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Reader question: What’s the sunniest town in France?

Whether you're planning a holiday or intend to move to France, you need to know where to go to follow the sun.

Reader question: What’s the sunniest town in France?
(Photo: Charly Triballeau / AFP)

Because of its geographical location France enjoys a temperate climate – not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry. But even that is separated into four distinct climatic zones.

Over in the west, the Atlantic ocean brings regular rain all year round, but there’s still plenty of sun and the oceanic climate also guards against large temperature variations. Central and Eastern areas are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. 

The Mediterranean climate in the south brings hot, dry summers, and year-round sun, with rain – mostly – falling between October and April. And the mountain climate at higher altitudes in the Alps and Pyrenees means regular rainfall, and snow for three to six months of the year.

That’s the science. What it means is this: if you want year-round sun, head to the Mediterranean, where – if you get your timing right, at certain times of the year you can go skiing in the morning and swim in the sea in the afternoon. Seriously.

But the Mediterranean coast is a long one, so can we narrow it down further to find the sunniest spot?

According to a study published in March, based on Météo-France data from 1991 to 2010, Marseille is the sunniest city in France, with an average of 2,858 hours of sunshine per year, an average of nearly eight hours a day.

The country’s second city averages 170 full ‘sunny’ days a year, with a further 60 having sunny spells.

It also holds the record for the most hours of sunshine in a year – 3,111, recorded in 2017 – according to the study.

Bear in mind, there are a total 8,766 hours in a year, including the hours of darkness – which means that Marseille basked in the sun for more than 35 percent of the year in 2017; and 32 percent of the year, on average.

Less than 20 hours behind Marseille on the sunshine count is a town less than 70km away, Toulon (2,839 hours); then Ajaccio on the island of Corsica (2,756 hours); followed by Nice (2,724 hours) – where the skiing-swimming trick is very possible.

Making up the top 10 sunniest towns and cities in France: Montpellier (2,668); Bastia (2,579); Perpignan (2,465); Montelimar (2,405); Carcassonne (2,119); and – finally breaking the Mediterranean monopoly – La Rochelle (2,106). 

It doesn’t necessarily follow, however, that because the south is sunnier, the north is wetter. Perhaps a little surprisingly, Aquitaine in the southwest – a hugely popular area with immigrants, particularly Britons – has the most rainfall: an average of 1,020mm per year.

Northwestern France gets 824mm of rain a year, considerably more than most other parts of the country, compared to 750mm in the north east, 638mm in central France and 731mm in the south east.

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VIDEO: ‘Lost’ Orca whale heading up France’s Seine river

A young Orca whale that is apparently lost has been spotted heading up the Seine in northern France.

VIDEO: 'Lost' Orca whale heading up France's Seine river

The young whale was first spotted about a week ago near the port of Le Havre, around the Pont de Normandie, while the most recent sighting was further inland – about 20km from Rouen, in the Eure region.

France’s BFMTV managed to catch a video of the whale:

Experts think that the young male was separated from his group, and might be on the search for another. This typically happens when a matriarch in the pod dies.

“They are very social animals, so it is not easy for them to be alone,” explained Delphine Eloi of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group to RTL. Eloi went on to explain that the orca is likely in poor health, as its dorsal fin appears to be completely round. 

Killer whales, which despite their name belong to the dolphin family, are occasionally spotted in the English Channel but such sightings are considered rare, let alone in a river.

“Its life is in danger. We are really very, very worried. Its state of health is very poor,” said Gerard Mauger, vice president of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group. 

“The more it stays in fresh water, the more this will accelerate the degradation of its state of health,” he told AFP.

“It is far from the sea. It is really complicated to find solutions to encourage it to head to salt water.”

He said the animal is “very thin” but likely weighs over a tonne.

Experts have reminded the public that the whale is likely not dangerous to people – there has never been a reported Orca attack on a human in the wild – though it is still advisable to keep a safe distance from it.