The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was or desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago. It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km2, representing 0.7 % of the global ocean surface, but its connection to the Atlantic via the Strait of Gibraltar-the narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa- is only 14 km wide. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere.
The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. The sea is bordered on the north by Europe, the east by Asia, in the south by Africa, it is located between latitudes 30° and 46° N and longitudes 6° W and 36° E. Its west-east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, is 4,000 km; the sea's average north-south length, from Croatia's southern shore to Libya, is 800 km. The sea was an important route for merchants and travellers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region; the history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies. The countries surrounding the Mediterranean in clockwise order are Spain, Monaco, Slovenia, Croatia and Herzegovina, Albania, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. In addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.
The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean ἡ θάλασσα or sometimes ἡ μεγάλη θάλασσα, ἡ ἡμέτερα θάλασσα, or ἡ θάλασσα ἡ καθ'ἡμᾶς. The Romans called it Mare Mare Internum and, starting with the Roman Empire, Mare Nostrum; the term Mare Mediterrāneum appears later: Solinus used it in the 3rd century, but the earliest extant witness to it is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville. It means'in the middle of land, inland' in Latin, a compound of medius, -āneus; the Latin word is a calque of Greek μεσόγειος, from μέσος and γήινος, from γῆ. The original meaning may have been'the sea in the middle of the earth', rather than'the sea enclosed by land'; the Carthaginians called it the "Syrian Sea". In ancient Syrian texts, Phoenician epics and in the Hebrew Bible, it was known as the "Great Sea" or as "The Sea". Another name was the "Sea of the Philistines", from the people inhabiting a large portion of its shores near the Israelites. In Modern Hebrew, it is called HaYam HaTikhon'the Middle Sea'. In Modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr al-Mutawassiṭ'the Middle Sea'.
In Islamic and older Arabic literature, it was Baḥr al-Rūm'the Sea of the Romans' or'the Roman Sea'. At first, that name referred to only the Eastern Mediterranean, but it was extended to the whole Mediterranean. Other Arabic names were Baḥr al-šām'the Sea of Syria' and Baḥr al-Maghrib'the Sea of the West'. In Turkish, it is the Akdeniz'the White Sea'; the origin of the name is not clear, as it is not known in earlier Greek, Byzantine or Islamic sources. It may be to contrast with the Black Sea. In Persian, the name was translated as Baḥr-i Safīd, used in Ottoman Turkish, it is the origin of the colloquial Greek phrase Άσπρη Θάλασσα. Johann Knobloch claims that in Classical Antiquity, cultures in the Levant used colours to refer to the cardinal points: black referred to the north, yellow or blue to east, red to south, white to west; this would explain both the Turkish Akdeniz and the Arab nomenclature described above. Several ancient civilizations were located around the Mediterranean shores and were influenced by their proximity to the sea.
It provided routes for trade and war, as well as food for numerous communities throughout the ages. Due to the shared climate and access to the sea, c
Mont Ventoux is a mountain in the Provence region of southern France, located some 20 km northeast of Carpentras, Vaucluse. On the north side, the mountain borders the Drôme département. At 1,909m, it is the highest mountain in the region and has been nicknamed the "Beast of Provence", the "Giant of Provence", or "The Bald Mountain", it has gained fame through its inclusion in the Tour de France cycling race. As the name might suggest, it can get windy at the summit with the mistral; the wind blows at 90+ km/h 240 days a year. The road over the mountain is closed due to high winds the "col des tempêtes" just before the summit, known for its strong winds; the real origins of the name are thought to trace back to the 1st or 2nd century AD, when it was named'Vintur' after a Gaulish god of the summits, or'Ven-Top', meaning "snowy peak" in the ancient Gallic language. In the 10th century, the names Mons Ventosus and Mons Ventorius appear. Mont Ventoux, although geologically part of the Alps, is considered to be separate from them, due to the lack of mountains of a similar height nearby.
