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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.

History dates back to 10 BC

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

Pont Saint Etienne: This medieval bridge of the 13th century is one of the best preserved in France. It is 120m long and supported by seven uneven arches. All pictures by Phil Newdick
The Pont de la Revolution road bridge of the Vienne River which connects Limotes to its southern district. Built in 1885, it is a semi-circular arch bridge constrtucted of stone.
River weir seen from the river walk. These weirs are small dams built across rivers to control the upstram water level.
Early start: The Cathedral of Saint-Étienne de Limoges is the main cburch of Limoges. Building started in 1273 and was not completed until 1888. It is one of the most remarkable buildings in Limoges.
ROUNDABOUT: Since 1989 the carousel of Limoges in the Place de la Republique has been an ideal place to entertain children. It is sheltered from the rain and heated in winter.
The Hotel De Ville (Limoges lavish town hall) was completed in 1893. It was paid for from a legacy left by a wealth citizen. In the middle of the square in front of the entrance to the building is a fountain of porcelain, bronze and granite.
Street fresco created by Arno for the farmers of Limoges.
The Adrien-Dubouche National Museum is a French national museum on LImoges porcelain and the history of ceramics. Founded in 1845, the ceramics and earthenware museum in an elegant 1800s building exhibits include 12,000 pieces of Limoges china.
RAIL HUB: Benedictins station, the main railway station of Limoges. Opened in 1929, it replaced a wooden structure built in 1850. The station is unique because it was built over the 10 railway lines, not next to them.
Classic: All Blacks store in Limoges. The world's first boutique 100 percent dedicated to the legendary NZ team. The store's collection includes clothing and accessories that honour the achievements of the past and celebrate New Zealand's rugby heritage.
The Limoges Court of Appeal is an impressive building in one of hte main squares, The Place d'Aine.