France held elections for the next president, and Francois Hollande won. He became the president of France on May 15 for a 5-year term. His opponent in the elections was Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous president of France. It was a close election. Hollande had just under 52% of the votes and Sarkozy had just over 48%. Sarkozy had been the president for the previous 5 years, and had lost popularity in the country. Over the last few years, France has struggled with economic problems. The government tried to reduce its spending. Some taxes were increased. The government also raised the retirement age to 62 years (from 60 years), which made the French very unhappy. Many people lost their jobs. Hollande has promised to increase the salaries for some professions, create new jobs for teachers, help young people find jobs, and even try to bring down the retirement age back to 60.
Hollande’s first trip out of the country after he became president was to Germany. His flight to Germany was eventful because his plane was hit by lightning! Luckily no one was hurt, and Hollande made it to Germany on another plane.
France is a very interesting country, so interesting that it is the country with the highest number of visitors in the world. More than 76 million people visited France in both 2009 and 2010, which is higher than France’s entire population (65 million). Where do people go to in France? The most visited city in the country is its capital, Paris, and one of the most visited buildings in Paris is the Eiffel Tower. It was built over 120 years ago (in 1889) and was the tallest building in the world for forty years. Initially, many Parisians were unhappy with it, since they thought it ruined the beauty of their city. There is also a story of a French writer, Guy de Maupassant, who regularly ate at a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. When asked why, he said that it was the one place in Paris from where he couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower!
Champs-Elysées, one of the most famous streets in the world, is in Paris. At one end of the street is the Arc de Triomphe, a monument that honors soldiers who died for France. Underneath the Arc is the grave of an unknown soldier who died during Word War I. The grave is called the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”. The famous Louvre Museum, the home of the painting Mona Lisa, is also in Paris. One of the most famous cathedral’s of Paris is the Notre Dame.
France has produced some very famous people in various fields, such as Claude Monet (an impressionist painter), Louis Braille (who invented a system of reading for the blind), Louis Pasteur (who developed a process to keep food from going bad early), Auguste and Louis Lumiere (brothers who invented a device to record and show moving pictures called the cinematographe), and Christian Dior (a fashion designer). Now you know where the words “braille”, “pasteurization”, and “cinema” come from!
Did You Know?
The Statue of Liberty in New York, USA, was a gift from France to the United States. The steel frame of the statue was built by Gustave Eiffel, the person who helped build the Eiffel Tower.
Did You Know?
The second most visited country in the world in 2009 and 2010 was the United States, followed by China, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
Image Credits: A. Bouirabdane for Hollande’s photo; Rüdiger Wölk for the Eiffel Tower image