When I had the idea to write about the amount of sunshine we get in the Côte d’Azur and compare it to other places I’ve lived I thought it would be pretty easy. I figured a few questions to Google would give me the answers I was looking for and post done! But it turns out it’s surprisingly hard to find out “How many days of sunshine does _____________ have a year?” For the blank I filled in Sofia, Reykjavik, Delhi, Brussels, Paris, Prague, London, Hanoi and Sydney. I managed to get easy answers for 2 and after some tricky maths a couple more. But what was interesting was how many places didn’t mention the sun at all. For Reykjavik it was all about the annual rainfall! (213 wet days a year, ouch).
The Côte d’Azur prides itself on having 300 sunny days a year. This turns out to be the same as Sydney, about 5 times as many as London, Paris and Brussels and one and a half times as many as Prague. Sunlight is good for you! These days we hear so much about the negative effects the sun can have on our skin that it’s easy to forget the benefits.
Sunlight increases the production of serotonin and endorphins in the brain which has a mood enhancing effect. Getting sufficient amounts of sunlight during the day can also help you sleep better at night as melatonin, a natural hormone made by our bodies, increases at night after exposure to the sun. Melatonin enhances sleep and is believed to slow down the aging process. Recent research at Edinburgh University suggests that UV rays release a compound that lowers blood pressure, cutting heart attack and stroke risk and even prolonging life. But perhaps the most commonly known benefit of sunshine is that it is the primary source of vitamin D necessary for our bodies to absorb calcium. Calcium is, of course, essential to build strong bones particularly in childhood. Interestingly, in Australia, in the last few years there has been a rise in the number of cases of rickets, a disease that had practically been wiped out in the developed world. This has been put down to the current obsession with completely covering children’s skin in anti UV products, proving that we need a certain amount of sunlight to stay healthy.
OK, so we’ve touched on the science, but I think it’s obvious to say that sunshine simply makes us happy. I know that this year with the lousy spring after a long hard winter in Europe everyone I knew was desperate for sun. We don’t need scientists and doctors to tell us that and I, for one, am delighted to live in a sunny land. The photo above is one of my favourite images ever, an Australian classic, Sunbaker by Max Dupain, taken in 1937. The heat just radiates off it and I can feel the sunshine; in the words of Johnny Nash “It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day”.