Three out of every four people in France live in a town or city. Some were started by the Romans about 2000 years ago. Others grew in the Middle Ages or from about 200 years ago during the Industrial Revolution. The size of most towns and cities is still growing as new houses, shops and factories are built. There are industrial towns where French people work in factories making goods such as cars. In some towns, there is a history of making one type of French product such as cloth in Lille or aircraft in Toulouse. There are also French towns where tourists come to visit. The historic French towns of Dinan and Carcassonne are two of the most popular. Nice is one of the main seaside resorts. Some towns are where there is a meeting place for roads, railways, shipping and aircraft routes. The sea port of Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast is one of these. Smaller ports such as Dieppe are important as cross-channel ferry ports.
There are the hundreds of small French market towns scattered over France. These are places where French farmers sell their produce and buy what they need. All except the smallest towns have a mayor and a town hall called the Hotel de Ville. Paris is the largest city and the country’s capital city. The city sprawls out over the Seine valley and the Paris basin lowlands. The River Seine divides the city almost in half. There are offices, factories, shops and every other type of business in Paris, just like in most other cities around the world. There are also French theatres, restaurants and street cafés where people can enjoy themselves. Many Parisians live in flats in old buildings near the city centre. Others live in houses and blocks of modern flats in the suburbs near the countryside. Some completely new towns have been built in the countryside outside Paris, to stop it becoming too big.
The Pimsleur family live in the rue du Printemps (Spring Street), in the central part of Paris. It is only a few minutes’ walk to famous sights such as the Champs Elysêes and the Arc de Triomphe. They live in an apartment in a building that was built just over one hundred years ago. It is a very densely built-up part of Paris, where people cannot have a garden. But it is a lively part of the city, where there are plenty of shops and places for entertainment. There are many street cafés in the district, both for local people and for the tourists who come to see the sights. Paul Pimsleur is aged 42 and his wife, Claire, is aged 41. Pimsleur is an architect. His wife has a part-time job as a secretary with the same firm. Pimsleur goes to work on a motorbike. Traffic in the central part of Paris is always very heavy, so it is quicker to travel by motorbike. It is also hard to find anywhere to park a car. Pimsleur works very long hours, often from 7.00 am until 8.00 pm, or even later.
There are four children in the family. The two girls are Camille who is 13, and Clotilde who is seven. The boys are Leonard, aged 11 and Louis, aged five. All the children are now old enough to go to school. The older children walk there. It takes them only ten minutes. The family enjoy a good standard of living. They employ a cleaner to help do the housework. Like most French families, they enjoy good food. Breakfast is usually a simple meal of coffee, bread and jam. Two of their favourite dinners are local dishes called Boeuf Mode and Blanquette de veau. Claire Dupleix does most of the shopping in small local shops and the street markets. She knows how to pick the best vegetables, fruit, cheeses and other food from the counters.
The family sometimes play board games at home. These include games such as French Scrabble, Monopoly and Pictionary, as well as computer software games. Camille is learning to play the flute, as well as studying french. Sometimes her brother Leonard accompanies her by playing the piano. Pimsleur likes to go running, though this is not easy through the streets of Paris. There is a half-marathon through Paris every year. Thousands of people enter the race, though Pimsleur is not one of them. France is known the world over for its food, especially its cheeses and its fine wines. Types of wine and cheese often take their name from the area where they are produced. Champagne comes from the Champagne district to the north-east of Paris and French brie cheese originated in Brie to the south of Paris. The farming landscape looks very different from place to place. There are large farms and fields in the lowlands such as in the Paris basin. Crops such as wheat are grown in this area. In other places, such as in Brittany, farms are much smaller. Cows graze in small fields surrounded by hedgerows.
The type of farming in each area is affected by the climate. French Brittany in the north-west has a wet but mild climate. Grass for cattle grows well here. There is less rain further south and east. This area is better for crops such as maize (corn) and sunflowers. The slopes and height of the land also affect what is farmed there. It is easy to farm crops using combine harvesters on the gentle slopes of the Paris basin. Slopes are much steeper in upland areas such as the Massif Central. This makes it harder to use machinery so cattle and sheep are reared instead. French crops such as wheat grow best where the soil is deep, fertile and does not become too wet. Grass grows best when there is more rain and where there is more water in the soil.
Wine is made from the juice of grapes that grow on vines. A field of vines is called a vineyard. Whole hillsides in wine-growing regions such as the Rhone Valley are covered with vineyards. French Vines grow best in the warm and dry parts of France. Slopes that face the south are often used for vines because they get more sun. The Jussiaux family live in a house in the grounds of a French château. The château is an old stately home. It is now owned by the local town of Falaise, in Normandy. This is the region that is nearest to England across the English Channel. Falaise is about 50 km inland from the city and ferry port of Caen. The château is open to the public for visits, as well as being run as a riding school.
Isabelle Jussiaux is in charge of the riding school. She teaches children to ride. There are 40 horses at the riding school. Most of them are New Forest Ponies. At the weekend, Isabelle goes to horse-riding and show-jumping shows. Her eldest daughter, Camille, sometimes enters pony club competitions. Isabelle used to live in Paris, but now enjoys a very different kind of life-style in the country. Isabelle’s husband, Dominique, also works with the horses. His job is to breed them and to break them in, so they are suitable for the riding school. The first job every morning is to feed the horses. Then the family have breakfast of coffee, with bread and jam or chocolate spread. Dominique and Isabelle have two children. Camille is aged seven and Thomas her brother is aged four. After breakfast, Isabelle drives the children to school. Camille goes to a primary school, while Thomas attends a nursery school. The main meal is usually in the evening when all the family are together.
Falaise is a French country town where there is a good range of small shops and a market. There is a supermarket outside the town that the family sometimes visits. There are many local, Normandy foods, such as the cheese called camembert. The family are happy to live at the château in this part of france. It is an attractive part of the country with a very different lifestyle from that of the busy cities.