I think most international tourists zip through central France on their way from Paris to colorful Provence and the sunny shores of the French Riviera. But as I recently experienced, if you are traveling near the city of Limoges, stop and take in some of its culture and history.
Limoges is known for the exquisitely detailed enameled art produced here since the 12th century and for its fine porcelain production with many factory stores offering great values. But if you are in town, make sure to also experience its interesting and photogenic sights.
During my week with Crafty Retreats in central France, we did a few day trips in the area. One of these was a visit to Limoges –
specifically a visit on the second Sunday of the month when the streets of the old city were closed to traffic and a multitude of vendors set up their wares for the monthly flea and antiques market. The vendors had the typical items you might expect-paintings, glassware, furniture, toys, linens, etc. But this being Limoges, there were also may fine examples of antique Limoges porcelain and enamels. And wooden clogs. These types of shoes are still worn in the Limousin countryside around Limoges.
Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) since I travel with only a carry on bag, I had no room for anything larger than a few traditional hand stitched dish towels. This left me time to explore the area of the old cite.
Built on the highest point and towering over the adjacent buildings, is the Gothic cathedral of St. Etienne. Started in 1273, it took over 600 years to complete, so some of it’s decorative details have a renaissance flair to them.
Adjacent to the cathedral is the Bishop’s palace and gardens. The Palace is now the Museum of Beaux Arts with an eclectic collection on view. It has an internationally renowned collection of enamels spanning the history of the Limoges enamel production. There is a collection of Egyptian antiquities as well as a display of models depicting the history of Limoges from its Roman birth to the present. For lovers of impressionist art, the museum’s painting collection also includes paintings by Renoir, one of the city’s most famous sons. The gardens surrounding the palace are terraced and make for a peaceful walk down to the Vienne river.
At this point, the Vienne river is spanned by the St. Etienne bridge, a stone arched medieval bridge completed in 1203. A placard says that this bridge is on the “Via Lemovicensis”, one of the main pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostella, and is still used today by pilgrims for that purpose.
Walking back uphill from the bridge to the historic old cite around the cathedral, you cross picturesque streets with half timbered houses.
Finally, if you travel to and from Limoges by train, you’ll get to experience one more of it’s Art Deco architectural gems. The train station, the Gare-de-Limoges-Benedictins, was built in the 1920’s and is considered to be the most beautiful train station in France. Can’t say I disagree.
Thanks for visiting.