Vichy is a city of Auvergne located at about forty kilometers of Clermont-Ferrand. On the right bank of the Allier, the main tributary of the Loire, it has a rich and ancient history that attracts many visitors. It is above all its sources, with the therapeutic virtues recognized since the Gallo-Roman period that seduce the tourists of passage. The station, which attracted in its time such illustrious figures as Napoleon III or Madame de Sévigné, is not lacking, still today, of splendor and beautiful architecture. You can discover one of the largest spas in Europe, with a hot tub or a thermal water pool.
Vichy also remains in the collective memory for darker events, the city being chosen as the seat of the State under the Second World War, in 1940. This pleasant city with human size and the appreciable quietude knew however to forget These dark hours of history thanks to the charm of its attractions and its architecture.
Speaking of thermalism at Vichy is almost a pleonasm since the city has practically its existence at the sources. Since ancient times, men have regularly dressed their inner wounds with warm, bicarbonated and sodium waters and acquired between tertiary sediments and granitic faults and the mountains of Auvergne.
In the Middle Ages, the Dukes of Bourbon appropriated the waters but for a very short time: their property was confiscated by Francis I. Consequently, the State itself ensures the exploitation of the sources or delegates it in the form of rent. It was only in the 18th century that the Vichyssoise waters became the object of infatuation, as evidenced by the correspondence of Mme de Sévigné, a first-time curator with her daughter.
In 1853, two Parisian entrepreneurs (Lebobe and Callou) joined forces to create the Vichy Farmers' Company (CFV), which over the years became all-powerful. It will manage the sources, exploitation of mineral waters and thermal establishments. Omnipresent, the Company will find a resistance in the person of Nicolas Larbaud, father of the poet. This Vichyssois pharmacist brought a lawsuit against her for the purpose of exploiting the sources he held on one of these grounds in Saint-Yorre, a trial that lasted 13 years. He will be the first to have had the idea of drinking mineral water at home: the first bottles will also bear the mention "sources Larbaud - Saint-Yorre".
Vichy has a notoriety under the Second Empire. Indeed, Napoleon III, suffering from the disease of the stone, is prescribed by mistake a cure to Vichy (these waters do not have the property of relieving kidney stones). Imperial stays drain the crowds and create a fashion phenomenon around the cures at Vichy. We meet under the big chestnut trees or in the alley of the plane trees. We go every Saturday to the ball of the casino, we change toilets three to four times a day. The whole thing is to be seen and seen.
The cult of the body will flourish in this atmosphere like a flower in the sun: the Farmers Company understands as soon as it could benefit from this situation. At the beginning of the 20th century, it began to develop a range of ancillary services, essentially products of calls. Doctors will develop therapies parallel to the cure, using new techniques such as radiotherapy or electrotherapy. Vichy will be one of the first spas to install fitness rooms. Vichy likes the beautiful and provides all the necessary means for its maintenance. Vichy is always in fashion, looking for the latest technology and passes through the years with a brand image that likens it to the city of thermalism par excellence, despite the two world wars that have culminated, each time, On the requisition of its hotel park. Even today, the idea of a cure refers to the Bourbonnais city, even though attendance has declined steadily since the early 1960s.
In 1958, nearly 30,000 spa visitors went to the banks of the Allier, 40 years later, only some 12,000 stays were registered. Decolonization, the advances in medicine and especially surgery (the latter have erased scalpel digestive problems), are responsible for this disaffection. Stays that were too long (21 days), unsuitable for the current rhythm of life, the vigilance of the Social Security also contributed to this decline in attendance.
For a few years now, however, the spa town has been turning its back on this dark period to borrow the turn of modernity. The first visible change was the construction of the Callou baths in 1990. The asepsis of showers and mud applications in this glass and steel building is no different from those of the best performing operating theaters. Computerization makes it possible to calculate the time to fill a bathtub, to number everything, to list, to record, which paradoxically reinforces the relational aspect of the cure: each year, the curist is sure to find his favorite assistant, Preferred gym and especially its proper treatment.
The farming company of Vichy, owner of the Thermes (and not the sources!) Did not hesitate to question the effectiveness of the cures. In 1992, she joined the Rheumatology Clinic in Cochin to conduct a study that ultimately proves the effectiveness of Vichy bone in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Finally, Vichy is renewing its "ancillary services" with renewed concern for physical well-being. Moreover, it has relied on short-term fitness stays. In the center of the Domes, there are ranges of treatments ranging from massages under the water to the solarium, through the applications of mud. Strangely, the Vichyssois dared to push the doors of the Baths to go to the new sports halls and care while until then, the cure had created a world apart, parallel to the daily life of the inhabitants of the city. This interest has encouraged the opening of the Célestins center, which offers balneotherapy stays in an upscale setting (the center includes a four-star hotel).
