During the final stages of our Loire à Vélo adventure, we took a detour from our planned route to visit Martin de Candre, an artesian soap maker nestled in the Pays de la Loire hills near Fontevraud-l’Abbaye.
Founded in 1974, Martin de Candre is a family business which specialises in a variety of homemade toiletries, produced by traditional saponification methods between olive and coconut oils, and local potash. Over the years they have been most famous for their shaving soap, the product which launched the company 30 years ago and one which is now sought out by men (and women!) from all over the world. They also produce a variety of other soaps, bath foams, shampoos and toilette waters, whose bases are all made from pure vegetable oils.
The factory shop is equivalent to a rural, French version of Lush, where beautifully botanic scents waft up your nose before you even enter the gates. Inside you’re greeted by mountains of soap, beautiful blue glass perfume bottles, fresh flowers and more gift hampers than you could shake a stick at. I decided to make a sneaky purchase in the form of a mini bottle of their Eau de Candre in the Limette fragrance, which was €10 for about 15ml and the girl behind the counter was even kind enough to give me a bar of their lavender soap for free to try out at home.
Alongside their gorgeous shop, they also have a museum which is open to the public, dedicated to a private collection of European advertising poster’s dedicated to all kinds of soap, along with their packaging and advertising from 1860 to the 1960’s. Sadly we didn’t have time to have a long look around the exhibits, but it’s definitely something unusual to have a wander around if you happen to find yourself in the area with an hour or so to spare.
Martin de Candre also produce signature ‘miel’ bar soaps for the bathrooms of Fontevraud Abbey’s hotel suites, which I excitedly discovered after checking into my room there later on that day. The savonnerie produces this special variety of hand soap using honey that Fontevraud produce in their on-site apiary, which I think is such unique and interesting idea, and a great way to link together two local businesses, especially as the surrounding area has less than 2000 permanent residents!
For more information about the Martin de Candre Savonnerie, you can check out their website here, or if you’d like to browse the products they make, have a peruse of their online store here.