Limoges: a city with a long history
Phil and Sue Newdick continue their travels in France, pre-Covid. It’s 2018, and they are heading out of Bordeaux bound for Limoges . . .
We were able to find a convenient train, which is always our preferred mode of transport, to take us from Bordeaux to our next stop in Limoges.
The train trip was inexpensive, fast and comfortable. Once we had identified our train and boarded, it was just a matter of relaxing, sitting back and enjoying the ride. Although not notable, the scenery we travelled through was pleasant rolling hills and very green.
Limoges is a hilly city, in the southwestern foothills of France's central mountains. The River Vienne passes through the city and in medieval times Limoges was where the river crossing was.
The city has lots of history and many old gothic buildings. The streets were generally very clean, the roads and parks well-tended. The terrain and the temperature was a little challenging to us, especially dragging our bags from the train to our temporary home there. We had been travelling for a month and according to the app on our phone we had walked over 270 kms since we left home. The exercise certainly helped us cope with these challenges.
Like most of provincial France the commerce of the town stops dead on Saturday afternoon for the weekend, even most of the cafes and bars seemed to be shut up especially on Sunday. We arrived on the Saturday afternoon and buying the few stores we needed was a bit of a challenge.
The lesson was that in future while in France we would try to avoid weekend travel.
On the day we arrived, the peaceful rustic atmosphere of the city continued until around 7.30pm. It was the day France won the final of the FIFA World Cup and all hell broke loose.
From what we can gather we were very lucky to be in quiet conservative Limoges. What we saw on TV gave us the impression that all of France would be celebrating for days. Apart from a few extra horn toots, the local celebrations were all over by around 10pm.
The explanation for this is that the sport of choice for the locals of Limoges is basketball and with typical French enthusiasm that is what the locals follow.
The city is not large compared to some of the places we have visited (the population from the 2016 census was 283,557) and we were able to cover all the bits we wanted to see on foot. The hot temperatures and hilly terrain slowed us down a bit, but new sights always seem to spur us on. There are quiet, picturesque walkways on both sides of the river. The southern one has paintings of local interest spaced along its length, reminiscent of our own Graeme Mudge's work.
The history of the city dates back to 10 BC. The Pont Martial was built on the site of an old Roman bridge which was built in the 12th century and the Pont Etienne was built in the 13th century to reduce the traffic on the Pont Martial Bridge.
The traffic on these bridges which were designed for horse-drawn and foot traffic are now only for pedestrians.
Visiting these medieval cities and seeing the monuments to the technology the people developed makes us realise how short the populated history of New Zealand is.
The history of Limoges includes the production of enamels, which were exported throughout the Christian world. In 1765 during the industrial revolution a deposit of kaolin, or China clay, was discovered in the region which marked the beginning of the Limoges porcelain industry which continues to this day.
It is known as the “capital of the arts of fire” because of the porcelain houses and its art workshops which also work with enamel and stained glass.
Rain was forecast the day of our departure from Limoges but it didn't happen and the trip although a little cool, was a doddle. As we had dragged our cases up the hill from the station on arrival, the return hike was downhill all the way.
Our spirits were high, Bourges was in our sights, another city, full of new places to visit and people to meet . . .
To be continued