It stands alone to the north of the Luberon range, separated by the Monts de Vaucluse, just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail, its foothills. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees, which makes the mountain's barren peak appear from a distance to be snow-capped all year round, its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhône ensures that it dominates the entire region and can be seen from many miles away on a clear day. Whilst the hill was climbed in prehistoric times, the first recorded ascent was by Jean Buridan, who on his way to the papal court in Avignon before the year 1334, climbed Mont. Ventoux "in order to make some meteorological observations"; the Italian poet Petrarch wrote a fictional account of an ascent accompanied by his brother on 26 April 1336, in his Ascent of Mont Ventoux. In the 15th century, a chapel was dedicated to the Holy Cross. In 1882, a meteorological station was constructed on the summit; this observatory was planned in 1879, along with a carriage road for access.
In the 1960s a 50m-high telecommunications mast was built. From 1902 to 1976 the Mont Ventoux Hill Climb for car and motorcycle took place on the roads of the Mont. Forested, Mont Ventoux was systematically stripped of trees from the 12th century onwards to serve the demands of the shipbuilders of the naval port of Toulon; some areas have been reforested since 1860 with a variety of hardwood trees as well as coniferous species, such as Atlas cedars and larches. A little higher, junipers are common; the mountain comprises the species boundary or ecotone between the flora and fauna of northern and southern France. Some species, including various types of spiders and butterflies, are unique to Mont Ventoux, it is a good place to spot the short-toed eagle. Its biological distinctiveness was recognised by UNESCO in 1990 when the Réserve de Biosphère du Mont Ventoux was created, protecting an area of 810 square kilometres on and around the mountain. For road bicycle racing enthusiasts, the mountain can be climbed by three routes.
South from Bédoin: 1617 m over 21,8 km. This is the most difficult ascent; the road to the summit has an average gradient of 7.43%. Until Saint-Estève, the climb is easy: 3.9% over 5,8 km, but the 16 remaining kilometres have an average gradient of 8.9%. To serve as a comparison the climb of L'Alpe d'Huez is about 13.8 km at an average gradient of 7.9%. The last kilometres may have violent winds; the ride takes 1h30m-2h30m for trained amateur riders. Professional riders take 1h-1h15 min; the fastest time so far recorded has been that of Iban Mayo in the individual climbing time trial of the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré: 55' 51". The time was measured from Bédoin for the first time in the 1958 Tour de France, in which Charly Gaul was the fastest at 1h 2' 9". Northwest from Malaucène: 1570 m over 21,5 km. About equal in difficulty as the Bédoin ascent, but better sheltered against the wind. East from Sault: 1210 m over 26 km; the easiest route. After Chalet Reynard, the climb is the same as the Bédoin ascent.
Average gradient of 4.4%. Every year there are amateur races to climb the mountain as and as possible in 24 hours, the Ventoux Masterseries and "Les Cinglés du Mont Ventoux". On 16 May 2006, Jean-Pascal Roux from Bédoin broke the record of climbs in 24 hours, with eleven climbs, all of them from Bédoin. Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fifteen times since 1951; the followed trail passes through Bédoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world; the mountain achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died here on 13 July 1967 from heat exhaustion caused by a combination of factors, including dehydration and alcohol, although there is still speculation as to the exact cause of his death. He began to wildly weave across the road, he was delirious and asked spectators to put him back on the bike, which he rode to within a half mile of the summi
La Cadière-d'Azur is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. It is situated north-west of Toulon next to Le Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. La Cadière-d'Azur was first recorded in 993; the village was a Seigneurie of the Viscounts of Marseille, of the Abbey of St-Victor. There has been evidence of Roman dwelling in the village with quite a few Gallo-Roman vestiges being discovered in the region, including several Roman fountains; the village is on a hill top. The village still has 3 remaining medieval Gate Doors, which are the porte St-Jehan, porte de la Colle and the porte Mazrin, in the ancient medieval walls. Two other older medieval buildings of the village are the Tour de l'Horloge with a 16th-century campanile and the 16th century St-André church which features a tall hexagonal clock tower; the village has its own museum of the local area, a post office and several shops and cafes. La Cadière-d'Azur is surrounded by vineyards and is part of the Côtes de Provence Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée of Bandol.
