Around France

Tour and a Cure: A French Thermal Spa Experience

A French thermal spa experience is an adventure this ex-pat couldn’t resist. So the Barefoot Blogger is off for a tour through the Pyrenees and a cure. 

Tour and A Cure

Since moving to France, I have met some very interesting people. Few are more entertaining than Nevenka. Serbian by birth, she has lived and traveled Europe, Asia, and the US. She speaks five languages fluently. I was introduced to Nevenka at a “Hen Party.” For those who have never heard of such, a Hen Party is a bridal shower. Nevenka arrived at the Hen Party like the diva she was. She made her grand entrance full of life and style —  with a flourish and a song.

French Thermal spa

Nevenka, the Diva,

When Nevenka suggested I accompany her to Saint Paul Les Dax for a week of relaxation and a “cure,” I couldn’t possibly turn her down. The trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure. Indeed, it is a story for the blog.

France and the “Cure”

To prepare myself for the tour and the cure, I had to learn why they’re so popular in France.

Saint-Paul-Le-Dax and its neighboring city, Dax, have fifteen thermal spas and a thermal hospital where 60,000 spa therapy patients visit each year. The spa resorts specialize in rheumatology, phlebology, and fibromyalgia. Chemical vapors in the water help relieve asthma. The Romans first discovered the restorative benefits of the local water and silt from the Adour River that flows through Dax. The city’s early name was “Aquarius Augustae” in honor of Julia Augustae, who sought cures during her father, Emperor Augustus’ reign. Thermal spas have natural, warm (64 degrees centigrade) spring waters, mineral waters, or clays.

It took centuries for the Dax area to claim its premier spa therapy status. The emergence of the railways in the nineteenth century brought masses of patients to the cities in the Landes area of France. In the 1950s, medical thermal spas and therapies began being funded by the state.

French thermal spa experience: The trip to the cure

Our journey to Saint-Paul-Les-Dax started mid-morning when I arrived and parked my car at Nevenka’s home. When I saw the stuff she’d packed in the back of her SUV, I knew this was no ordinary road trip. In addition to a Nespresso and special lights for the hotel apartment we would share, there was champagne, a box of wine, and “gourmet” sandwiches.

Nevenka arranged for us to stop overnight along the six-hour route through the Pyrenees in Villeneuve-de-Rivière with her customary flair. L’hostellerie des Cédre,s to be exact, the seventeenth country home of Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan, better known as Madame de Montespan.

Madame de Montespan was the mistress of King Louis XIV of France. She bore him seven children and was considered by many to be France’s “real” queen. Born into one of the noblest houses in France, Madame de Montespan appeared in Louis’ life when she danced with him at a palace ball hosted by King Louie’s brother, Phillippe I. Her downfall came because of her involvement in the Affaire des Poisons. Claims against her ranged from murder to worse, perhaps because of Louis’ new affair with another beauty. Never tried for her alleged transgressions, Madame de Montespan retired to a convent, given a pension of a half-million francs by the King. Before her death, she was respected as a benefactress to the arts, befriending the likes of Corneille, Racine, and La Fontaine.

French Thermal Spa Experience: Next stop





9 replies »

  1. Deborah this is one of your best blogs I have had the pleasure to read. This is so interesting the way you tell your relationship to Nevenka and her personality. The planning of the trip is just great and your visit to the Montefort house, now a hotel, is wonderful. What a great story and the history of France comes alive in your narration of her relationship with the king of France. I can hardly wait for the treatment of the spa blog and want to travel the same route sometime in the future.

    • Well thank you, thank you! Such a compliment since you know Nevenka well, too. We’re having a ball. So relaxing and we’re spoiling ourselves rotten. You must come check this out. Hugs to you and Paula.

    • This is more fun than I ever expected. I love this part of France, too. But what’s not to love? Great people, fabulous food … and good for my body, too. Thanks Patricia😍

  2. Bonjour Deborah…bonne route avec Nevenka! Your photos are marvelous, can’t wait to see more of your trip together! My dear friend Ratomir lives in NYC and Zlatibor, Serbia. He speaks 5 languages also! I find the Serbian people to be very warm, kind, funny, generous, and at times, misunderstood by many nations. I am off to the United States soon for a quick trip…will be staying at a beautiful spa also! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. I have so much to be thankful for.
    Gros bisous,
    Claire De Sousa (Piriac sur Mer, France…forever Francophile) ❤️🙏🌎🐾🐾🐾🐾🇫🇷🇺🇸😘

    • I’m certainly having fun on this adventure. It just gets better everyday, enjoy your spa trip and count your blessings. We are blessed. Happy Thanksgiving and hurry back to France!

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