Interesting Facts About France

 Part 2   Facts 21 - 40

 21.   L'Arc de Triomphe is a very large monument in Paris to honour soldiers who have fought and died for France.  It was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 but its construction took a very long time and it was completed in 1836

Image by J Shim
Image by Rodrigo Kugnharski

It is an arch standing just over 50 metres high and 45 metres wide.  It stands in the centre of a huge roundabout where there is always a lot of traffic circling around.  This famous roundabout is known as the 'star' because it has twelve roads running out from the centre, making it look like a 12-pointed star.  In fact, the full name of the monument is l'Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile meaning: the triumphal arch of the star.  The place where it stands is called la Place de l'Étoile.

Beneath the arch lies
la Tombe du Soldat Inconnu - The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War.  In 1923, an 'eternal flame' - une flamme eternelle - was lit here in memory of all French soldiers lost in war.  It has remained lit ever since.  The flame is called La Flamme du Souvenir.  Every evening there is a ceremony to rekindle the flame.  This ceremony is known as le Ravivage de la Flamme.

flamme eternelle.jpg
tombe du soldat inconnu.jpg

22.   In 1624, King Louis XIII built a hunting lodge in the village of Versailles, outside Paris.  This building was enlarged by the next king - Louis XIV - who turned it into the magnificent palace we see today.  In French, this palace is called le Château de Versailles.  The gardens of the palace are amongst the most famous and beautiful gardens in the world with lovely fountains (les fontaines) and ponds (les bassins).


Above is a photo of the famous Hall of Mirrors - la Galerie des Glaces - created by King Louis XIV in the 17th century at le Château de Versailles.  At that time, mirrors were one of the most expensive items you could buy. 


Louis XIV is probably the most famous king of French history. His nickname was le Roi-Soleil, meaning 'the Sun King'.  He was King of France from 1643 to 1715.

The reign of Louis XIV is associated with brilliance and magnificence, like a shining star.  This magnificence can be seen in the décor of le Château de Versailles and in the king's image as seen in his portraits. 

His personal motto was "Au-dessus du reste des hommes," meaning, 'Above all other men.'

His emblem was the sun - le soleil.

23.   In France, many people celebrate their 'name day' or jour de fête.  Every day of the year is a Christian feast day when a particular saint is remembered, for example:  24 June - St. John the Baptist,  3 July - St. Thomas, etc.... 

If you have the same name as a Christian saint (or a name that has something to do with a saint) then you will have a special time on that feast day!  People will wish you - Bonne fête!

24.  There are some well-known nicknames in French, for example: 

In the 1700s, the word les rosbifs (meaning - the roast beefs) originated as a nickname for English people because roasting was the traditional, English style for cooking meat!  

Paris has been given the nickname la Ville Lumière (the City of Light).  It is believed to have been given this name by visitors who were so impressed by the street-lighting in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV in the seventeenth century.   The king organised candle-lit lanterns in the streets to help combat crime.

L'Hexagone - the Hexagon is a nickname given to France because of its shape.


Abstract Hexagon

25.  In France, it is normal to eat snails (les escargots), frogs' legs (les cuisses de grenouilles) and horsemeat (la viande de cheval).   

French cookery is called la cuisine française but the word la cuisine can also mean 'the kitchen'.

A Story About The Word 'Restaurant'

The word restaurant is used all over the world but its origin is French.  It means 'restoring'.  In the 18th century there was a man who sold soup in Paris.  His name was Monsieur Boulanger and he called his soup 'bouillon restaurant' meaning - soup / broth that will restore you.   

Above the door to his shop, he had an amusing sign that was written in Latin.  It was this:
Venite ad me omnes qui stomacho laboratis et ego vos restaurabo.
Come to me all who suffer from the stomach (are hungry) and I will restore you.

The hungry people of Paris loved visiting his premises in order to be 'restored' and 'renewed.'  Eventually, this style of catering developed with more premises opening and selling an even greater variety of restorative, ready-made food. The idea of visiting premises to eat and be restored spread to other countries with the name restaurant being used.  In Spain - restaurante, in Italy - ristorante.


26.  Before eating a meal, it is polite and correct to say -Bon appétit!  This means 'I hope you have a good appetite so that you enjoy your meal.'   When you drink a toast in French you say Santé! which means 'health.'

27.  The word Salut means both 'hello' and 'goodbye.'  It is an informal way of speaking so should only be used with friends.  The word Allô means 'Hello' when speaking by phone.  It is the first word spoken in a telephone call.

28.  The most popular French bread is la baguette (little stick).  It is a loaf 5 or 6 cm. wide and up to a metre in length.  If it is a thinner version, it is called une ficelle (a string) and if it is wider it is called une flûte.  Bread rolls are called petits pains (little breads).  The shape of la baguette makes it very easy to carry under your arm!

In addition to describing a loaf of bread, the word 'baguette' is used in different ways:

La baguette magique is 'the magic wand'! 

Les baguettes can mean 'chopsticks.'


La baguette is the baton used by the conductor of an orchestra. 

Les baguettes can also mean 'drumsticks.'

29.   The word for breakfast is le petit déjeuner (the little lunch).  In France you dunk your croissant into a milky drink at breakfast-time.  The word 'croissant' actually means 'crescent' because the pastry is a crescent shape.  The shape is very good for dunking! 

Although croissants are associated with France, they actually started in Austria!