Communes of the Var department INSEE La Cadiere-d'Azur tourist office
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Point Penmarc'h to the Spanish border, the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal; the south area of the Bay of Biscay washes over the northern coast of Spain and is known as the Cantabrian Sea. The average depth is 1,744 metres and the greatest depth is 4,735 metres; the Bay of Biscay is named after Biscay on the northern Spanish coast standing for the western Basque districts. Its name in other languages is: Asturian: golfu de Biscaya Basque: Bizkaiko golkoa Breton: pleg-mor Gwaskogn French: golfe de Gascogne Galician: golfo de Biscaia Gascon and Occitan: golf de Gasconha Latin: Sinus Biscaiensis Spanish: Golfo de Vizcaya Parts of the continental shelf extend far into the bay, resulting in shallow waters in many areas and thus the rough seas for which the region is known. Large storms occur in the bay during the winter months; the Bay of Biscay is home to some of the Atlantic Ocean's fiercest weather.
Up until recent years it was a regular occurrence for merchant vessels to founder in Biscay storms. The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Bay of Biscay as "a line joining Cap Ortegal to Penmarch Point"; the southernmost portion is the Cantabrian Sea. The main rivers that empty into the Bay of Biscay are Loire, Garonne, Adour, Bidasoa, Urumea, Urola, Artibai, Oka, Nervión, Agüera, Asón, Pas, Nansa, Sella, Nalón, Esva, Eo, Landro and Sor. In late spring and early summer a large fog triangle fills the southwestern half of the bay, covering just a few kilometers inland; as winter begins, weather becomes severe. Depressions enter from the west frequently and they either bounce north to the British Isles or they enter the Ebro Valley, dry out, are reborn in the form of powerful thunderstorms as they reach the Mediterranean Sea; these depressions cause severe weather at sea and bring light though constant rain to its shores. Sometimes powerful windstorms form if the pressure falls traveling along the Gulf Stream at great speed, resembling a hurricane, crashing in this bay with their maximum power, such as the Klaus storm.
The Gulf Stream enters the bay following the continental shelf's border anti-clockwise, keeping temperatures moderate all year long. The main cities on the shores of the Bay of Biscay are Bordeaux, Biarritz, Nantes, La Rochelle, Donostia-San Sebastián, Santander, Gijón and Avilés; the southern end of the gulf is called in Spanish "Mar Cantábrico", from the Estaca de Bares, as far as the mouth of Adour river, but this name is not used in English. It was named by Romans in the 1st century BC as Sinus Cantabrorum and Mare Gallaecum. On some medieval maps, the Bay of Biscay is marked as El Mar del los Vascos; the Bay of Biscay has been the site of many famous naval engagements over the centuries. In 1592 the Spanish defeated an English fleet during the eponymous Battle of the Bay of Biscay; the Biscay campaign of June 1795 consisted of a series of manoeuvres and two battles fought between the British Channel Fleet and the French Atlantic Fleet off the southern coast of Brittany during the second year of the French Revolutionary Wars.
USS Californian sank here after striking a naval mine on 22 June 1918. In 1920 SS Afrique sank after losing power and drifting into a reef in a storm with the loss of 575 lives. On 28 December 1943, the Battle of the Bay of Biscay was fought between HMS Glasgow and HMS Enterprise and a group of German destroyers as part of Operation Stonewall during World War II. U-667 sank on 25 August 1944 in position 46 ° 00 ′ N 01 ° 30 ′ W. All hands were lost. On 12 April 1970, Soviet submarine K-8 sank in the Bay of Biscay due to a fire that crippled the submarine's nuclear reactors. An attempt to save the sub failed, resulting in the death of forty sailors and the loss of four nuclear torpedoes. Due to the great depth, no salvage operation was attempted; the car ferries from Gijón to Nantes/Saint-Nazaire, Portsmouth to Bilbao and from Plymouth and Poole to Santander provide one of the most convenient ways to see cetaceans in European waters. Specialist groups take the ferries to hear more information. Volunteers and employees of ORCA observe and monitor cetacean activity from the bridge of the ships on Brittany Ferries' Portsmouth to Santander route.
