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Guess where I live

Dessin de Samy BrameFrance has 36,780 towns and villages, both big and small. 37 towns have more than 100,000 inhabitants. Paris is the biggest with a population of 2,100,000. Then come Marseille and Lyon.

Illustration Béatrice TolluLots of activities are concentrated in the towns: work, schooling, leisure. Town centres are all a little alike, with their shops, cityhall, post office, railway station and other services. Primary and secondary schools are spread out across different parts of town.

With the growing population, many towns have increased in size and have had to provide more living accommodation. Houses and blocks of flats have mushroomed around the edges of towns. The HLM (“Habitations à Loyer Modéré”) are blocks of council flats built in less well-off areas.

Big towns have one or several universities. This means they have a young population. University towns have expanded their public transport systems and sports centres to cater for students’ travel and leisure requirements. 

France has more towns and villages than any other country in Europe. Nearly 32,000 of these are small places with a population of under 1,000. Life here is quieter but sometimes a bit dull. New technology, computers and the internet, enable people to work from home. Jobs that previously could not be done in the country are now possible. So some families choose to live in a village in order to bring their children up in the quiet and fresh air.

Opéra de Lyon rénové par Jean Nouvel - Photo : F. de la Mure, MAEEWhether they are city dwellers or country folk, French people remain deeply attached to the area where they were born and to the stories told by the many buildings of historic interest and importance there.

Alongside this valuable and protected architectural heritage, there is also modern architecture to take us into the third millennium:  the Opéra in Lyon, Le Lieu unique in Nantes, the Pyramide du Louvre or the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

Grande Arche de la Défense (92) - Photo : F. de la Mure, MAEEAnd so past, present and future stand happily side by side. In Paris a good example of this is the historic Arc de Triomphe and the modern Grande Arche de la Défense.

The most popular street names

Panneau rue G. de Maupassant - Photo M. DecheletteStreets take their names from places or from famous people or events: most French towns have a “rue de l’Eglise (Church Road), a “rue de la Gare (Station Road), a “place du Marché  (Market Square), a “boulevard Victor Hugo”, an “allée Jeanne d’Arc”,  avenues named after Charles de Gaulle, Racine,  Molière, Jules Ferry, Emile Zola or Corneille.

After the Second World War, many streets were named "rue de la Paix", "rue de la Liberté"  or even “rue du 6 juin 1944” (“D Day” or “Jour J”).

Many schools are named after famous figures: Saint-Exupéry, the author of « Le Petit Prince » is a favourite.

Rue Git-le-coeur - Photo : G. Brame

Many villages and towns have chosen unusual and often funny names for their streets, squares or passages, refering either to the physical characteristics of these locations or to their historical past. 

Panneau Rue de la Merci - Photo : G. BramePanneau Rue du chat qui pêche - Photo : G. BramePanneau rue de la Grimpette - rues de Gaudiempré (61) - Photo : G. BramePanneau Rue de Coupe-Gorge - Photo : G. Brame

Towns along rivers

«Rivers are roads that move» Blaise Pascal

Carte des fleuves

Vallee de la Seine pres de Fontainebleau - Photo : F. de la Mure, MAEE 
Troyes, Paris,  Rouen, and Le Havre all lie on the course of the River Seine (776 km long) which flows into the Channel.

La Loire pres de Roanne - Photo : M. Dechelette Le Puy-en-Velay,  Roanne, Orléans, Tours, Nantes and Saint-Nazaire stand on the banks of the Loire which runs for 1,010 km ending up in the stormy Atlantic Ocean, as does the Garonne (575 km)  which runs through Toulouse, the “Rose-Red City”, and Bordeaux. The river Vienne[Help: la-vienne ] flows into the Loire.

Flamands roses dans le delta du Rhone, Camargue - Photo : F. de la Mure, MAEE The Rhône (810 km) rises in Switzerland and flows through Geneva, Lyon, Valence and Arles  into the warm Mediterranean Sea.

The Rhine flows through France for only 195 km, to the east of Strasbourg.

"Le Rhin réunit tout. Le Rhin est rapide comme le Rhône, large comme la Loire, encaissé comme la Meuse, limpide et vert comme la Somme, historique comme le Tibre, royal comme le Danube..."

Victor Hugo, Le Rhin. Lettres à un ami, lettre XIV

Help: la-vienneidp1379176

La Vienne- Limoges - Photo : M. Déchelette

La Vienne est une rivière, affluent de la Loire qui arrose notamment Limoges, Châtellerault et Chinon.
La Vienne (86) est aussi le nom d'un département de la région Poitou-Charentes.
La ville de Vienne se situe au bord du Rhône en Isère (38).
(Wien), située sur le Danube, est bien sûr la capitale de l'Autriche, l'un des 27 pays de l'Union européenne.


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