65. A Trip to the Spa
Play • 45 min
“The waters of Vichy…gave me back my strength.” – Madame de Sévigné

The darkest days of winter are here, and I think it’s time we all indulged in a little self-care, non? My own quarantine hobby, skincare, set me down a particular path. Why was I spraying my face with thermal spa water from France? What is thermal spa water? Why do we drink thermal spa water? Does any of it really do anything? France loves her thermal spas, no matter what form they take: rustic watering hole, glamorous resort, or rigorous medical establishment. 

Episode 65: “A Trip to the Spa”

The history of French thermal spas:

19th century postcard from Evian-les-bain, one of the premiere thermal spas of France


Classic Belle Epoque poster for a thermal spa – note the scantily clad ladies in their alluring gowns, oh la la.


The rudimentary mud pits of Versailles courtiers’ favorite thermal spas at Bourbon L’Archimbault. We need a baigneuse on duty – there’s some funny business..


  • Weisz, George. “Spas, Mineral Waters, and Hydrological Science in Twentieth-Century France.” Isis, vol. 92, no. 3, 2001, pp. 451–483. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3080730. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.
  • Tilton, Elizabeth Meier. “Mineral and Thermal Spas in France.” The French Review, vol. 54, no. 4, 1981, pp. 566–572. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/391139. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.
  • Brockliss, L.W.B. “The Development of the Spa in Seventeenth-Century France.” Medical History, Supplement No. 10 1990, pp. 23-47. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/85a4/4c6b9caab12ded2f94ae0a354da2e1e372d4.pdf
  • van Tubergen Avan der Linden S. “A brief history of spa therapy.” Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2002; 61:273-275.
  • Palmer, Richard. “‘In This Our Lightye and Learned Tyme’: Italian Baths in the Era of the Renaissance.” Medical History, vol. 34, no. S10, 1990, pp. 14–22., doi:10.1017/S0025727300070964.
  • Erfurt, Patricia J. “An assessment of the role of natural hot and mineral springs in health, wellness and recreational tourism.” PhD thesis, James Cook University, 2011. https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/31110/1/31110_Erfurt_2011_thesis.pdf
  • Debus, Allen G. “Solution Analyses Prior to Robert Boyle.” Chymia, vol. 8, 1962, pp. 41–61. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27757217. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.
  • Gordon, Bertram. (2012). Reinventions of a spa town: the unique case of Vichy. Journal of Tourism History. 4. 35-55. 10.1080/1755182X.2012.671377.
  • Lagrange, Joel. “Aix-les-Bains, the creation of the City of Water and publicity.” Histoire Urbaine, vol 3, 2019, pp 129-152.
  • Marie-Eve Férérol, « Lust, tranquillity and sensuality in French spa towns in the heyday of balneotherapy (the belle époque and the roaring twenties) », Via [En ligne], 11-12 | 2017, mis en ligne le 14 mai 2018, consulté le 24 février 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/1763 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/viatourism.1763
  • Mackaman, Douglas P. “Competing Visions of Urban Grandeur: Planning and Developing Nineteeth-Century Spa Towns in France.” New Directions in Urban History, 2000, pp 41-64.
  • Brei, V.A. (2018), How is a bottled water market created?. WIREs Water, 5: e1220. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1220
  • Cacciapuoti, Sara et al. “The Role of Thermal Water in Chronic Skin Diseases Management: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 9,9 3047. 22 Sep. 2020, doi:10.3390/jcm9093047
  • “Our Rich History.” Avène website. https://www.aveneusa.com/history

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