© Napoleon Park | Cindy Michaud
A highly frequented landscape signature

The parks of Vichy

The new parks are the rendezvous of all those who, to the manifestations of elegant life, prefer long reveries and silent meditation in front of vast horizons. This poetic invitation still resonates for the current walker of Napoleon III and Kennedy parks. To their bucolic qualities are added those of a playful eden for children, sportsmen, numerous cyclists or runners. The Bellerive bridge, on the other hand, separates the two parks conceived as “a wooded crescent” on the edge of the allier.

The Green Line

While many cities are struggling to give back space to green spaces, Vichy, a city of waters, as early as the end of the 19th had already its “green line”, between the river and the heart of the city. In order to keep its rank as a spa town, it offered to the curists spaces where to stroll in all serenity. Thus, in 1861, was created, the Napoleon III park, thanks to the construction of a dyke, on the site of a dried-up secondary arm of the Allier. The oldest of the parks stretches along the Boulevard des États-Unis and today a long driveway overlooks the lake with a view of the golf course. Napoleon Park is decorated with native plantations (poplars, ashes, chestnut trees, lime trees…) and exotic ones (catalpas, Judas trees…), and flower beds. Now 800 trees provide pleasant shade. Over the years, their diversity has been reinforced with species from all continents: cedars, redwoods, Canadian snags, maples. They adorn the long stretches of lawns accessible to walkers, who on fine days cannot resist the pleasure of picnicking there.


FIVE CHALETS

FOR AN EMPEROR

The specific architecture of Vichy is also remarkable in this park bordered by five villas. Built between 1861 and 1865, they mix the influence of alpine chalets and colonial houses. In this green setting, Napoleon III and his retinue used to spend their summers. Napoleon III still watches over the spa town because, since 1995, a copy of the bronze bust created by J.A Barre has been erected under a tree.

Direction

Kennedy Park

Kennedy Park has meandered along Kennedy Boulevard since 1867. Its vegetation consists of 337 trees: Chinese magnolia; Osage orange, Chicot of Canada, Ginko Biloba, purple beech, blue cedar of the Atlas, cedar of Lebanon, etc. This green expanse is also decorated with a bust, but a female version. That of Mme de Sévigné, made by André. To reach Kennedy Park, in the extension of Napoleon III Park, you have to cross the bridge over the Allier near the only remaining chalet des Suppliques. Its neo-Gothic style is embellished with a Savoyard-style overhanging roof structure. Originally, its twin pavilion faced it on the other side of the road. These pavilions, built in 1864 by the engineer Radoult de la Fosse, housed the guard of the imperial chalets of the Napoleon III park. They were used to receive petitions addressed to the emperor. They were then used by the guards of the park. One of them was destroyed to allow the widening of the road. Today, the only survivor, is registered as a Historic Monument.

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A pathway

waterfront

At regular intervals, in both parks, wooden stairs provide access to the right bank of Lake Allier below the dike. Restored since 2014, the promenade undulates from the Rotonde to the Celestins beach, all the way to the jeu de boules. This 1.5 km path, along the water’s edge, covered with wooden slats and intermittently with a sandy path, is trodden assiduously by walkers and runners. It is also very accessible to families, with playgrounds (slides, ping-pong tables, basketball court, fitness trail, etc.), picnic areas and mini-golf courses. Loungers and wooden benches encourage strollers to take pleasant breaks in this landscaped environment conducive to relaxation, reading, where doing nothing takes on the meaning of “bucolic bubbling”. The bank is encrusted with a varied vegetation with diverse flowers and foliage adapted to the river bank. And the dreamers, in search of intimacy, often settle on the pontoons above the lake of Allier rocked by the lapping. On the steps, below the Bellerive bridge, one can also contemplate the ballet of rowing teams or electric boats.
As you stroll along, the terraces, with colorful umbrellas, of eight establishments (bars restaurants, guinguettes) invite you to quench your thirst or to eat.