|Gill, overjoyed by Fettucinne|
|Vichy Opera House - Classical proportions, art nouveau detail|
|The adjacent Casino was rather more typically 'fin de siecle'|
|A covered walkway connects the Opera at one end of the park tothe Therman Baths at the Other.|
|Oriental influences on the Thermes building|
|Beautiful light-filled interior spaces|
|Designer chocolate shops seem to be the thing..|
|and fancy cakes|
|..and odd gelitine based sweets|
|The Mairie looks like it pre-dates the majority of the Spa developments by a decade or two - Second Empire exuberance!|
|La Poste - not the most beautiful building in Vichy, but interesting if you are a fan of 20th Century Architecture...|
|an interesting mix of Art Deco an Modernism,|
|The French never quite got the hang of Gothic revival - not quite Pugin is it?|
|What can you say...?|
The only reference to the darkest moment in Vichy's history was a nearby small rectangular headstone of black marble inscribed with a short message of remembrance for the 800 people from the town sent to their deaths by Petain's regime. Half were political opponents of the Fascist regime, the remainder local Jews transported to Germany's death camps. The simplicity of the headstone was in marked contrast to the grandiose War Memorial, and reflects how combatants are glorified, but civilian casualties dismissed as collateral damage. Both are victims of war; we should remember them with equal respect I feel.
We imagined how much a better state Buxton would be in if a bit of cash came into the town from every bottle of its spring water sold. Instead the brand is owned by a multi-national - Nestlé, who are utterly disinterested in the town that provides the brand's identity. The fabric of Buxton spa is falling to bits as complex arrangements involving English Heritage hand-outs and deals with dodgy property developers never seem to come to anything. It's the story of two countries and two approaches to managing heritage and national assets. Here in Vichy, some measure of local control has helped secure the future of its superb architectural heritage; Control of Buxton water was handed over into the private sector decades ago, eventually being absorbed into a a remote, disinterested multi-national conglomerate. Buxton's thermal baths are boarded up and the grade 1 Regency period Crescent enmeshed in a decades long saga involving the Local Authority, English Heritage and private property developers which never quite seems to result in the promised refurbishment actually coming to fruition but remains forever 'work in progress'. It's tempting to extrapolate the saga into a wider context, and reflect on how, compared to our European neighbours we have simply stood aside as onlookers and watched authorities of all persuasions asset-strip national resources that are part of a collective heritage and should belong in the public domain.
|River bank fauna...|
Once you understand his background, Petain's actions may never be regarded as laudable, but they do become more understandable. He believed that German military superiority would result in a swift victory, Britain would sue for peace, and he would strike a deal with Hitler putting himself at the helm of a reunited France with Paris as capital. This vision of a return to Europe as a collection of autocratic 'Great Powers' may have seemed to many conservatives in 1940 the most likely outcome - with Fascist regimes in Spain, Italy and Portugal, Stalin in Russia, Nazi Germany in the ascendancy, France defeated and Britain isolated - it is easy to see how Petain took the actions he did as an act to 'save France'. Without Churchill's belligerence, the actions of the 'few' and America's subsequent involvement, then a Europe of dictatorships could well have been the outcome of a some peace treaty hammered out in the autumn of 1940.