1 CHAPTER 1 GEOGRAPHY OVERVIEW With an area of 640,679 km2 (247,368 mi2) and a population of 67.2 million, France (continental mainland + overseas departments and territories) is the forty-second largest country in the world in terms of surface area and the twenty-first largest in terms of population. France is the largest European Union (EU) country in terms of area and the second largest in terms of population. It is the third westernmost country in continental Europe. Its national capital, Paris, in the northern part of the country, is located at 48°51′ N latitude, 2°21′ E longitude. Continental France uses Central European Time (UTC+01:00) in the fall and winter and Central European Summer Time (UTC+02:00) in the spring and summer. France is bordered by Belgium, Lux- embourg, and Germany in the north and northeast Switzerland and Italy in the east the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast Spain in the south the Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay) in the west and the English Channel and North Sea in the northwest. Natural borders consisting of mountains and seas along three-fourths of its perimeter have enhanced France’s territorial security through history (with the notable exception of its northern and northeastern borders). Because of its regular six-sided shape, its resi- dents commonly refer to France as “the Hexagon.” The French landscape is varied. Flat plains and gently rolling hills dominate the northern part of the country. The eastern, central, and southern parts are marked by a series of mountain ranges and massifs—the Vosges, Jura, and Alps in the east and southeast the Massif Central in the south-central part of the country and the Pyrenees in the south. Mainland France has 3,427 km (2,129 mi) of coastland. Its main rivers are the Seine, Loire, Rhine, Rhône, and Garonne. Its climate is temperate, with a combina- tion of four different climate types—oceanic and semi-oceanic in the west and Paris region, Mediterranean in the coastal southeast, semi-continental in the northeast, and alpine in areas of higher elevation. France has warm and sunny beaches that are vaca- tion meccas in the summertime, and several famous winemaking regions. Continental France does not have significant underground natural resources. However, French Gui- ana has oil reserves and New Caledonia has important deposits of nickel. Continental France is divided into thirteen administrative regions, which are only loosely based on its historical regions. It is further divided into departments (96 in metropolitan France) and local communes (over 36,000 in metropolitan France). There is a moderately strong sense of regional and local identity in France that is
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