France is divided into over 100 departments. These are not political units designed to push the limits of democracy such as "the department of Homeland Security" nor luxury shopping centres where one can buy an elephant such as "Her rods". They are in fact local borders within a larger state which are named départements instead of province or state because the French love to be different and pronounce words with orthographical marks and the twang of nasal vowels.
98 of the departements are in Mainland France and the others float in the middle of a sea...usually in a warm lazy tropical bliss. A few are situated on an icy rock such as in the middle of Canada. The one unifying feature of all of the Departments of France is that those who live there are French citizens, they speak French, they use the Euro and always meet their lovers when they should be working.
edit The Departments of Continental Europe
Historically, France was a conglomerate of medieval towns and farms which sent a sort of protection money to the ancient mafia in Rome. Later the money was sent to the pastry and fine shoes addicted bourgeoisie in Paris. Traditionally these little hamlets were self-contained and needed little in terms of trade or inter-cultural barbarism. They ate their own food, sang their local songs, spoke their own dialect and ridiculed everyone who did so differently. During times of religious excess they were also known to murder anyone from outside of their hamlets (especially tax collectors) by force-feeding them corn meal for two months and selling their livers as paté.
When the black plague cut down the population these hamlets were forced to integrate creating regions made up of various departments. These regions still exist today including the Champagne region, quite famous all over the world for their expensive and exclusive strawberry lady-fingers, Alsace-Lorraine is quite known for their lack of loyalty to both Germany and France as well as the Forgotten island of Corsica, a very integral and truly French part of France...just ask any locals in a café what they think and the conversation will surely be animated and littered with bleu words and noir pejoratives.
Each department has their own unique flag based on ancient tradition. Any one can immediately identify their own flag while all take pride in their total ignorance of the 99 others. One quite special flag is of Duvien, famous for its pattern of red, white and blue. While Reims has a particularly stunning flag of blue, red and white. Picardy is known for its red and white flag with both dark blue and scandalous light blue as well. The mortifying Bascay flag has only red and blue. Corsica has a completely black flag which they hang at half mast every day to celebrate their love for France and their voluntary integration with the Republic.
edit St. Pierre et Miquelon
This duo of tiny rock Islands surrounded by Canadian territory is not, in fact, a department of France, it is an overseas territory. Most Canadians do not know that a little seed of France remains within its territory. When Canadian planes fly over its tiny air space, they hear strange duck sounding insults and threats over the intercom. This is nothing out of the ordinary as they tend to hear the same while flying over Quebec.
The Islanders are petitioning to become a Department one day but they are 99,500 citizens short of the minimum 100,000 citizens needed to become a Department. Their attempts to bribe the president are always thwarted by their need to spend money on fine wine and stylish winter jackets. When it reaches -40ºC their wine, silk clothes and local flag freeze where they stand. This is when the mayhem starts. They threaten to shoot down Canadian planes unless France gives them the benefits of being a departement and by their logic the warm weather that accompanies it. The French government however doesn't correspond by post anymore and their letters are marked "return to sender". This tradition repeats itself every year. Air Canada flight 102 to Halifax was accidentally shot down in 2009, yet investigators could not find the source of the missile as St. Pierre and Miquelon did not appear on any Canadian maps. It remains an unsolved mystery to the handsome Royal Mounties. Strange meat to this day still appears in Restaurants in Miquelon, served with a wine and truffle sauce accompanied by air plane sized liquor bottles.
edit Future of Departments
When the government in the name of saving money threatened to close down all of the departmental government and merge them into larger regions, the reaction was mass protests. As people stayed in their own departments instead of all congregating in Paris, the largest protest was made up of a few dozen farmers and their tractors blocking local roads. A few bicyclists complained and two Mexican tourists were delayed and waited two hours for the next train.
As long as the Thirteenth French Republic remains one, the departments of France will also remain there. There is debate as to the need to maintain local divisions when the European project is for more integration. The people in the department of Pyrenees Atlantique tend to disagree. While they eat their traditional toast spread with bechamele sauce then sprinkled with sauteed mushrooms, their fellow Basques on the Spanish side place the mushrooms first on top of the toasted bread and then pour on a lot of Bechamele sauce. "These are the profound differences that make us unique" said the intoxicated Governor of the Department. "How could we ever merge with people who drown their mushrooms in Bechamelle? This utterly overpowers the subtle taste of the earthy fungus. They don't even use butter in the white sauce but instead use olive oil. It's barbarous". While a united Basque region may seem an ideal for some, others find their differences too great a barrier. Pyrenees Atlantique has no flag but a coat of arms. It contains red and blue but also yellow which disturbs outsiders who see it. This is a common theme of conversation when locals meet their lovers after lunch...as there is nothing more French than making love to musical ballads and talking about petty differences. "Weren't you wearing the same underpants yesterday"? asked the drunk Governor to his lover. "Yes...of course I did...I always wear white and blue panties and wait for nature to complete it".