Thursday, 1 June 2017

Alet les Bains Day 1

Today Jacqui picked us up at 8.30am and drove us to Alet les Bains our home of the retreat for the next 12 days. Once we arrived Jenny was already here and strolled through the village showing us all the sites in the morning and we returned to our hotel for some lunch.

This is the island in the middle of the Aude River, which is said to have been a Druid Island in the past.

The little bridge going onto the island from the village.

Natural springs here were known in ancient  times and according to local tradition both Charlemagne and Nostradamus favoured the water here. In 1886 The French Ministry of Health acknowledged its virtues and granted official authorisation to bottle it. Water here has been bottled and sold for more than 120 years, putting it among the oldest brands in France.

There is a pool where the spring water comes through about 30cm deep in which there are a dozen square sloped stones where the local women come to wash still to this day. Behind the pool are four large basins and water flows into them from spouts in the wall. This is where people collect the water to take home and drink.

There is a spa pool however this is not open at the moment, however a few of us did go down and sit on the washing rocks with our legs in the water which was I am told 23 degrees so very nice.
The waters here are reputed to be good for the treatment of digestive disorders and metabolic afflictions - obesity, diabetes, gastritis and colitis. Some say that it was his digestive problems that brought Charlemagne here.

This is a view of the pont to the village over the Aude River.

Abbaye Sainte-Marie d'Alet (more commonly known as the Abbey of Alet les Bains), considered by some to be the most beautiful ruin in France. Founded circa 813 AD and consecrated to the Virgin Mary, the monks of the abbey adopted the Benedictine rule. The abbey was damaged by the attacks of the count of Carcassone in the 11th century, but survived due to its relics of the True Cross which attracted pilgrims. Repair and further construction were undertaken in the latter 12th century, including the addition of defensive walls and trenches in 1197.

In 1318, during the stormy period of the Cathar Crusade, the abbey church became a cathedral. A Gothic choir was added. In 1577, the abbey was destroyed by Protestants during the Wars of Religion. It was never completely rebuilt, and what remained of the abbey was further destroyed in 1792.

Of the original abbey, remains of two towers can still be seen, St. Michael's Tower (north) and Notre-Dame Tower (south). The small chancel is well-preserved. The pillar capitals are ornately decorated with vegetation and geometric patterns.

The abbey is next door and within the grounds of our retreat hotel. 

The village itself is so quiet and charming. The age of the buildings so old offering you so many hidden treasures at every glance.

By the main square with its statue of Athene, is the house where Nostradamus used to live, the home of his grandparents. Nostradamus (Michel de Nostradame) lived from 1503-1566. His writings are thought to predict events in world history far into the future with a remarkable degree of accuracy, according to some. 

Nostradamus spent his student years not far away, in Avignon and Montpelier. It is during this time that Nostradamus may well have had a logical reason to live in Alet. The plague has closed his school in Avignon. He then went into the countryside researching herbal cures. Perhaps tying these to the reputed cures attributed to the thermal waters at Alet les Bains is not unreasonable.

It is also possible that at the end of his life Nostradamus might have had a logical reason to stay in Alet. Nostradamus is known to have been afflicted with gout in his later years. It does not appear that common treatments for gout worked too well. It is certainly possible that he may have come to Alet to seek temporary relief from the pain in the thermal waters. 

The Eglise St Andre

Looking down into the grounds of our hotel.

Standing on the pont looking into the village.

The Hotel and grounds, there are roses growing everywhere, it is so green and peaceful, just the perfect tranquil setting for a retreat such as this.

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