the English Channel, the Strait of Dover, and the North Sea (which separate it from Great Britain); on the north-east by Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany; on the east by Germany, Switzerland, and Italy; on the south-east by the Mediterranean Sea; on the south by Spain; and on the west by the Bay of Biscay (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean). France is approximately hexagonal in shape, with an extreme length from north to south of about 965 km (600 mi) and a maximum width of about 935 km (580 mi). The capital and largest city is Paris.

FRANCE

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France (in French, République Française), country in western Europe,
bounded on the north by the English Channel, the Strait of Dover, and
the North Sea (which separate it from Great Britain); on the
north-east by Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany; on the east by
Germany, Switzerland, and Italy; on the south-east by the
Mediterranean Sea; on the south by Spain; and on the west by the Bay
of Biscay (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean). France is approximately
hexagonal in shape, with an extreme length from north to south of
about 965 km (600 mi) and a maximum width of about 935 km (580 mi).
The capital and largest city is Paris. The republic of France includes
ten overseas possessions. These include the overseas departments of
French Guiana, in South America; Martinique and Guadeloupe, in the
Caribbean; and Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. Territorial
collectivities and dependencies include St Pierre and Miquelon,
Mayotte, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, the French Southern and
Antarctic Territories, and Wallis and Futuna Islands. The total area
of metropolitan France, which also includes the island of Corsica in
the Mediterranean, is 543,965 sq km (210,026 sq mi).

The chief physiographic features of France are its natural eastern and
southern boundaries, a south-central plateau, and, contiguous to the
plateau, a vast region of rolling plains. A series of massive mountain
ranges, including a number of ranges of the Alps and the Jura, form
natural boundaries at the Franco-Italian and most of the Franco-Swiss
borders. With flanking chains and foothills, these ranges dominate the
area east of the south-central plateau. Many of the Alpine mountains
extending across and along the French border are more than 3,962 m
(13,000 ft) above sea level; Mont Blanc (4,807 m/15,771 ft) is the
second highest peak on the continent. The Jura, which have a maximum
elevation, on the Franco-Swiss boundary, of about 1,710 m (5,600 ft),
delineate the eastern frontier of France from the eastern extension of
the Rhône Valley to the Belfort Gap, the broad depression linking the
basins of the Rhine and the Saône rivers. From the edge of the Belfort
Gap to the north-eastern corner of France, the Franco-German border is
formed by the River Rhine. The Vosges mountains, extending north from
the Belfort Gap, dominate the region between the Moselle and the
Rhine. The highest elevations in the Vosges Mountains reach about
1,435 m (4,700 ft). The Pyrenees, which extend along the
Franco-Spanish frontier from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of
Biscay, form the other mountain boundary of France. Pic de Vignemale
(3,298 m/10,820 ft) is the highest French peak in the Pyrenees. The
Pyrenees are traversed by few passes, a circumstance that has
traditionally hampered commerce between France and Spain. The 0x08
graphic
Alpine and other ranges in the east are, however, broken by gaps and
passes, notably the passes of St Bernard.

The south-central plateau, known as the Massif Central, is separated
from the eastern highland region by the valley of the River Rhône.
This elevated region has an irregular relief and conformation. The
plateau, rising gradually from the plains region on the north and
west, is characterized by volcanic outcroppings; by deeply eroded
limestone tablelands to the south of the region of extinct volcanoes;
and, farther to the south, by the Cévennes, a series of highlands
rising from the Mediterranean coastal depressions.

The plains region, by far the most extensive section of the terrain of
France, is a projection of the Great Plain of Europe. Except for a few
hilly outcroppings, chiefly in the west-central portion, the French
plains consist of gently undulating lowlands, with an elevation of
about 200 m (650 ft) above sea level. The outstanding features of the
plains region, the most fertile in France, are the valleys of the
Seine, Loire, and Garonne rivers. Together with numerous tributaries,
these rivers drain the Atlantic watershed of France. The River Rhône
is the largest in the country in terms of volume of discharge. With
its tributaries, particularly the Saône, Isre, and Durance, it drains
the French Alpine region. Among the principal tributaries of the River
Seine, which is the main artery of the national inland waterway
system, are the Aube, Marne, Oise, and Yonne. France has only a few
lakes. Lake Geneva, situated on the Franco-Swiss frontier, lies mainly
in Switzerland.

The coastline of France, about 3,140 km (1,950 mi) long, has
relatively few natural harbours. The northern coast, along the English
Channel and the North Sea, is about 1,130 km (700 mi) long and is
broken by a number of promontories, river estuaries, and minor
indentations, few of which provide safe anchorages. Le Havre is the
outstanding exception. As at Cherbourg, a number of harbours have been
formed in this region by the construction of breakwaters. The western
coastline of France along the Atlantic, including the Bay of Biscay,
is about 1,390 km (865 mi) long. From the Brittany peninsula to the
Gironde, the Atlantic coastline of France is irregular in outline,
and, except in Brittany, is low and sandy. The principal harbours on
this part of the coast are those of Brest, Lorient, and Saint-Nazaire.
Bordeaux is inland on the Gironde. South of the Gironde, the coastline
consists of an almost continuous stretch of dunes, bordered by arid
moors. The best natural harbours of France, including those of
Marseille, Toulon, and Nice, are on the Mediterranean. A major part of
the French Mediterranean coast, which is about 620 km (385 mi) long,
is bounded, however, by rocks or shallow water.

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