Sunday 2 October 2011

Taking the waters

Advertising the waters ca.1905
Living where we do we have a bit of a drive to get to a supermarket. Having said that, we do have a good choice. We can choose between shopping in Loches: SuperU or LeClerc; La Roche-Posay: SuperU and Yesures sur Creuse: Intermarché; they are all about equi-distant. Mostly we tend to go to La Roche-Posay for smaller weekly shops and Loches for a seriously big shop as we prefer the SuperU or LeClerc stores.

You may be wondering what this has to do with taking the waters. Well, La Roche-Posay, just over the border in dept 86, the Vienne, is an internationally renowned centre for the treatment of skin afflictions such as eczema and psoriasis. The town's spring is high in Selenium which is good for treating skin afflictions. Happily it also tastes nice. Often when we have done our shopping at the supermarket, we drop into the town for the Tuesday market and fill our empty plastic bottles at the public source.

Niall and Ida, my aunt 'taking' the water
La Roche-Posay has been a thermal center since the last century, although legend has it that at the end of the 14th century, Bertrand Du Guesclin, discovered the La Roche-Posay springs on his way home from Spanish campaigns. He was High Constable during the reign of Charles V. According to the story, he stopped at the spring to quench his thirst. His horse, which suffered from eczema, plunged into the water and came out cured. If only modern day eczema could be cured as rapidly!

info plaque on water's qualities
In 1617, the therapeutic reputation of La Roche-Posay thermal spring water was already such that Pierre Milon, doctor to Henry IV and Louis XIII, came to the town to conduct analyses. Almost 200 years later, in 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte, on his return from Egypt, had a thermal hospital built to treat his soldiers' skin diseases.  Then in 1897, the site was officially recognised by the French Academy of Medicine. In 1905, the first Thermal Centre, in the more modern sense of the word, was opened and by 1913, the French Academy of Medicine had officially declared La Roche-Posay a spa town. 

The architecture of some of the hotels clearly shows that from the late 19th century, with the arrival of the railway, the town enjoyed quite a degree of popularity. During the 1930's, a number of well known French artistic and intellectual figures came to take the waters: André Gide, Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais and Sacha Guitry.

Porte de Bourbon, gate into the medieval quarter
The town itself is much older and the fortified medieval section, built on an escarpment above the river Creuse, still boasts a donjon, the remains of ramparts, one of its gates with machiolations and a church from 1099 whose Romanesque bell tower is original. Sadly all the ancient stained glass was shattered during World War II.

For such a small town La Roche Posay, punches above its weight. Amongst other things it also boasts a horse race track, an 18 hole golf course and a casino.
All in all a nice place to do our weekly shop...and grab a glass of water!


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Niall and Antoinette:
Cheers!! La Roche Posay sounds a delightful place to take the waters as well as to visit on your weekly shopping trip. The architecture looks very varied and interesting and seems remarkably well cared for.

The 'spa' towns throughout Europe are most intriguing in our view and we should love to visit more of them. One can so readily imagine latter day travellers seeking the miracle cure!

GaynorB said...

It was at La Roche Posay that we decided that we would buy our house in LP-P.
We've never tried the waters though. Perhaps a treat to look forward to.

At Evian close to where we had our apartment you could fill your bottles with Evian water from the spring. People would take really large containers or crates of bottles, so there was usually a queue!

Diane said...

Interesting post I have not heard of La Roche Posay, a place perhaps to mark for a future visit one day. I have not been horse racing in France so perhaps we could combine a visit with a track meet. Diane

ladybird said...

We visited la Roche Posay in 2008, mainly because I wanted to see the town after which the facial cream I use is named. I like the cream, but we didn't like the town. Somehow it looked gloomy, despite the lovely weather that day. Maybe it was because it is a 'hospital' town and people who stay there are there for medical reasons. I don't know. The old part of town and the donjon were okay, but I don't think we'll go back there.
P.S. We didn't try the water, but had a beer on a corner terrace near the gate leading into the old town.

Carolyn said...

That's where we were rear-ended a few years back. Ah, happy memories! We had to stop for traffic coming through that gate and the driver behind us was too close. Mr. Tattoo did NOT want us to report it to the police. Luckily there was no damage.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jane & Lance - we quite like spa towns as well-- sometimes they have wistful air about their shabby-chic grandeur. When we lived in Maastricht we occasionally popped down to Spa, Belgium.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - I can imagine the queues! They were often pretty long at Spa too. At La R-P it usually isn't so busy.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Diane - the race track is near the river and grassed as in UK. Think they hold hurdles and well as flat races.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Martine - the 1st time we drove through La R-P I would have agreed with you. It didn't look much and the weather was grey. They have just finished re-doing the central square which has improved things and on market day it 'warms up'. Never really noticed all that many 'patients' if I'm honest. Now I quite like it but, you're right, Loches it isn't.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Carolyn we've seen various close shaves there. Glad you came to no harm :-)