Many species of whales and dolphins can be seen in this area. Most it is one of the few places in the world where the beaked whales, such as the Cuvier's beaked whale, have been observed frequently. Biscay Dolphin Research monitored cetacean activity from the P&O Ferries cruiseferry Pride of Bilbao, on voyages from Portsmouth to Bilbao. North Atlantic Right Whales, one of the most endangered whales, once came to the bay for feeding and for calving as well, but whaling activities by Basque people wiped them out sometime prior to 1850s; the eastern population of this species are considered to be extinct, a
An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States National Weather Service's glossary as "a large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere". Effects of surface-based anticyclones include clearing skies as well as drier air. Fog can form overnight within a region of higher pressure. Mid-tropospheric systems, such as the subtropical ridge, deflect tropical cyclones around their periphery and cause a temperature inversion inhibiting free convection near their center, building up surface-based haze under their base. Anticyclones aloft can form within warm core lows such as tropical cyclones, due to descending cool air from the backside of upper troughs such as polar highs, or from large scale sinking such as the subtropical ridge; the evolution of an anticyclone depends on a few variables such as its size, moist-convection, Coriolis force etc. Sir Francis Galton first discovered anticyclones in the 1860s.
Preferred areas within a synoptic flow pattern in higher levels of the hydrosphere are beneath the western side of troughs, or dips in the Rossby wave pattern. High-pressure systems are alternatively referred to as anticyclones, their circulation is sometimes referred to as cum sole. Subtropical high pressure zones form under the descending portion of the Hadley cell circulation. Upper-level high-pressure areas lie over tropical cyclones due to their warm core nature. Surface anticyclones form due to downward motion through the troposphere, the atmospheric layer where weather occurs. Preferred areas within a synoptic flow pattern in higher levels of the troposphere are beneath the western side of troughs. On weather maps, these areas show converging winds known as confluence, or converging height lines near or above the level of non-divergence, near the 500 hPa pressure surface about midway up the troposphere; because they weaken with height, these high-pressure systems are cold. Heating of the earth near the equator forces upward motion and convection along the monsoon trough or intertropical convergence zone.
The divergence over the near-equatorial trough leads to air rising and moving away from the equator aloft. As air moves towards the mid-latitudes, it cools and sinks leading to subsidence near the 30° parallel of both hemispheres; this circulation known as the Hadley cell forms the subtropical ridge. Many of the world's deserts are caused by these climatological high-pressure areas; because these anticyclones strengthen with height, they are known as warm core ridges. The development of anticyclones aloft occurs in warm core cyclones such as tropical cyclones when latent heat caused by the formation of clouds is released aloft increasing the air temperature. In the absence of rotation, the wind tends to blow from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure; the stronger the pressure difference between a high-pressure system and a low-pressure system, the stronger the wind. The coriolis force caused by Earth's rotation gives winds within high-pressure systems their clockwise circulation in the northern hemisphere and anticlockwise circulation in the southern hemisphere.
Friction with land slows down the wind flowing out of high-pressure systems and causes wind to flow more outward from the center. High-pressure systems are associated with light winds at the surface and subsidence of air from higher portions of the troposphere. Subsidence will warm an air mass by adiabatic heating. Thus, high pressure brings clear skies; because no clouds are present to reflect sunlight during the day, there is more incoming solar radiation and temperatures rise near the surface. At night, the absence of clouds means that outgoing longwave radiation is not blocked, giving cooler diurnal low temperatures in all seasons; when surface winds become light, the subsidence produced directly under a high-pressure system can lead to a buildup of particulates in urban areas under the high pressure, leading to widespread haze. If the surface level relative humidity rises towards 100 percent overnight, fog can form; the movement of continental arctic air masses to lower latitudes produces strong but vertically shallow high-pressure systems.
