We arrived in Limoges, after a meandering kind of day in the French countryside. What better place to stop for the night than the veritable throne of porcelain!
As the proud owner of my grandmother’s elegant Haviland Limoges china, I certainly was familiar with the name; yet we had no idea about the character of the city. We followed our ‘norm’ and visited the Office of Tourism, checked into a hotel and set off to discover the city.
We wound our way down to the Vienne River and along the grassy remains of the town ramparts. We found our way to the exceptionally beautiful Hôtel de Ville, a 19th-century Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Leclerc, who also was the architect of Trianon and the Palace of Versailles. A clock with the image of Limoges is in the center of the stately façade, and two figures represent the goldsmith and enamellist. It is simply one of those breathtaking sights that make you marvel at the combination of intricate design and excellent craftsmanship.
So often the case as we explored a new city or region, we happened upon a delightful square – the historic Place de la Motte, home to the sprawling Les Halles central market. And what a remarkable view, as we enjoyed lunch beneath a canopy of canvas umbrellas. Across from our location, “trompe l’œil” paintings transformed buildings with flat, expressionless lines. They came to life under the artist’s brush, creating windows and shutters and alcoves that did not exist. In fact, we enjoyed and felt familiar with this Place; and after more exploring along pedestrian lanes and porcelain shops, we returned for dinner and dessert.
After spending so few waking hours in the city, we really weren’t able to define Limoges in our minds, as we can with cities we have come to know – like Aix, Lyon, Avignon and – mais oui – Paris! We will simply have to return for a longer stay, to walk more along the banks of the river, to discover little gardens among the half-timbered homes, to let Limoges reveal her personality.
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