Saturday, August 13, 2011

STAMP #8: Aix en Provence, France

My last post from Aix is about my quest to find the Roman hot springs or what became of them. Followed the Roman wall close by the cathedral along the rue des Guerriers in the north of Old Aix. Soon came to the Aqua Bella hotel where the wall entered the garden behind a big swimming pool. At the western end of the wall is a tower - Le Tour Tourreluque - that was built in the Middle Ages. Quite a setting for a hotel pool!

We ate an excellent three course lunch in the hotel's restaurant, L'Orangerie: roast veggie salad and then lamb with gnocchi. Dessert was white chocolate mousse with mango topping.The spa devotees crowded into the restaurant about half an hour after we arrived, a flock of white-robed, red-faced customers.

I went looking for the source of the 34C hot springs and talked to the hotel manager. Apparently they are below the foundations of the hotel and inaccessible. Pity! I did see the hot pool in the Aqua Bella - it's very modern and sleek, and the blue mosaic decor is the only nod to the Roman origins of Aquae Sextiae founded by Sextius in 122 BCE.

Later a friend told me that in France, Partouche, the company who owns the Aqua Bella, acquired it in the hopes of building a casino on the site. In France the law only allows casinos by hot springs or by the sea. Something to check out.

There is no doubt that these hot springs have supported Aix for thousands of years, well before the Pax Romana and even before early humans migrated here from Africa and stayed. The fountains, the buildings, leisure activities are all connected, to say nothing of the tourism of today.

IMAGES:  (c) Julie H. Ferguson 2011

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