Wednesday, 2 December 2009
White gold in the south of France
This is an unused card, bought 2009. It isn't, I think, a commercially produced card because it has none of the normal postcard markings on the back, just an email address on the front. If it weren't for the fact that I know where it was bought, I would have little idea of what it shows.
The clue of its whereabouts lies in the narrow, almost silhouette-like, photo of city walls crossing the middle of the card. It is a less reddish colour and less like a fairy-tale city than Carcassonne but there are similarities. It is Aigues Mortes in the Petit Camargue in the south of France. The picture above is of Le Saunier de Camargue, producers of salt, and the pictures below are details from the area.
They produce something like 500,000 tons of salt every year, by evaporation of the salt water which has been pumped into lagoons. The process has been around since ancient times: salt has always commanded a price because of its ability to preserve food. It could be considered to be one of the foundations of civilisation. In more modern times, the needs of the chemical industry have increased the demand.
The salt works are in the midst of a very important wetland ecosystem, and the company is committed to maintaining it because the quality of the salt depends on the quality of the surrounding environment.
One final and interesting fact about salt, "la gabelle" was the tax on salt whereby everyone in France over the age of eight had to buy a certain amount of salt every week, at a price fixed by the state monopoly. This caused the development of salt smuggling because widely different taxes were levied in different parts of the country. The tax was not abolished until 1790, just after the start of the French Revolution.