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A Day In: Les Salins des Pesquiers

L'Esterellite

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Named Esterellite by french geologist Auguste Michel Levy the blueish-gray rock of the Esterel mountains formed some 30 million years ago in a muffled volcanic activity; while much of the fiery red rocks of l'Esterel formed under extrusive volcanic activity during the Permian geological period 250 million years ago, the younger Esterellite formed under intrusive volcanism, as magma slowly cooled and solidified below ground.

If the rhyolite rocks of the Esterel mountain range, red like glowing embers, dazzle against sea and sky, the subdued grey Esterellite rocks proved utilitarian to humans.

In Roman times, the Esterellite was extracted from mining sites around current St Raphael, and used to pave roads and monuments, to build cities. Chunks of the Aurelian Way exist in Esterellite, as do sections of the city of Forum Julii, now Fréjus.

The mines of Le Dramont carved the Esterellite rock again in the mid 1850's until 1959, extracting 200-300 tons of rock each day.

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Today, the mining site of Le Dramont is a quiet residential area with a few painted homes plopped at the edge of the ancient extraction site. The mine itself has filled with water. Cap Esterel owns the area, but you can visit the perimeter of the lake. Once so prized by humans, the greenish gray rocks now appear majestic as sheer walls of silence around the lake.

Getting there:

Park at the Plage du Débarquement, 3 km west of  Agay’s main round-about, 6 km east of  Saint-Raphael, on the D559 roads that hugs the sea.  The entrance is marked with a blue-bordered sign “Base Nautique du Dramont.”

From the parking lot at the Plage du Débarquement, walk through the tunnel that crosses under the D559 and the train tracks. The lake in front of you is the extraction site of Le Dramont.


 

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