So, here I am, back again in Biarritz, the beautiful understated-chic resort of the Atlantic coast.
The beauty of the town whilst nestled at the ocean’s edge with the majestic Pyrenean mountains as a backdrop never ceases to charm me, as it has charmed many before me. Biarritz’s most remarkable celebrity (along with Poutine who also enjoys the Basque resort – no, I’m not joking) was almost certainly beautiful Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléan III and “beautista” of the 19th century.
In a previous post dedicated to Biarritz I talked about how Eugénie, who during her “reign” was considered to be one of the most beautiful women of her time, popularised the use of Eau de Cologne. It hardly comes as a surprise to discover that the House of Guerlain, recognisable by it’s Imperial bee emblem has chosen Eugénie’s palace, now the 5 star “Hotel du Palais” as the venue of it exclusive flag-ship spa.
However it was perhaps her Iberian origins, Eugénie de Montjito was born in Grenada that explain her passion for another toiletry … the humble or in Eugénie’s case … the not so humble bar of soap!
The Iberian Peninsula has always been at the centre of the soap making industry and as early as the 8th century Spain was producing soap made from goose fat and beech ash. At the same time in Marseille the use of olive oil was popularised and eventually fragrances were added. By the 16th century toilet soaps became finer and in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Castille region of Spain became famous for the first bars of white toilet soap made from Olive Oil.
In 1858, Eugénie, always centre stage when it came to her beauty routine commissioned the House of Violet – Reine des Abeilles to make her a unique toilet soap, Le “Savon Royal de Thridace” formulated from lettuce juice and honey that would become a bestseller as well as propelling the soap manufacturer to the ranks of Royal Supplier to Empress Eugénie and Queen Isabelle II of Spain.
Sadly today, the house of Violet no longer exists along with its celebrated Lettuce soap renowned for its calming properties … some even said it was aphrodisiac!
However, all is not lost … if you are curious to try a lettuce juice toilet soap there is still one traditional manufacturer Claus Porto, a company founded in Portugal in the late 19th century that still produces this curiously delicious toilet soap. If you happen to be in Lisbon or Porto the soap is available in the fabulous « Vida Portugeusa » concept stores or if you prefer to surf the web one of our favourite addresses is http://www.lelongdutage.com
So, with lettuce soap on the menu what more to be said except … bonne toilette!