Travel Guide: France
France Travel Guide: Nice To Know Facts About France. Interesting Facts.
Part of the joy of traveling to another country is learning about the destination you are going to. Getting to know the culture, language and history of a country is a great way to have an idea on what to expect and what to prepare for when you take the trip. This way, you can be fully prepared for your travel itinerary and you can have a better appreciation of the country you are visiting. For our France Travel Guide, here’s a look at the most visited paid landmark in France, the Eiffel Tower and the sparkling wine that France has become famous for, champagne.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower has become the iconic figure of both Paris and France. Built in 1889, this steel structure has become one of the most famous landmarks in the city. It is the most photographed image in France and is commonly used in movies to indicate Paris.
It has the distinction of being the tallest building or structure in Paris, measuring 324 meters or about the height of an 81-story building. In France it holds the distinction of being the second tallest man-made structure, preceded only by the Millau Viaduct in Southern France, the tallest bridge in the world at 343 meters. The tower got its name from its designer, Gustav Eiffel, who created the tower for the 1889 World’s Fair.
It took 300 workers and about two years to complete the tower, which is made of over 18,000 pieces of puddle iron. When it was completed, the French hated it. The tower was called an eyesore, and many felt that its presence ruined the Parisian landscape. In 1909, it was supposed to be dismantled. However, the tower proved useful for communication purposes as many antennas were set up on it. Today, it is considered an iconic landmark and one of great structural designs.
The French government has regulated that buildings in Paris can be no more than seven feet tall. This is to allow an uncluttered view of the tower from various areas of the city. At night, the Eiffel tower is lit up using 20,000 flash bulbs. At 9 pm everyday, the tower twinkles for five minutes, much to the delight of tourists and Parisian residents.
Tourists can enjoy three levels of the Eiffel Tower. Travelers have the option of going up 300 flights of stairs or using the lift from the ground to the first level as well as to the second level. To get to the third level, a lift must be taken. There are a total of nine lifts operational in the tower.
The Eiffel Tower has been visited by over 200 million tourists from all over the world, making it the most visited paid landmark in the Paris and in the world. Each year, 7 million tourists come and take the lift or stairs up the tower. The first restaurant on the Eiffel Tower is located on the first level and is called the Le 58 Tour Eiffel, situated at 95 meters above sea level. The very expensive Jules Verne Restaurant is located on the second level of the Eiffel Tower and is run by world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse. For about 200 euros, travelers can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris while dining on fine French cuisine.
It costs adults about 14 euros to go up the Eiffel Tower, while children are charged about 9 euros to go up. For those who don’t wish to go up, the views from the base of the tower are just as spectacular. There are also a number of parks, coffee shops and other places of leisure around the tower. Souvenir items can be purchased such as key chains, magnets, shirts and small replicas of the bronze structure.
A visit to France isn’t complete without passing by the Eiffel Tower. It truly is one of the most famous, memorable, beautiful, romantic and historical structures in the country.
No celebration is complete without holding a toast with a glass of bubbly champagne. Whether it’s for a wedding, a birthday celebration or to commemorate the arrival of a new year, champagne is a must for every special occasion. This sweet and sparkling wine traces its roots to France and has had a long and interesting history.
Many wine and champagne drinkers automatically assume that if the wine is sparkling, it is called champagne. However, this type of wine must come from the La Champagne region in France to be called champagne. The name is derived from Campania, a Latin term that means field. This region in France, which is located approximately 100 miles away from the Parisian capital, is blessed with rich, fertile soil, perfect for growing grapes. The region’s high altitude and cold climate result in grapes that contain a high acidity level. These conditions make the special grapes grown in the region ideal for wine making.
