Our 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 laden 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.
We 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.
April 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
April 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
April 20 and 21: Madrid
April 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: Twitter.com/Selmelier.
In the meantime, we would love your ideas and advice!