Jacquots home then and now 
Aix-Les-Bains

The town of Aix-les-Bains is situated in the French Alps. Aix means water and Bains, baths. Hot water springs were discovered here hundreds of years ago. Even the Romans knew about them. In the centre of the town you can still see a very old Roman arch. 

By Jacquot’s time these springs had become famous. People, from all over Europe, who felt unwell, liked to come to the town for two or three weeks in the summer months to bathe in the water and have massages. This helped them feel much better.

The baths were in a special building called the Thermes. After bathing in the hot water people would feel quite sleepy and needed to rest, so they were carried back to their hotels. They sat in a chair which had poles attached so that two men could carry it. The people were still wrapped in towels, so to hid them and keep them warm the chair was covered, a bit like a tent.

 

Many of the people who came were wealthy and they liked to wear fashionable clothes.

People still come to Aix to have treatments in the warm water. They go to a big, new building a little way up the hill.

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Grand Port

At the beginning of the story we meet Jacquot the Royal Donkey in the spring of 1885 when he is living at the Grand Port beside the a big lake. This lake is the Lac du Bourget, the largest lake in France. It is situated in Savoy. In the distance we can see a mountain peak which is called la Dent du Chat (the cat’s tooth in English).

When you visit Aix-les-Bains today the Grand Port is a bustling area where you can see lots of pleasure craft. In Jacquot’s time it was much smaller. Only a few people lived there, mostly fishermen. Today there are lots of houses between the town and the Grand Port but in Jacquot’s time it was mostly marshland. To visitors who came with Queen Victoria walking from the town centre to the Grand Port seemed like an adventure.

There are still fishermen who catch fish in the lake. You can buy their fish at the market.

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Post aux anes

Visitors could hire donkeys to take them on rides around the town. They could find their donkeys at the Poste aux Anes, today Place Carnot.

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Villa Victoria

When Queen Victoria came on holiday to Aix-les-Bains, in 1885, 1887 and 1890, she stayed in a house called Villa Mottet, which belonged to a hotel. The name was later changed to Villa Victoria in her honour. The Queen took the whole of the house because a lot of people came with her. These included members of her family, her servants, her doctor and her secretaries. Even on her holiday she had to do a lot of work, reading papers and answering letters.

Today the Villa Victoria has been turned into flats.

If you look up you can see the British coat of arms as a reminder of the times the Queen came to stay.

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Gardens

Queen Victoria liked to spend time out of doors visiting gardens and admiring the scenery. She had difficulty walking very far so she had a little carriage made. When she first came to Aix she brought a pony with her to pull her carriage but many of the paths around Aix are quite steep which is why the Queen decided to use a donkey instead.

Today the Villa Victoria is surrounded by lots of other buildings but in Jacquot’s time there was a beautiful big garden. In this garden was a pretend cave, called a grotto. It was great fun to play in. Today another hotel has been built at this spot but there are still some gardens in front of it. 

Railway

Aix-les-Bains was a long way from England where the Queen lived. She could not stay away too long but luckily there was a railway line to Aix so she could get there quite quickly. She had her own special railway carriages for the journey.

Jacquot also left Aix by train, travelling along the shores of his lake. You can still travel by train along this route and you can see the towers leading into a tunnel.

Celebrating Jacquot Today

Every year the town of Aix-Les-Bains celebrates their heritage links with Great Britian and Queen Victoria. In 2015 a distant relation of Jacquot's joined the Mayor of Aix-Les-Bains Mr Dominic Dord in the town centre to commemerate the contribution that Jacquot made to the towns history.

And perhaps having heard tales of Jacquot's times in Scotland with the Queen our friendly donkey seems keen to join in the Scottish Dancing at the celebration