Travel Advice? A 25 Day Salt Tour of Europe

Plan for Salt Tour of Western EuropeOur flight leaves just one day after I return from my first IACP conference, so the bags must be packed in advance.  Cigarette lighter power adapters for cell phones, my laptop, and various and sundry electronic accouterments, a new camera bag for my incredibly sexy new Nikon D90 (I usually carry it in a grocery bag), battery chargers and SD memory readers, 8 hulking travel books (so far): why are we so My handy leatherman, a Shrade actuallyladen with equipment, when I used to travel with a pocket knife, a spare pair of socks and a rain jacket?  Reasons.

We are on a safari, intent on face-time with the Big Game, the people who first inspired us in our love of salt.  Salt is produced in virtually every region of every country in the world, but some places strike home, transport us back to the stillness that comes only in the early years of culinary discovery: leaning against the dew-beaded fuel tank of my motorcycle in the pale morning, eating cold sardines as I watch the oyster boats return from the shoals.

italy, water, lollipopsWe fly from Portland to Nice, drive across the south of France and the north of Spain to Portugal, down that coast and into Portugal, a loop to Casa Blanca, and then back up through the Spanish mainland and up the west coast of France toward Normandy, and then to Paris for some R&R.  There is a lot of country in that drive.  Existential fear caused us to abandon Italy, Germany, Poland, and Slovenia to the summer.

We welcome suggestions for places to stay, people to meet, things to eat, beaches to swim, and rocks to climb.  Here is our itinerary:

April 6: Fly

April 7: Arrive in Nice, drive toward the Camargue, stay in Arles

April 8: Visit the Aigues Mortes salt works, among the largest in the world and also a producer of Fleur de sel de Camargue.  Lots of driving over the next 3-4 days, so rest up 2nd night in Arles.

Salins at Aigues Mortes, FranceApril 9:  Drive through Toulouse en route to staying in St Sebastien.

April 10: Drive to Porto, Portugal Drive by Asturias and eat cheese.

April 11: Visit Lisbon and surroundings such as the 7th century Moorish town of Alochete, once a major salt-producer.

April 12: Still chilling in Lisbon.

April 13: Small town like Tavira in Portugal’s Algarve. Visit with the folks at Mirasol and Necton.   Rome took much of its salt from the Algarve back in the day, and saltmaking there has been revived seriously in recent years.

April 14: Tavira

Algarve salt making region in Southern PortugalApril 15: Tangier, Morocco.  There are some good salinas to visit on the Southern tip of Spain on the way, near Cadiz, so who  knows how far we will get.  The goal is to cross the straits to Africa.

April 16: Check out various and sundry sights along the coast en route to Casablanca.

April 17: Casablanca (take in the sights), stroll the markets, eat fruits and nuts and dried fruits and buy salts harvested from the nearby seas and distant mountains.  An old buddy, a real trouble maker, from my Paris days lived in Casablanca, but who knows what prison cell not contains him, or I would visit.

April 18: Tangier

Historic GuerandeApril 19: Seville, Spain Here we leave the salt road, and travel inland for a spell.

April 20 and 21: Madrid

Bordier beurre saleApril 22: Bordeaux, visit makers of Pineau des Charentes

April 23 through 27: Il de Noirmoutier and surrounding countryside, maybe extending up as far as St. Malo, where we will eat the best salted butter in the world, hand made by a fellow named Jean-Yves Bordier.

April 28 through 30: Paris.  Not sure what we will NOT do here, but certainly stomp around my old stomping grounds, check out some of the recommendations from the website of my friend Dorie Greenspan, who is on intimate terms with both food and Paris, take up smoking and sit in cafes and write whilst smoking a Gitanes.

May 1: Return to Portland Oregon, put the kids, bewildered and savage as feral cats, back in school.

We will keep track of this trip in real time, to the best of our ability, Tweeting at:

In the meantime, we would love your ideas and advice!

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4 Responses to “Travel Advice? A 25 Day Salt Tour of Europe”

  1. on 24 Mar 2009 at 12:43 pmDavid Fischer

    Hi Mark,
    How exciting that you will be travelling to these wonderful places. My bike trip in France & Spain took me to some of the same areas.

    I was at The Meadow recently picking up finishing salts and introducing your store to my brother when I noticed your salt infused with truffle oil (?).

    So I wanted to let you know about my sister, who may be a possible connection / interest for you and The Meadow on your trip to Europe.

    My sister, Christine, lives in Llerida – half way between Zaragoza and Barcelona. She and her husband, Carlos, are both mycologists who do research and teach at the university in Llerida. One of their primary works is establishing sustainable practice around the raising and harvesting of truffles in Spain & Europe. They both studied here at OSU, and also have interest / projects cultivating “truffles” in Oregon and California.

    I think that they may be interested in knowing of specialty markets such as yours.

    In any case, as fellow epicures, I think you would all enjoy each other, so if you need any connections in Spain or would like any sort of travel or truffle advice to go with your explorations in salt, you should feel free to be in touch. I’d be happy to give you their contact info.

    Be well. I hope I get to hear stories from your travels.

  2. on 24 Mar 2009 at 1:45 pmMargie Boule

    When you’re in Casablanca, you should stop by a restaurant owned and operated by a former Portlander, Kathy Kriger. It’s called “Rick’s Cafe,” and it’s had great success. She tried to duplicate the ambience of Rick’s Cafe in the movie “Casablanca,” with pretty good success. It’s popular with government office holders as well as Westerners living in Casablanca. I wrote a column about her for The Oregonian. E-mail me if you’d like me to send you a copy. The restaurant Web site is

    I look forward to reading reports of your trip. Bon Voyage!

  3. on 29 Mar 2009 at 4:25 pmmillar

    I have a suggestion of what to see in Madrid: ME! …did i mention that i live here now? I know a ton of good places to eat and drink and see, and would love to show you! Do you have any plans here yet?
    love, millar

  4. on 03 Jun 2009 at 5:19 amAlison Lea-Wilson

    Hello Mark
    So sorry to have only just seen this- we would have LOVED to have seen you on your tour if only you had deviated slightly off the European mainland path into England and then into Wales- but next time!
    We are delighted that you sell our Halen Mon sea salts, although you don’t stock the organic celery or spiced we notice- fabulous with cocktails and roasted vegetables and meats…..
    I have just been reading about your chocolate and salt tasting- sounds inspired and absolutely delicious.
    Please do get in touch, we’d love to link to you from our website and to receive any feedback from you on our sea salts and how you and your customers enjoy them.
    keep up the good work in feeding and educating people, particularly children.
    Best wishes

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