As early as one million years in the past, the Romans were already making wine in the area, as proven by fossilized remains. They were also responsible for digging down 300 feet into the ground for chalk blocks called crayeres, which later became the wine cellars used to hold the wine. In 92 AD, Roman Emperor Domitian forbade the cultivation of wine in areas outside of Italy. It was only two centuries later when Emperor Probus removed this ban and the cultivation of wine making once again returned to full production after years of making the wine in secret, as they realized that they wines produced in this region are the best in Europe.
The spread of Christianity in Europe resulted in many monasteries assuming control of much of the land in La Champagne. Because of the region’s growing popularity for producing delicious wines, many members of the church and royalty sought to own properties in the area. The superior wine produced in the region became offerings during mass or were reserved for royalty.
By the 17th century, the winemaking region of Burgundy began to compete with the wines made in La Champagne. The wines from Burgundy and La Champagne both used Pinot Noir grapes, although the vintners from La Champagne were able to make their wine honey colored. This winemaking competition from the Burgandy region resulted in the vintners further improving their products. This in turn became a boon for the overall wine industry of France. For over a century, kings, doctors, poets and the public were arguing about which one was the superior wine.
The white wine or vin gris became popular with the public and were shipped to various parts of Europe, especially England. As the wines were shipped in barrels, the beverage underwent a second fermentation process. This resulted in the light effervescent character of the wine. As soon as the wines arrived at their destination, these were then bottled and corked.
It was Frère Jean Oudart and Dom Pierre Pérignon who developed the methods so that the sparkling wine could be bottled at the source rather than at the destination. They came from Pierry and Éperney’s monastic orders, specifically, Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers and Saint-Pierre-aux-Monts de Châlons. These two monks perfected the grape selection process to produce a superior flavor, the fermentation process, and removal of the sediment as well as the use of corks to seal and bottle the wines, a move away from the traditional use of hemp stoppers. However, the appearance of the mousse in the wine still happened quite randomly. In many instances, bottles would explode unexpectedly.
A chemist, Jean-Antoine Chaptal was the one who introduced adding sugar to wines during the fermentation process, rather than after the wine was made. This resulted in wine that was sweeter and also increased the alcohol content of the beverage. Later on, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier advocated the use of grape juice concentrates instead of cane sugar.
A pharmacist from Châlons-sur-Marne developed the process called “réduction François” in 1836. This allowed vintners to measure the amount of residual sugar in the wine, which is necessary to produce the carbon dioxide needed to produce the mousse in the drink as well as prevent the bottled from exploding during the fermentation process.
By 1840, the production of sparkling wines went into full swing, and the region of la Champaign moved away from producing still wines and specialized in the production of sparkling wine. By 1850, the region was producing 20 million bottles of champagne annually.
Because of the tremendous popularity of these sparkling wines, other wine developing regions and exporters sought to capture part of the market. Some exporters diluted cheaper wines with the wine from La Champagne, resulting in various wines of substandard qualities.
To protect its own industry, the growers from La Champagne rioted. It was only in 1908 when the delimitation of the La Champagne area was done. The growers of the region were able to have it decreed that only the grapes from the La Champagne area could be used for wines that will bear the name Champagne. Although the Marne wine growers were able to get this decree repealed in 1911, it was later reestablished in 1927. To this day, this law is in effect and is strictly adhered to.
After the two world wars, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne was set up in 1941. This organization not only protected the wine growing regions of La Champagne, but also pushed for the development of the wine industry as a whole.
Today, the five wine producing district areas in Champagne are Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Aube, Côte des Blancs and Côte de Sézanne. These regions are known for using Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes. Many of the champagne brands we know today were established from the 16th to 18th centuries. In 1584, the Champagne House of Gosset was established and to this day remains as the oldest producer of champagne that is still operational. Other champagne producers followed in later centuries, such as Ruinart in 1729, Tattinger in 1734, Moët et Chandon in 1743 and Veuve Clicquot in 1772.
The demand for champagne has increased over the years, as it has become customary to have it at many celebrations. Over 300 millions bottles of champagne are produced in France each year and are enjoyed by people all over the world.
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