Savon de Marseille

Pete and I just left France.  Even as we sit at Starbucks in London, enjoying the familiarity of a large, 12 ounce cup of coffee, I already feel a bit nostalgic. We are here, waiting to connect with a good friend of mine who is graciously hosting us for the next couple of weeks.

But… for a few more moments, before I begin to embrace a new city, I’d like to take a few moments to remember France.  The south of France and Provence.  Specifically, ‘Savon de Marseille’ or ‘Marseille soap’.


I love how the soap is displayed-no packaging, stacked together by color and scent

Don’t get me wrong. There are so many things I love about France.  The beautiful country side, la patisseries, the wine, the people we met and certainly gaining an ear for and practicing my French.  These are just a few of the many wonderful things.

I do love soap, however, and Savon de Marseille is an excellent soap with a long history and beautiful presentation. As soon as I walked into Maison du Savon de Marseille in Aix en Provence, I was smitten.  It took all of my will power not to pack a second backpack full of soap. A few fun facts:

  • The recipe for Savon de Marseille is 600 years old
  • The original recipe is water from the Mediterranean, olive oil, soda ash and lye
  • Traditionally about 8 tons made at a time, mixed together in a cauldron
  • In 1924 there were 132 soap making companies in the Marseille area
  • As of 2000 only 5 remain
  • I love this soap

Also, I think it very possible that in a past life, I was a soapmaker in Marseille. Check out these facts. First, I make my own soap. Also, I used to sell my soap to people and made a living for a while doing this. And the biggest suggestion that makes it possible I did this in a former life-check out how I used to display my soap:

Marseille soap pic
This was on display at a farmers market circa 2012. All I’m missing is the stamp!


Whenever we travel, we look for little bits of ourselves in the unfamiliar. It’s comforting and encouraging to know for a fact from our own experience, that humans living far from us, are not really so different. The French love soap and have a 600 year old recipe which is still being used today! That is soooooooooooooo like me!

So the next time you find yourself in France, or any shop selling Savon de Marseille, please buy a bar or two.  You will be treating yourself and participating in a tradition spanning many generations.


2 thoughts on “Savon de Marseille

  1. There are dozens of different scents. My favorites are lemongrass and lavender 🙂
    Would have been so fun to wander around Aix with you as well!


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