The surface level, sharp temperature inversion can lead to areas of persistent stratocumulus or stratus cloud, colloquially known as anticyclonic gloom. The type of weather brought about by an anticyclone depends on its origin. For example, extensions of the Azores high pressure may bring about anticyclonic gloom during the winter because they pick up moisture as they move over the warmer oceans. High pressures that build to the north and move southwards bring clear weather because they are cooled at the base which helps prevent clouds from forming. Once arctic air moves over an unfrozen ocean, the air mass modifies over the warmer water and takes on the character of a maritime air mass, which reduces the strength of the high-pressure system; when cold air moves over warm oceans, polar lows can develop. However and moist air masses which move poleward from tropical sources are slower to modify than arctic air masses; the circulation around mid-level ridges, the air subsidence at their center, act to steer tropical cyclones ar
The Durance is a major river in south-eastern France. Its source is in the south-western Alps, in Montgenèvre ski resort near Briançon and it flows south-west through the following departments and cities: Hautes-Alpes: Briançon, Embrun. Alpes-de-Haute-Provence: Sisteron, Manosque. Vaucluse: Cavaillon, Avignon. Bouches-du-Rhône; the Durance's main tributaries are the Verdon. The Durance itself flows into the Rhône near Avignon; the Durance is the second longest of the tributaries of the Rhône and the third largest in terms of its flow. The Durance is documented in Ancient Greek as drouentios potamos and in Latin as Druentia and Durentia; the traditional forms are derivatives of *Dūrantia, based on the Celtic "dour" and suffix "ant". The Latin form drou changed into the proto-Occitan "dur". Similar names are found in the names of many rivers in the Western Alps: Dora in Italy, Dranse in Haute-Savoie, the Drôme in south-eastern France. All these rivers have their sources in mountains, are fast-running.
The Durance retains its name rather than either the Clarée or Guisane though the latter two are longer than the Durance when they each merge. The Durance is better known than the other two rivers because the Durance valley is an old and important trade route, whereas the valleys of the Clarée and Guisane are dead ends; the Durance is 305 kilometres long from its source at the foot of Sommet des Anges, at 2,390 metres high, above Montgenèvre, to its confluence with the Rhône. However, a longer route is traced by the Clarée-Durance system with a length of 325 kilometres, its descent is unusually rapid at 81 m/km in its first 12 km 15 m/km to its confluence with the Gyronde, still nearly 8 m/km to the confluence with the Ubaye. This descent stays steep after this confluence shallows to 0.33% in its middle course 0.24% in its lower course. For comparison, at 100 kilometres from its source, the Isère is at 330 metres altitude and the Durance at 700 metres, which contributes to its fast-flowing nature, including in the lower part of the river.
It drops 1,847 metres from its source to Mirabeau and 2,090 metres from its source to the confluence with the Rhône. The river only runs through the towns of Briançon and Sisteron — built where the banks are steep — the other towns are built on slopes close to the river: Hautes-Alpes Briançon Embrun Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Sisteron Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban Vaucluse Pertuis Cadenet Cavaillon Bouches-du-Rhône left bank of the Durance; the Durance catchment area extends to three other departments: Drôme and Alpes-Maritimes. The Durance is the longest river in Metropolitan France without a department named after it; the source of La Durance is on the northern slope of the Sommet des Anges, where the first small streams combine into a river. This runs near to Montgenèvre and flows into the larger Clarée river, passes through Briançon before the Guisane joins it, it continues south combining with the Gyronde — the Écrins glacial stream — at L'Argentière-la-Bessée. The confluence with the Guil occurs below Mont-Dauphin.
The Durance flows south-south-west and flows into the Lac de Serre-Ponçon just downstream of Embrun. The confluence with the Ubaye was flooded as the lake filled; the middle part of the Durance runs through a landscape that changes as the valley widens. The river itself becomes steeply banked by terraces, carves a channel, sometimes a few metres deep, sometimes tens of metres deep. In its middle and lower reaches the Durance is affected by the Mediterranean climate: flooding after autumnal rains, with low water levels in summer. Just before the narrow gap in the mountains at Sisteron, the Durance joins the Sasse. Water flows in from the EDF Canal. Beyond Sisteron further rivers and streams join the Durance: Jabron, Vançon, Bléone near Les Mées and from the Asse a few kilometres to the south of Oraison; the Verdon flows into the Durance near Cadarache. The valley widens still further into an alluvial plain several kilometres wide. Here the river was diverted for the development of modern agriculture and the construction of the A51 motorway.
