In Provence, there is a wilderness that stretches around the Mediterranean coast, from the Rhone to the Gard rivers. This area of more than 14,000 hectares is full of marshes and saltwater lakes, providing opportunities to discover lagoons and beautiful wild stretches of wetlands that form a unique ecosystem.
The colours of the woad flowers give this landscape an absolute sweetness; peacefulness reigns on this little end of the world. This exceptional microcosm comes together to create an exclusive biodiversity. Particularly unspoilt, the harvesting of salt from the salt marshes over hundreds of years has favoured a particular flora specific to the salicultural environment. More than 250 species are listed and some protected: the immortelle or dwarf everlast, a yellow flower with curry perfumes, the sea lily, characterised by its white flowers, and poppies form large colourful carpets across the ground. On the sandy beaches of the coast sea-rocket grows, accentuating the pastel colours so characteristic of the Camargue.
This space, maintained by the salt merchants, allows the development of a rich ecosystem all of its own. The Camargue region is a food reserve and breeding ground of major importance. These two aspects make it a prime stop-over place for migrating wildlife. In order to protect this very special fauna and flora, a national reserve was created in 1927. The Camargue Regional Nature Park was then founded in 1970, covering an area of more than 100,000 hectares.
The Camargue also sets itself apart as a region with a strong cultural identity. It is a land of breeding horses and bulls, the large herds of which are called manades; it is a land of rice cultivation and salt-harvesting on the salt marshes. It is an invaluable heritage, as we discovered with Patrick on our visit of the salt marshes of Aigues-Morte. An imposing fortress, planted between lagoons, marshes and canals, surrounds a small medieval military city which is a pleasure to walk around.
Camargue’s salt marshes are the result of the combination of the sea and the mistral winds.
Salt cultivation dates back to antiquity. In the 17th century, 17 salt marshes were united in the enclosure of Peccais and in 1856 they founded the company of the Salins du Midi. Since then, ten salt-growers have passed down their wisdom from generation to generation, handling the movements of the waters according to the wind, storms, the path of the sun and salinity levels. So, they continue the tradition of harvesting salt and of the saltworking company, the Fleur de Sel de Camargue.
The fleur de sel is a reflection of this fertile terroir; it naturally insists on being an essential ingredient of the cuisine of the south by revealing the sweet flavours of this gastronomy bathed in sunlight. The fleur de sel is also used for its benefits and virtues in cosmetics. Seawater contains rich minerals like sodium chloride. At low temperatures, the translucent magnesium sulphate crystals, with their relaxing properties, are produced.
In ancestral traditions salt was used to perfume baths. The Greeks used bath salts for therapeutic purposes. They were also adept at using mineral baths to relax, relieve pain and skin diseases, or even to rejuvenate the body. According to writers of that time, Hippocrates uses bath salts to treat his patients. Bath salts were then only available on medical prescription.
Bath salts today are used mainly to relax and to perfume baths. Magnesium, potassium, calcium ... they all contain mineral salts and nutrients rich in marine antioxidants to purify, relax, and reduce pain. They are ideal for letting go of the stress of the day, to relax the muscles and to hydrate the body. A handful of these relaxing and toning salts in your bath will help you to unwind the tensions of your body. The bath salt spreads in the heat of the water and diffuses its perfumes and special properties.
The bath salt is the essential antidote to ease tired limbs in a regenerating bath that also awakens the senses.
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Image courtesy of: Tarik Koivisto