"Salies de Bearn" Salies-de-Béarn by ranger49
Salies-de-Béarn Travel Guide: 5 reviews and 9 photos
We have spent several holidays in Salies usually with relatives staying at a lovely house with a little swimming pool, loaned by a family friend.
This ancient "salt city" is a lovely place to spend a holiday in.
The centre is a real picture post-card treat with timbered, gabled and flower be-decked houses in narrow alleyways, alongside the gentle, narrow River Saleys.
One of our visits coincided with the annual September Fete du Sel and it was great fun to participate in the communal celebrations of the town and its historical/mythological connectionwith salt.
The Romans are said to have been the first to discover and exploit the salt deposits beneath the town. But legend has it that it was the discovery by local people of a boar, preserved in salt and the prey of earlier hunters, that uncovered the spring from which flowed the salt-rich waters.
The manner in which salt was extracted, treated and sold is well documented and the resulting prosperous business, involving almost every family in the town,was controlled by a cooperative established in1587.
In the first half of the 19th century competition from Languedocian sea salt led to the reinvention of the town as a fashionable Spa popular not only with Parisians but wealthy people from all over Europe.
The waters are very strong in magnesium and - it seems - all the well known chemicals - and many others I don't remember seeing on the tables of elements I had to learn along time ago.
They were said to be particularly good for arthritis , gynaecological problems and practically everything else!
After WW2 Spa towns went out of favour and one of the saddest sights in town on my very first visit in 1997 was to see, just as you leave the centre of town, one of those grand belle-epoque hotels "Hotel d'Angleterre" in a ruinous state.
It had stood empty and unused for years, then a major fire had taken the roof and interior. It stood for many more visits. We were told there were problems about ownership, insurance, planning but that there wqere plans to redevelop the site.
To my astonishment it is still just about standing (April 2008) but a board announces that it is to be developed as a Residence of Luxury Holiday Apartments.
Today the Thalassotherapie centre is still doing business in parkland on the edge of town, the golf course has been extended and overall the town has a propeperous feel.
It is close to the beaches of Biarritz and St Jean de Luz as well as the Pyrenees and the Spanish border. There are plenty of vineyards and caves to visit for a degustation. Lovely countryside and walks .
A great little place!
The Bearn is a productive and fruitful region with many regional specialities. The diet is generally a healthy one -... more travel advice
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