There are several dams along the middle part of the Durance. In addition to main dam at Serre-Ponçon, there are dams at Espinasses, Sisteron, L'Escale and Cadarache. There are small canals whose primary purpose is to draw water from the river into the EDF Canal which in turn feeds the hydroelectric power stations; some of the water diverted by the dams is used for irrigation. The valley narrows for a few kilometres until the water gap at Mirabeau, at a depth of 200 metres widens again into an broader plain until the confluence with the Rhône south of Avignon, its direction changes from southerly to westerly northwesterly, aligning with the small Provençal mountain ranges between which it flows. The Durance receives only one significant tributary on this last part of its course: the Calavon, which flows around the Lubéron range to the north; this is a list of rivers longer than 20 kilometres. They are listed in order of the confluence. Left bank tributary. A river is known a
Marseille is the second-largest city of France. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it nowadays is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, it is located on French Riviera coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 and had a population of 852,516 in 2012, its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 is the third-largest in France after Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010. Known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Massalia, Marseille was an important European trading centre and remains the main commercial port of the French Republic. Marseille is now France's largest city on the Mediterranean coast and the largest port for commerce and cruise ships; the city was European Capital of Culture in 2013 and European Capital of Sport in 2017. It is home to Aix-Marseille University. Marseille is the second-largest city in France after Paris and the centre of the third-largest metropolitan area in France after Paris and Lyon.
To the east, starting in the small fishing village of Callelongue on the outskirts of Marseille and stretching as far as Cassis, are the Calanques, a rugged coastal area interspersed with small fjord-like inlets. Farther east still are the city of Toulon and the French Riviera. To the north of Marseille, beyond the low Garlaban and Etoile mountain ranges, is the 1,011 m Mont Sainte Victoire. To the west of Marseille is the former artists' colony of l'Estaque; the airport lies to the north west of the city at Marignane on the Étang de Berre. The city's main thoroughfare stretches eastward from the Old Port to the Réformés quarter. Two large forts flank the entrance to the Old Port—Fort Saint-Nicolas on the south side and Fort Saint-Jean on the north. Farther out in the Bay of Marseille is the Frioul archipelago which comprises four islands, one of which, If, is the location of Château d'If, made famous by the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo; the main commercial centre of the city intersects with the Canebière at Rue St Ferréol and the Centre Bourse.
The centre of Marseille has several pedestrianised zones, most notably Rue St Ferréol, Cours Julien near the Music Conservatory, the Cours Honoré-d'Estienne-d'Orves off the Old Port and the area around the Hôtel de Ville. To the south east of central Marseille in the 6th arrondissement are the Prefecture and the monumental fountain of Place Castellane, an important bus and metro interchange. To the south west are the hills of the 7th and 8th arrondissements, dominated by the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. Marseille's main railway station—Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles—is north of the Centre Bourse in the 1st arrondissement; the city has a hot-summer mediterranean climate with mild, humid winters and warm to hot dry summers. December and February are the coldest months, averaging temperatures of around 12 °C during the day and 4 °C at night. July and August are the hottest months, averaging temperatures of around 28–30 °C during the day and 19 °C at night in the Marignane airport but in the city near the sea the average high temperature is 27 °C in July.
Marseille is the sunniest major city in France with over 2,900 hours of sunshine while the average sunshine in country. It is the driest major city with only 512 mm of precipitation annually thanks to the Mistral, a cold, dry wind originating in the Rhône Valley that occurs in winter and spring and which brings clear skies and sunny weather to the region. Less frequent is the Sirocco, a hot, sand-bearing wind, coming from the Sahara Desert. Snowfalls are infrequent; the hottest temperature was 40.6 °C on 26 July 1983 during a great heat wave, the lowest temperature was −14.3 °C on 13 February 1929 during a strong cold wave. Marseille was founded circa 600 BC as the Greek colony of Massalia and populated by settlers from Phocaea, it became the preeminent Greek polis in the Hellenized region of southern Gaul. The city-state sided with the Roman Republic against Carthage during the Second Punic War, retaining its independence and commercial empire throughout the western Mediterranean as Rome expanded into Western Europe and North Africa.
However, the city lost its independence following the Roman Siege of Massilia in 49 BC, during Caesar's Civil War, in which Massalia sided with the exiled faction at war with Julius Caesar. Marseille continued to prosper as a Roman city, becoming an early center of Christianity during the Western Roman Empire; the city maintained its position as a premier maritime trading hub after its capture by the Visigoths in the 5th century AD, although the city went into decline following the sack of 739 AD by the forces of Charles Martel. It became part of the County of Provence during the 10th century, although its renewed prosperity was curtailed by the Black Death of the 14th century and sack of the city by the Crown of Aragon in 1423; the city's fortunes rebounded with the ambitious building projects of René of Anjou, Count of Proven