Life as ‘paludier’ a passion to be shared

  • Visit with Laurent Retailleau - salt worker
  • Salt worker in the work in its saltworks
  • Passage on the bridge with authorization
  • Regulation of the water in salterns
  • Explanation on the functioning of a saltworks
  • Salterns of Mès
« This will be my 14th season as a salt farmer - ‘paludier’, I’ve known all sort of seasons, good, average – one year follows another here in the salt marshes but they’re never exactly the same!»

Laurent welcomes us a friendly outgoing tone to his voice, charms us with anecdotes and riddles, putting us immediately at ease even if we’re straight in at the deep end ! «here we’re not really in the thick of it if you like, it’s a bit cushier!   We produce less salt too…but no matter…»

With the help of his map, Laurent points out to us the exact position of his salina, it lies partly in Assérac and partly in St-Molf and a few kilometre from the bay at Pont-Mahé, this open air ‘oyster reserve’!
The use of a diagram of the salina painted on a plank of wood enables the way it works to be explained simply – childs’ play really!  Like a strange game of snakes and ladders….good weather and a steady wind push the harvest ‘forward a notch’.  If it rains, its bad luck but you’re forced to move backwards 3 spaces!  «Adjusting the water levels is the name of the game.  As we say around here it’s ‘doing the rounds checking the water’ twice a day to check our settings is key in our trade»

The wind provokes a few ripples on the surface of the water in the salt marshes.  The gentle sound of the water draining from one basin to the next punctuates our visit.  Laurent with his rucksack on his back and his plastic clogs on his feet,  his face beaming in the warmth of the sun confides to us as we walk around the decantation basin ‘la vasière’ that he may well be part of the last generation of ‘paludiers’ because of the continuous increase in the levels of the seas…Seems difficult to imagine this ancestral trade could disappear just like that…
 
70 % of the work to be carried out in a salina is maintenance, the salt harvest, is the just reward of this giant task which starts as early as February!   «When the evening comes on windless days you have to finish your work quickly before being eaten alive by the mosquitos!» This job is not always easy…
«When you pull off your boots,the salina is good and clean and you’re waiting for the salt to form that’s the big moment you’ll be waiting for.  When the miracle happens… »

After 30 minutes of the tour along the slopes bordering the salina, finally we work our way along to the very middle of the basins all aligned along a narrow strip of clay.  We feel very privileged to be here !  In point of fact we are!  Access to this area is not normally authorized as a rule. 


Then the highlight of the tour which ends with a tasting of la fleur de sel –  «I love to smell ‘la fleur’ it makes me think of violets its quite magic!’  Sometimes its pink when we gather it in! ». Aromatic and with a long lasting mouth-feel, we finally come to an understanding of why the chefs and culinary experts of the area can’t do without these fine delicate salt crystals!
 
A few cries from the avocets prompt us to turn our gaze to the sky, here we are in the heart of the marshes !   Let’s close our eyes for a moment.  Now we can imagine more than 200 birds all around us, when Laurent empties ‘la vasière’ in winter! A majestic sight like only nature knows how to show us when we stop and take the time…to savour the moment…
 
The tour ends as it began in a jovial atmosphere and Laurent adds ‘Well, one things for sure, I love my job!!!’

Want to find out more then come and meet up with Laurent for ‘une Expérience bretonne for a tour at the very waters’ edge…with a sprinkling of salt...

Please note: 

Tours from 01/07 to 31/08, take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10h30. The rest of the year, visits are possible subject to reservation.
Lenght of the visit : 1h30
Prices : 4 € per person, free for children under 7 years old.
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GPS coordinates
Latitude : 47.41474
Longitude : -2.40185
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Contact
Visite de la Saline de Beauregard
Rue des Salorges
44410
ASSERAC
Phone : +33 2 40 70 71 84
Mob : +33 6 76 88 47 62