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Marseilles, France
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    (circa 600 BC- )
    Founded by Greeks as Massalia
    Capital of the Bouches-du-Rhone Department in France
    City population: 850,726 (2010)
    Metropolitan area population: 1,604,550 (2007)
    Second largest city (but third largest metropolitan area) in France
    During the Black Death, two-thirds of its population died.
    Its Chateau d'If, located on an island a mile offshore, was converted from a fort to an allegedly escape-proof prison (the French equivalent of Alcatraz) that became notorious as a dumping ground for political and religious prisoners.
    Despite what you would think from the title, 'La Marseille' (the French national anthem) was not written here -- it was written in Strasbourg.
    In the 1960s, 80% of the heroin in the US was trafficked from Marseilles.
    It has remained a major center for smuggling marijuana and cocaine into Europe.
    Drug-related violence became so bad that some city officials called for the army to intervene (2012).
    It is the sunniest major city in France. (2800 hours of sunshine a year.)
    The fish stew bouillabaisse was invented there.
    It was allegedly converted to Christianity by Lazarus and Mary Magdalene.
    It has consistently been France's main commercial port.
    'La Marseille' got its name when it was sung by volunteers from Marseilles marching to Paris to support the revolutionary government.
    Its drug trafficking inspired the Oscar-winning film 'The French Connection.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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