On the southern shore of Lake Geneva, the pretty French belle époque town of Évian-les-Bains, an hour away from Switzerland’s Geneva, offers slow walks along the promenade and healing treatments with therapeutic Évian water. Written by Ishay Govender-Ypma for SAA Sawubona.
From the Source
At Source Cachat, in the spa town of Évian-les Bains, I’m standing in a queue of tourists and locals, armed with an empty bottle. The magnificent stained glass panes of the art-nouveau masterpiece, the Buvette Cachat, the pump room across the street twinkles in the dull winter light. From the single tap against a pale pink-and-white colonnade with shimmery mosaics, water spurts mineral-rich and is said to trickle over 15 years through the strata of the flanking Chablais Mountains. After my turn, I sip on cool and refreshing Évian water, the sort that’s sold in the bottles you find across some 143 countries. The water is free to enjoy and it’s easy to spot the tourists carrying single bottles and posing for photographs while the locals, carrying crates of empties, smile stiffly and nod tolerantly.
Back in 1789, at this very fountain once known as the Saint Catherine spring and then owned by one M. Cachat, the Marquis of Lessert is said to have drank the water and claimed that soon after his kidney ailments abated. Consequently, Évian water was sold for it curative properties, the town welcomed a stream of “health” visitors and in 1878, the French Ministry of Health validated the water’s healing and restorative powers. Today, medical treatments to assist with digestive, metabolic, rheumatic and urinary tract infections are administered at Les Thermes Évian (www.lesthermesevian.com), in conjunction with a dizzying range of water-based personal training sessions, hydrotherapy treatments, scrubs, poultices, massages and facials using Évian water.
Coming from a country that struggles with water shortages and where water is portioned out and recycled several-fold, it’s almost impossible to imagine being cocooned in a warm, jetted bath of fresh and pricey Évian water or having a physiotherapy session in a pool full of the precious stuff, as it is claimed to be done at Les Thermes Évian. Even so, all the water used has been recycled at some point, but the 15 years it takes Évian to get ready is impressive. Other spas in the region offer treatments with cosmetic rather than medicinal benefits, with walls of pink-capped Évian facial misters framing the reception areas.
I’m not certain how accurate the medical curative claims are – mostly targeting the liver, kidney and colon, but it makes sense that drinking jugs of unpolluted spring water will serve as a diuretic. At the spa at the grand century-old Évian Royal Hotel where I’m staying, tucked in the heart of a 19-hectare resort with rolling manicured gardens, and overlooking Lake Geneva, I forgo the hydrotherapy and tentatively pick a contouring lipo-massage. We’re in the clutch of a snow-laden winter and lengthy multi-course meals, glasses of red wine and fireplace lounging have taken their toll. During the treatment the therapist works with firm, vigourous movements along my limbs, targeting the lymph glands to aid drainage of toxins and fatty deposits, and massaging my stomach and torso for an uncomfortably long period. Instead of feeling lighter afterwards, my tummy protests and a post-massage tea made with Évian offers no solace. I stick to a facial and a back massage in the days to follow, and mist my face and décolletage with the complimentary Évian facial spray in my room each morning.