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The Esterel Massif (in French: Massif de l'Esterel) is a coastal mountain range in the departments of Var and Alpes Maritimes in Provence, south-east France.
Neighbouring cities are Mandelieu and Cannes (in the east) and Saint-Raphael (in the west).
The soil and rocks of the range are of volcanic origin, composed mainly of porphyry, which gives the hills a red color. The terrain is rugged, with deep ravines and oak forests. The highest point of the massif is Mont Vinaigre (618 metres).
The massif covers an area of 320 km², of which 130 km² are officially protected in the Forêt domaniale de l'Esterel. The nature reserve offers excellent hiking and mountain biking trails including the GR 49 and GR 51. The Esterel mountains also host the Pierre et Vacances holiday village "Cap Estérel".
France is affectionately referred to as "the Hexagon" for its overall shape.French history goes back to the Gauls, a Celtic tribe which inhabited the area circa 300BC until being conquered by Julius Caesar.The Franks were the first tribe to adopt Catholic Christianity after the Roman Empire collapsed. France became an independent location in the Treaty of Verdun in (843 AD), which divided up Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into several portions.The French monarchy reached its zenith during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, who stood for seventy-two years as the Monarch of all Monarchs. His palace of Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors are a splendid treasure-trove of Baroque art.The French Revolution ended the rule of the monarchy with the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" On July 14th, 1789 angry mobs stormed La Bastille prison and began the Revolution in which Louis XVI, his wife Marie-Antoinette and thousands of others met the guillotine.One decade after the revolution, Napolean Bonaparte seized control of the Republic and named himself Emperor. His armies conquered most of Europe and his Napoleonic Code became a lasting legal foundation for concepts of personal status and property.During the period of colonization France controlled the largest empire in the world, second only to Britain.France is one of the founding members of the European Union and the United Nations, as well as one of the nuclear armed nations of the world.Text by Steve Smith.