I recently visited Limoges in the Limousin region of France, for the first time, and would highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet visited.
Limoges is a city of around 140,000 people, located in west central France, about 150 miles inland from Bordeaux. It has a very long history, having been founded by the Romans, and is amply supplied with impressive public buildings, in particular churches, the Fines Arts and Porcelain Museums and a very large local railway station. There is also a great deal of housing dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries and earlier. It is a hilly town and the central area contains many public squares, some of which are used for markets. It is renowned for its porcelain industry, which first came into existence during the 18th century when supplies of kaolin were found nearby. It is also a market town for a large surrounding agricultural area, famous for chestnuts and Limousin cattle. Like other parts of France, it has its own culinary specialities, in particular beef products of all kinds, chestnuts and a type of pie made from puff pastry and potatoes.
I arrived b y train from Bordeaux and was impressed by the vast station – photo above – which was completed in 1929 and (unusually for French stations) was built atop the tracks. It features large areas of stained glass windows based on porcelain designs that illuminate the interior.
It is a great town for walking and sites particularly worth seeing include:
The French National Porcelain Museum contains a very large display of porcelain from Limoges (of course) but also from China, Germany and other countries. it is very good on the technical aspects of porcelain manufacture, including a video and large gallery that show in detail how porcelain manufacture developed over time and how it is accomplished today. The video features a number of specialists from the local porcelain factories.
The Cathedrale Saint Etienne de Limoges is gothic in architecture and features a separate tower that was built before the rest of the church. It is an impressive building but the interior is rather austere. More impressive is the church of St Michel des Lions situated in the centre of town, which has a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It contains a large number of stained glass windows, some dating back to the 25th century. It is possible to pick up a leaflet in the church which describes the windows and their individual panels in considerable detail. I very much like stained glass windows but it is unusual to visit a church where detailed explanatory leaflets of this type are available.
Streets near the Cathedral feature very old houses which have found a modern use as artists’ and designers’ studios. These are busy roads and not quaint byways reserved for tourists.
The town’s Botanical Garden occupies the former gardens of the bishop’s palace and overlooks the River Vienne. It appears to be open throughout the year unlike botanical gardens in many French towns. There is a huge variety of plants and tress as well as numerous pools well stocked with fish.
The Limoges Fine Arts Museum occupies the former bishop’s palace and houses the town’s (non porcelain based) art collection.
Photo attribution: “<a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P%C3%A2t%C3%A9_de_pommes_de_terre.JPG#mediaviewer/File:P%C3%A2t%C3%A9_de_pommes_de_terre.JPG”>Pâté de pommes de terre</a>” by <a href=”//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Babsy” title=”User:Babsy”>Babsy</a> – <span class=”int-own-work”>Own work</span>. Licensed under <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0″ title=”Creative Commons Attribution 3.0″>CC BY 3.0</a> via <a href=”//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/”>Wikimedia Commons</a>.
As for food, and Limoges being in France, it is not surprising that the town has its own special traditions. I enjoyed roasted chestnuts from a stall in a central square, plus a lamb dinner in a local restaurant in Avenue Garibaldi. Many restaurants feature meat based dishes, in particular beef and veal. The permanent market building has many interesting stalls, including one that sells potato pies like the luscious looking one in the photo above (for which thank you to a local Limoges blogger by the name of Babsy!).
Overall Limoges is a town with a very special character. Lovely old buildings, museums and churches well worth visiting and plenty of walks both around the town and through the botanical garden overlooking the River Vienne. Plus interesting food and a wide variety of shops in the central area. It can be reached from the UK by train via Paris, but more rapidly on a Ryanair flight to the nearby Limoges Airport.