A city in Belgium, from which the word "spa" originates. It's famous for its natural-water spas and for the mineral water that's bottled there. Population roughly 10,000.

As spas became popular worldwide, Spa was ironically left behind. The city's facilities remain dilapidated and rustic, lacking most of the amenities associated with spas today. Locals are hoping to build a new hilltop bathing center (set to open in September 2002), convert the old baths into a conference center, and upgrade the city's Palace Hotel to four-star status, all at a cost of $22 million or more. The whole project has been discussed since the early '90s and may finally see completion in 2004.

I don't mean to make Spa sound pathetic, especially considering I've never been there. Spa is host to various sporting events, such as the Grand Prix of Belgium or the 2001 World Games, and the Spa Monopole company sold 500 million liters of the city's water in 2000.

Located 70 miles southeast of Brussels, Spa originated as a Roman bathing center 2,000 years ago. Its name may have come from the Latin verb spargere, meaning "to pour forth."

The drinking water, rather than the spas themselves, was the main attraction; royalty including Marie Antoinette and Napoleon would visit the city for a taste. It became a German headquarters during World War I and began its decline soon after that, largely because of the weather -- at 60 degrees Farenheit, it's not the ideal fun-and-sun getaway. By about 1950, Spa's primary business came from rheumatism and arthritis patients who received insurance money to visit, a program that the Belgian government cut off in 1990.

Sources:
-- The Wall Street Journal, 7 August 2001
-- Compton's: http://www.comptons.com
-- Tradeport: http://www.tradeport.org/

Spa

A spring or mineral water; -- so called from a place of this name in Belgium.

 

© Webster 1913.

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