Vichy

FRANCE AUVERGNE ALLER vichy hôtel de villeVichy (pop 25,220) is the second largest urban settlement in the Auvergne region. The town that is currently popular for being a spa resort based on its natural springs, was once better known for being the de-facto capital of the Vichy France regime, a French government rule, headed by Nazi collaborator Marshal Phillpe Pétain during the Second World War. The Vichy regime was created upon France’s defeat to Germany in 1940, however not all French were on board with this idea, with a significant few like the exiled Charles de Gaulle challenging it. The Free French forces led by de Gaulle and subsequent French governments eventually toppled this regime. These days, Vichy’s resort status attracts more attention, with the sick and elderly making up most of its visiting crowd and essentially ignores its war history, its own elephant in the room. The town was a hip getaway back in the 19th century (when it was visited by Napoleon III) and it is still hoping to recreate the image from its heydays.

The overall feel of Vichy revolves around the remnant ambience of its past during the belle époque era. Vichy was once a favourite amongst the rich and famous and the town has managed to preserve most of its old splendour via its well-maintained and equally well-marketed spa-hotels.

Layout
Vichy encircles the triangular Parc des Sources, with Rue Georges Clemenceau leading up to the city centre. You can arrive at Vichy via trains at the station located along rue de Paris.

 

 


FRANCE AUVERGNE ALLER vichy Le grand casinoThe elegant Grand Casino has had a few incarnations, with an Art Nouveau theatre being added to an existing casino of 1865, and being inaugurated as an Opera venue in 1901, opening with Verdi's Aïda as its premiere performance. Its darkest hour was the capitulation of the French government to the German Nazi regime on 10 July 1940.  Here in its Grand Casino's theatre. the constitution of the French Republic was dissolved and the new puppet French State (État Français) was proclaimed.  A plaque outside states that 80 parliamentarians opposed the destruction of the Republic,with no mention of the 569 who voted in favour of it.  The glass is 1/8th full!




FRANCE AUVERGNE ALLER vichy source célestin
The central Parc des Sources is one of the main sights in town. This stately, shady park was developed back in 1812 and is encircled by a promenade. The Hall des Sources, an enormous iron-and-glass covered, greenhouse-like structure, stands at the northern of the park. While many come to the hall to chill and hangout, others make their way there to find the large, tiled tap that delivers the six different types of mineral water which can be found in Vichy. You will find many curistes (this is the way patients are referred to here) lining up to get their cupful of spring water and you can join them, for a small fee.

On the western edge of the park, the Source de l’Hopital has standing here since the Roman times. It houses the taps that are linked to the warm Hôpital and Célestins springs, which are known for their distinct bitter flavour. South of the park, the Source de l’Célestins, known for its rather saline and fizzy water, is the only spring whose waters are bottled. You might not get to drink from these springs in the winter as many taps are closed to ensure that they do not freeze. Another spring-water related sight is located at the Esplanade Napoleon III, right behind the Hall des Sources. The Byzantine-style Etablissement Thermal Vichy used to be an old thermal bath centre. These days, only the architecture remains, with the treatment rooms and gyms being occupied by boutiques.


Nearby, the small Musée Vichy [15 rue du Maréchal Foch, +33 470321297, www.ville-vichy.fr/musee-vichy.htm, Free] stands in an art-deco theatre, occupying just five rooms in the building. The rooms represent the classification of the museum’s collection into- the archaeology hall, Salle Pierre Burut and the Dany Madeline halls which house the artworks of the collectors that the rooms are named after, the Louis Neillot room, named after an artist whose works were influence by Fauvism and Impressionism, and the Philatelic room that houses the collection of Vichy’s postal museum.


FRANCE AUVERGNE ALLER L'église Saint Blaise



The curious Église St-Blaise [rue de le Tour] is an art-deco style building was erected in the 1930s by incorporating the remains of an old Baroque structure that stood in place of an even older Romanesque one. The church now features neo-Byzantine mosaics and beautiful stained glass work.

The river Allier runs through the western side of Vichy and it is probably one of the few rivers where wild salmons still swim. There is even a fish ladder on the right bank beside the Pont de l’Europe (northwest of Vichy), where you can see migratory salmon, sea trouts and eels, according to the season. The flower-filled Parc de l’Allier lines the south western section of River Allier.

 

 

 

 

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VICHY
:   1. Tourism Office  2. Train station (east of map limits)  3. Hall des Sources  4. Grand Casino  5. Source de l’Hopital  6. Source de l’Célestins  7. Église St-Blaise  8. Musée Vichy