I had previously seen photos of the saltworks at Arc-et-Sénans but I didn't realise that it was only 35 km from Besançon. I was fortunate to be invited by Nadine, a friend of Corinne's with whom I was staying, to visit it with her and her charming daughter.
The salt-works was built between 1775 and 1779 and was designed by the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux who was part of the Enlightenment movement. At this time salt, which was mainly used to conserve food and in manufacturing, provided the government with significant income through taxes.
|Entrance to saltworks|
The semi-circular design includes 11 buildings with the director's house at the centre. One of the buildings houses the Ledoux Museum where you can see many models exemplifying Ledoux's search for Utopia. The gardens are currently being redeveloped and were not at their best.
|Ledoux's second design plan for Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans. (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Saltworks_at_Arc-et-Senans|
If you are visiting Franche-Comté, I do recommend visiting Arc-et-Sénans. We took the guided tour which unfortunately was extremely poorly done. I have never before experienced a guide who was in such a bad mood and short-tempered with the participants. It was a most unpleasant experience. I usually prefer a guide over an audioguide but in hindsight, in this case, the audioguide would have been the better option. The site is not particularly large, in spite of its 11 buildings, but I do think that the background information about the design and the history regarding the importance of the salt really does increase the appreciation and enjoyment of the site.
If you decide to visit the site, I would allow about a half-day. It one of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites to also offer accommodation so you could do an afternoon visit and then stay on. I imagine that the site would have a rather special atmosphere at night. Definitely something to consider for another visit.
Saline Royale -Arc-et-Sénans: http://www.salineroyale.com/