Turning from wine to water

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise in Clochemerle (aka Vaux-en-Beaujolais). Cannot beat the charm of that village.

Our first adventure for the day was the ascent up Mount Brouilly. The bikers who get to the top of this mountain deserve more credit than we do, but we all got to enjoy the lookout from the summit. A chapel there is dedicated to the region of Beaujolis, and to good harvests! Murals on the church wall tell the story from and celebrate the process. A bit hazy, but still spectacular.

The town of Beaujeu is considered the Beaujolais wine capital. This was worthy of a stop to get another bottle of white Beaujolais, and a peek at the Renaissance building that houses the tourist shop.

On our way to our final city of the day, we made a fortuitous stop in the town of Charlieu. We absolutely did plan on just having a salad, but realized we were in the hands of a very talented young chef. It would have been a crime not to support all his hard work!

And then it was on to Vichy.

Which Vichy to discuss? Easiest to start with its history as a spa.


The Romans loved the thermal springs of Vichy and made the most of them. Things only improved from there. By the end of the 16th century, the mineral baths had obtained a reputation for having quasi-miraculous curing powers and attracted patients from the noble and wealthy classes. The daughters of Louis XV came to Vichy in 1785. The bath facilities seemed extremely uncomfortable to them because of the muddy surroundings and insufficient access. When they returned to Versailles, they asked their nephew Louis XVI to build roomier and more luxurious thermal baths, which were completed in 1787.

In 1799, the mother of Napoleon came to be cured with her son Louis.

By the 19th century Vichy was the place to go, attended by many celebrities. It flourished during the Belle Époque and today one still walks under a metal gallery which came from the Paris World’s Fair of 1889. La vie thermale had its heyday in the 1930s, but it is still crowded today. The religious have Lourdes; the affluent have Vichy.

We are staying in modern hotel that was once part of the fancy Moorish Thermalia baths. Few remnants remain, but what does is as exuberant as the rest of the city’s architecture.

We had to sample the waters, of course. There is one set of springs set aside for those with a physician’s prescription. (List of obliging doctors available at the tourist office.) And then there is one of the rest of us. We went there, we drank and we are amazingly pain-free as of this writing.

And then, of course, there is the other Vichy.

Vichy France, officially the French State, was the pro-Axis government headed by Marshal Pétain from 1940 to 1944. From 1940 to 1942, while nominally the government of France as a whole, Vichy only fully controlled the zone in southern France not occupied by German military forces, while Germany occupied northern France. In 1942 it was rendered a complete puppet government and, after D-Day, the Germans made it official and occupied all of France.

It’s disconcerting to look at this lovely city and think about what an ugly time that must have been. 



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