|Guérande is a city of c. 10,000 inhabitants, located on the Guérande peninsula, 80 km west of Nantes and 6 km north of La Baule, the most important sea resort in the area.|
The city is still surrounded by walls built in the XIV-XVth centuries. On 12 April 1365 was signed in Guérande the treaty which ended the Breton Succession War. In 1488, duchess Ann of Brittany signed in Guérande her first edicts. At that time, the Breton fleet stationed in Guérande included 269 vessels.
The name Guérande comes from Breton words gwen and ran, which mean 'white' and 'plot of land', respectively. It seems that white does not refer to salt (see below) but to the sacred characteristic of the place.
Guérande is famous for its salt marshes. The marshes are flooded by sea waters twice a day through two narrow bottlenecks known as the Grand Trait and the Petit Trait. The marshes stretch over 2,000 ha, split into two main basins, and are arranged according to a square pattern delimited by ditches. During the harvest time (June-September), salty water is sent every 15 days through a succession of settling basins locally called cobiers, fares, and adernes. Due to evaporation caused by sun, water progressively turns into a more and more concentrated brine. Salt crystallisation finally occurs in 70 sq. m basins called oeillets (lit. 'small eyes').
Two kinds of salt are harvested: the fleur de sel (salt flower) is harvested on the surface of the basins (3-5 kg per basin per day), whereas the gros sel (cooking salt), also called the sel gris (grey salt) is harvested on the bottom of the basins (40-70 kg per basin per day). The salt of Guérande (10,000 t per year) has a very high quality due to an elevated concentration in various oligo-elements. Salt producers(paludiers) try to preserve the quality of the marshes, which were seriously endangered after the Erika oilspill (December 1999), and reject mechanization. Therefore, the price of salt of Guérande is rather high. The best French cooks won't use any salt but the salt of Guérande.