So in the middle of a pretty poor and rural region of France, about 40 minutes drive away from our tumbledown house, there is a city called Vichy. Ringing a bell for any beauty fans? Yes, Vichy, as in Vichy beauty products!
A few months ago at work, the ladies from Vichy and La Roche Posay came in to give us training, and I couldn’t help but smile as we were told all about the history of Vichy thermal waters. It is a city my family and I tend to pop to every time we go out there, and we know lots of people who work for L’Oreal at the Vichy factory- it is a huge employer in an area of France that is really struggling. Clearly it is a place where my professional and personal life have unexpectedly collided!
I have ton of childhood memories from Vichy. A big one is that we would go for Bastille Day in the summer, taking a picnic and setting up camp on the riverside for the fireworks at night. It was a little bit magical as a child, to have so many people wandering along the promenades on a warm night. The fireworks were always set to music and felt like the grandest event on earth to me. Nowadays, a trip to Vichy is usually just a chance to nip into the shops and sit down for lunch in one of our regular cafes, but this time I was inspired to head to the Halle des Sources and remind myself all about the waters this spa town first became known for. I love knowing the history and origins of brands and so I thought I’d natter on a little about Vichy.
Vichy has 6 different thermal springs around the area, and the waters have been used since the Roman times. Durng the 1900s Vichy became a pretty fancy place to visit and ‘take the waters’. They built the Halle des Source in a beautiful park in the centre of the city, surrounded by hotels where you could take the cure. I used to be fascinated by the old ladies who would go to the spa armed with a cup after nattering with their friends over pastries and coffees!
The interior of the Hall had me swooning. Those columns, the lights, those tiles… It is a vintage dream (truly so, it has been the same for decades, as you might be able to tell! They do say what goes around, comes around). I didn’t make the connection in person, but these photos have me thinking of a Wes Anderson film.
As you can see, there are rows of taps for each thermal spring, and each one has a different temperature and different mineral composition. You can still get a prescription to ‘take the waters’ round here, and each spring is believed to have different health benefits. To be honest, the whole thing sounds much more glamorous than the reality. The thermal waters are generally lukewarm, slightly salty and some decidedly eggy… the things we do in the name of beauty! If you really want to try some, stick with the Celestines- it is definitely the most drinkable and is actually bottled into mineral water. Funny to think that these taps contain water that is credited with so many health and beauty properties, all just there for a couple of Euros.
I’m glad we nipped back in to the halls instead of walking by as usual. It has been a long time since we did any touristy things in Vichy and it made me smile to think that everytime I use my Idealia Sleep Mask at night, I’m using the same water as is running through these blue fountains. A little bit of my second home at home!