Honneur et Patrie.

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The past remains indelible and palpable in Vichy’s grand hotels, forever the movie sets of their own period drama. I spent a night in what used to be The Hotel Thermal. It was Petain’s War Ministry, and my room overlooked the Opera House where the French Republic was abolished in 1940. I was on my way to nearby Saint Andre le Coq, which between 1987 and 1990 was the geographical centre point of the EU.

There is nothing much of any interest there. There is a steel pole commemorating that time, and one can eat at The Relais Centre Europe if it’s open. At the very end of the village though, or at the start, depending on how you arrive, there is a house which was grand at some point but is ruined now. The owner is the son of the man memorialised on a plaque on the gatepost and he abandonded the property whilst suffering from a mental illness. He is now confined to an institution somewhere.