Impressions of France
'La douce France' is a concept. The 'hexagone' as the French often call their country, referring to its shape, is not only Paris. It also belongs to the sunny Mediterranean South, to the ruggedness of the Atlantic Ocean board in Normandy and Brittany, to the German rooted continental world in the Alsace, to the Northern lands of Flanders and the Ardennes. This extremely diverse character of France has hardly been diminished over centuries of centralising tradition in administration and governance, rooted in the monarchy of 'le Roi Soleil', Louis XIV and his predecessors, and kept intact ever afterwards, throughout the turbulent history of revolutions and consecutive Republics. Today, Paris still rules centrally over the Fifth Republic and all over the country the official buildings still carry the slogan 'égalité, fraternité, liberté' of the 1789 French Revolution, which changed the Western world, even … if there is still a long way to go, here like anywhere else. But unlike everywhere else, the regions of South, East, North and West express their own identity in a vibrant creativity which is as deeply rooted as the Parisian centralisation: it shows most notoriously from the endless varieties of wine in the Bordeaux area, the Bourgogne and the Alsace, the local gastronomy of the 'terroir', the soil rich of flavours. Discovering France is also discovering a key page of history of the entire Old Continent, as this country has influenced the course of things and the evolution of thinking like no other, with philosophers like Descartes, Montesquieu, Camus and Sartre, with playwrights and poets like Molière, Voltaire, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, with personalities like Napoleon Bonaparte and Jean Monet.
It is all reflected in the monumental architecture of Paris, but evenly so in the architecture of brilliant Romanesque and Gothic churches and cloisters of 'la province' (all France beyond Paris), the rustic and simple villages nestled in bucolic coastal and mountainous landscapes, the vibrance of provincial cities where the architectural marks of the past blend harmoniously with the creativity of modern urban development. 'Covering France' in pictures and comments is therefore more than just a very tall order, but one has to start somewhere on the road of discovery. And that 'somewhere', for now, is the Alsace and the broader region of 'La Provence'.