From the hottest to the windiest, the sunniest to the coldest, here are the parts of France that were champions of extremes in their own right
39°C – a temperature that would tend to drive you indoors with a cool ice-cream rather than venturing out in heat like this. Yet, this was the record temperature in France this year in two departments in Corsica (Corse du Sud and Haute-Corse), but also in the eastern departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and the Vosges. So if it’s heat your after, be aware that last year, the record highs were in France’s most southern and most eastern extremities.
No, not Brittany! This year, the award for the most rainy department in France was in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques at the extreme south-west of the country. According to the French met office, rainfall in 2013 in the department containing the town of Bayonne was 1,594mm. By way of comparison, the average annual rainfall in the eastern half of Ireland is between 750mm and 1,000mm. Even in the more rain-prone western counties of Ireland, average amounts are still well short of the accumulations in the French Basque Country; only between 1,000mm and 1,250mm. The mountainous Jura department in the East came in second place, while the most westerly Breton department Finistère came third in the rainy stakes.
Before going out in this kind of weather, you really need to wrap up – hat scarf and a big woolly hoody, because in -16°C, you can’t take any risks. The inland bordering departments of the Cantal, Aveyron, Lot and Corrèze (curiously in the mid-south, hundreds of kilometres from any Alpine mountains) all achieved this record low in 2013. By way of useless but relevant information, the lowest temperature ever recorded was in Antartica in 2010: -93.2°C.
The Aveyron sits on the podium for this one again, along with the fellow southern departments of Garde, Hérault and Lozère, all of whom were classified as the windiest departments in France in 2013. It’s another one that breaks some of the misconceptions of France as having a calm and warm south and a windy blustery kind of northern end to it. In fact, it’s for one of these reasons that places like Gruissan in the south are regularly chosen for windsurfing events.
The one that everyone wants to know! Not surprisingly, it’s the deep south where the sun shone most in 2013 – more specifically, the Bouches-du-Rhône. In this department where the River Rhone splits into the flat Camargue Delta, they had the longest sunshine hours for any department in France. The next most sunny department was the neighbouring Var department (including St Tropez), followed in third place by the next department to the east again – the Alpes-Maritimes, including the likes of Nice and Cannes. After that came the two departments of Corsica, completing the top 5 sun spots in France.