The first casino ever created in France was built at Vichy, in 1865, by architect Charles Badger. In addition to the games rooms, a room is reserved for shows, operas, concerts... But the affluence of the curists is such that in 1897, a larger opera room is built in the purest Art Nouveau style, According to the plans of Charles Lecoeur. Saint-Saëns, Chaliapine, the divas of the Scala of Milan, the stars of the Russian ballet, the greatest headliners of theater, opera, dance, hurried down the Vichy Early 60s. The building is gradually degrading, some parts are inscribed in the supplementary inventory of Historic Monuments in 1975 but it was not until the end of the 80s that a real restoration was undertaken. The casino-opera becomes the opera-congress. The gildings of the theater have recovered the chandelier of yesteryear. The congress rooms have been designed with the utmost respect for the original architecture, while integrating contemporary elements, such as the wall of light by the sculptor Mickael Prentice. On the show side, the program is voluntarily eclectic (classical music, lyrics, variety, dance).
Those who prefer to be carried away by the musicality of the verses, will then be able to visit the personal library of Valéry Larbaud, the poet of Vichy, reconstituted in the media library that bears his name. The Larbaud collection contains 14000 books, 170 manuscripts, 8800 letters.
In addition to the cultural activities, there is a wide range of sports: the 18-hole golf course (one of the oldest in France) and especially tennis, have long held the spotlight. Obviously, the water share is important in Vichy, where one finds among others, a nautical base, an artificial river intended for the practice of the kayak and a club of rowing. But Vichy is also known for its horse races. At the height of the season, thousands of spectators tread the lawns of the hippodrome, a success reinforced by the introduction of night races.
Spa town par excellence, and ancient city, Vichy no shortage of heritage and architectural attractions to attract passing tourists and spa guests in search of well-being.
What marks the most to Vichy, surely the remains of the thermal center of the nineteenth century. One can still admire an eclectic and impressive architectural ensemble like the Allier Napoleon III park, a covered metal gallery of the Parc des Sources, with its chestnut and plane trees, or the Dômes spa center. The Congress Palace, Opera, 1865, is also a must in the city. This former large casino decor Rudnicki Art Nouveau painter, is complemented with a performance hall, lounges and a ballroom.
The sources that have made the reputation of Vichy can be discovered, like the source Chomel, that of the Hospital or that of Celestine, in the lobby of the sources, all glass and metal.
Revered in poorly healing spa guests, the Black Madonna of St. Blaise church, Notre-Dame-des-Malades, takes its place amidst beautiful stained glass windows and mosaics in very modern style.
On the banks of the Allier largest confluence of the Loire, parks and other green spaces abound. On both sides of Bellerive Bridge, the English-style gardens are an opportunity to stroll and enjoy the weather, while walking on the right bank appointed allow picnicking, biking to walk on the tracks bike or to relax. In summer, games are installed for the youngest.
Some museums adorn the city of Vichy as the Museum of Arts of Africa and Asia, with a collection of 4,000 objects collected by missionaries or individuals, or space-Valéry Larbaud museum with manuscripts or papers the same hand of the famous writer. The Museum of the Opera, meanwhile, keeps the archives of the former opera Vichy. These, as well as costumes, sheet music and other artistic objects are presented on the occasion of temporary exhibitions.
In the streets of Vichy the Vichy palaces, whose exuberant architecture testifies to the golden age of hydrotherapy, striking looks, like the style of Neomoorish Dômes spa center, or the many chalets and villas of the spa town. They mix the Swiss and colonial styles were built in 1862 to house Napoleon III.
In addition to the many spas and treatments offered to visitors, Vichy offers the opportunity to enjoy various events, historical or cultural.
Every last weekend of April, the city pays tribute to one of its major sponsors, Napoleon III. The city is alive with history and full festival revolving around the Second Empire. Extras and dancers in period costumes fill the streets of the city, and various activities are offered, as a big musical parade, rides in horse-drawn carriages, or dramatized tours.
In summer, activities abound on the various beaches of the town, with water sports, water games, after-works, open-air cinema screenings, concerts or even beach volleyball tournaments or children's games. Vichy New Wave is the opportunity to enjoy beautiful days while having fun. At the same time, the kiosk Sundays offer French music concerts, musette or world music, while the bagpipe festival takes place in early August.
Fireworks are launched July 14 and August 15 on Lake Allier, and Thursdays from Vichy, from mid-July to mid-August, allow you to enjoy Art markets, shows, or yet all kinds of workshops for children and adults.
Do not miss also the famous Marathon of salmon in July, a very pleasant walk tandem canoe.
Exhibition "Vichy, my City, Another Look" Works of Students of the College les Célestins
- From 4 to 20 may 2021
- Hall de la mairie de Vichy
- Artistic installation (models, engravings, screen printing, animated film) from the architectural heritage of the city.
- On 15 may 2021
- 94 boulevard des États-Unis, Villa Marguerite
- "Solaro goes through the trials of existence with a strength that others do not have : he knows how to enjoy the present moment. This book is his story, the novel of a cheerful man."