Une Journée de Découverte à Marseille
Curious Provence is one of the official bloggers for Provence Prestige in Arles. My Provence, working with Bouches-du-Rhône Tourisme, hosted a blog trip last weekend in Marseille and the Camargue. I was proud to be the only anglophone out of the seven local bloggers invited!
What is Provence Prestige?
Provence Prestige is an upmarket indoor Christmas market held in Arles. For the last 22 years, the event has attracted some 30,000 people. Provence Prestige celebrates the best of Provence gastronomy, décor, beauty, and design. Every company or artist participating is chosen because they represent quality.
The holiday ambiance is a treat. There are more than 150 stands. You can do all your Christmas shopping under one roof! The event November 15th to the 19th (2018).
A Passion for Provence
Curious Provence was chosen to spend a day in Marseille discovering the art of Santons, be surprised with a Michelin star meal on the port of Marseille, and finally, see the most authentic process of Savon de Marseille production.
Savon de Marseille
Savon de Marseille is the traditional soap made with 72% olive oil from Provence. There are no animal fats in the soap. The creators of the soap have been trying to get AOC status, such as a fine wine or edible product, to keep the traditional methods and real soap being made in Provence. Not only is the soap beautiful, but it’s also quite useful. There’s no need to buy chemical products to remove stains. Savon de Marseille works better. It is fantastic at removing makeup. Savon de Marseille is used for just about everything in Provence.
Savonnierie le Sérail is the last artisanal savon de marseille producer based in Marseille. The family owned company is very proud of their traditonal production.
Making the Soap
Below you can see the large vat where the soap is made. Notice how the liquid soap has splashed all over the adjacent walls.
The oil and caustic soda are heated up in the above vat. The heating eventually turns the mixture into soap. The mixture is sprinkled liberally with sea salt, then water to remove impurities. Believe it or not, the soap is tasted to determine the ph level.
Finally, the soap is rinsed the last time with clear water which gives the soap a smooth finish. The liquid soap is transferred to large low rectangles on the ground where it’s left to dry and then cut into large blocks.
The blocks are then cut into cubes and then air dried. The real Savon de Marseille is air dried rather than put into cooling chambers. Many factories try to speed up the process. This entire process can take up to a month.
For a more detailed description of the process (in french) click here.
Savon de Marseille is like a fine wine. It’s best aged. With aging, the cubes become misshapen as they lose their 28% saltwater content. This not only allows the soaps to have character, but they become more useful. Aged Savon de Marseille lathers and cleans more effectively. One to 1.5 years of aging is best.
Look for the embossed “Savon de Sérail” on your Savon de Marseille. You know that if you’re living in France, you have to be a bit of a snob. Only the best quality, made in the traditional way, will do.
You can visit Savonnerie de Sérail on Fridays from 14h45-16h.
The visits are about every 30 minutes. It is free, but you have to reserve. You’ll also find a factory store on site.
Savonnerie Le Serail
50 Boulevard Anatole de la Forge
13014 Marseille, France
You’ll also find Savon de Marseille from Savonnerie le Sérail at Provence Prestige Christmas market.
Palais des Congrès d’Arles
Avenue 1ere division France Libre
13 200 Arles