Thursday, June 5, 2008
Passy’s Healing Waters
A cathedral of steel
Photo credit: http://gloumouth1.free.fr
In 1719, an iron-rich spring discovered in Passy was declared to be a cure for sterility in women. Consequently the spot became a meeting place for lovers, and soon the quiet village was turned into a fashionable health spa that flourished until about 1800.
Benjamin Franklin, who for nine years lived in the Village of Passy (not part of the city of Paris until 1825) during the American Revolutionary War, frequented the Passy Spring to fill his cup with its therapeutic waters.
There is still a spring in the Square Lamartine, which is said not only to be a cure-all but has the added merit of supposedly prolonging the life of flowers, improving the taste of tea and, above all, is free of charge to anyone who comes by with an empty vessel. Today the locals can be seen filling their plastic jugs and bottles. Métro: Rue de la Pompe (named after the pump that supplied Passy water to the Château de la Muette).
The artesian well at Passy is so deep that impurities from the surface do not penetrate its waters.
At one time bottled Passy water was all the rage in Paris, and drinking it was a status symbol. However, once the city of Paris took over and distributed the water free to the citizens of Paris, no one wanted to drink it, and it suddenly lost all of its famous curative qualities.
Walking down the steep stairway that descends from the Passy Métro station toward the Seine, tourists can see the underbelly of the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, which replaced the former Passy footbridge. The street going off to the right is appropriately named Rue des Eaux (Water Street).
The tall support columns of the viaduct bridge look for all the world like a “cathedral nave of steel,” as depicted in the photo at the top of this post.
This photo of the 1905 Bir-Hakeim bridge shows the elaborate steel work involved in its construction. It was called the Pont du Passy until 1949, when it was renamed as a tribute to General Koenig's 1942 victory against Nazi forces in Libya. A stone arch in the middle of the bridge provides pedestrian access to the île des Cygnes (Swan Island). Trains of the No. 6 Metro line travel across the top of this bridge; passengers seated on the north side of the train enjoy spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower.