"France - Geography and History curious and unusual" is an enticing title which promises an entertaining work and we confirm it. The Ouest-France editions have just brought together two books in a single book, fun, pleasant and really successful.
Geography and anecdotes
We start with the Geography part, with several maps of France like the ones we had in our classrooms, region by region, two pages of details per department and the necessary information such as the prefecture, area and number of inhabitants. . We can discover the history of the department, its location on the map of France and we enjoy reading the anecdotes, all embellished with old reproductions.
The anecdotes are numerous and we learn, among other things, that a cartographer from the Vosges region of Saint-Dié for the first time inscribed the term “America” in 1507, in honor of the Florentine Vespucci who supposed that Christopher Columbus discovered a new continent; the ancestor of the fax machine is the Bélinograph, designed by M. Belin born in Haute-Saône in Vesoul; in Côte-d'Or, Kir was the popular drink of Canon Félix Kir. What is less known is that he was a resistant and the last priest to have worn the cassock on the benches of the National Assembly; in Yonne, Cadet Rousselle, the inventor of the famous song, was a bailiff in 1780; the parents of Pierre Larousse, creator of the dictionary, were a blacksmith and innkeeper in Toucy in the Yonne ...
We also discover geographical facts: the Camargue, in the Bouches du Rhône which has the two largest municipalities in France; in terms of taste, the recipe for chestnut cream in Ardèche, which has been the same for 125 years, or even in the historic area of Roche-sur-Yon in Vendée, has been called eight times differently, including Napoléon-sur-Yon.
History and anecdotes
The second part reserved for History begins with the creation of France, maps representing the territories acquired, then lost until our present France.
The periods follow one another starting from Prehistory, then Antiquity where we smile while reading that the term Olibrius would be the real name of a slightly “agitated” governor of Gaul; in the Middle Ages appeared the bills of exchange and the term "suburb" representing the space around a city; closer to us, we discover that the smallest of the Presidents of the Republic was Adolphe Thiers with 1.55 m; that tourism is an English invention with the "promenade des Anglais in Nice" and Dinard on the Emerald Coast which was created by men from across the Channel and also that a famous chocolate cake in Romania bears the name of Marshal Joffre since 1920 ...
It is truly an entertaining, entertaining and above all instructive work, provided with a chronological list of sovereigns and heads of state. Small paragraphs and beautiful old pictures like those of old chocolate or cheese bar wrappers contribute to the success of this manual, combining the useful with the pleasant!
France, curious and unusual geography and history, by Pierre Deslais. Editions Ouest-France, November 2015.