The nights are drawing in, we’re all reaching for our winter coats and the trashy TV scheduling has started in earnest.
Know what this means? It’s time to plan a weekend away. If you’re low on ideas for weekend getaways, look to Limoges - aka France’s China capital - only a short 90 minute flight away.
Sure to some readers, Limoges may sound like a tame choice but be honest: wouldn’t you love to be enjoying a woozy weekend across the channel rather than yet another Saturday stuck on the sofa watching Strictly...
Decided to go? Good. The best way to get an initial take on this often overlooked area of south west France is to stroll along a street such as Rue de la Boucheriewhich is remnant of an older, unspoilt world. The wood panel houses on Boucherie Street were - as its name suggests - once home to acornucopia of butchers’ shops. Walking along the cobbled streets offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Limoges locals: it’s the kind of townwhere everyone seems to have nothing to do save for sit in the square and sip a cafe au lait. And as the saying goes: if you can’t beat em, join ‘em...
Fortified by a flaky almond croissant and coffee, wander to Saint Etienne Cathedral for an interior so sumptuous it could convert you to Catholicism and then admire the Pinterest perfect vistas from the nearby chateau of rolling pastures and pretty villages.
Of course it’s china that is arguably Limoges’ biggest draw: the city has been producingporcelain for more than 200 years. Traditional workshops dedicated to this craft line the streets so lovers of Limoges porcelain will have plenty of opportunity to purchase plates and tea cups to complete their collection. But if you want to learn a little about the background of Limoges pottery, make a beeline for the Bernardaud porcelain factory which offers year round guided tours of its workshops. Unlike a conventional museum, visitors are encouraged to touch objects, look closely at the tools on display and try their hand at this craft.
But it’s not all about porcelain: Limoges is also known for its enamel (called Oeuvre de Limoges). Our group spent a not to be missed afternoon at the Maison de l’Email making our own enamel medallions. Filling in the cavities in the slab of copper with enamel powder, which then sets during firing, proved to be an enjoyable if patience testing process. Pierre-Auguste Renoir - the celebrated innovative Limoges born painter - I am not.
Still any painting frustrations were forgotten later that night over a fabulous dinner at the buzzy Au P’tit Journal. Food isn’t just for mealtimes in Limoges: it’s a culture of its own and carnivores will want to try Veau sous la mer (calf bred under its mother) and Cul noir pig (named so owing to the black colour of its hindquarters) - two meaty treats . You could wash your dinner down with wine yet while Limoges is well known for its grape varieties don’t pass up the chance to try Le Feuillardier. This sweet chestnut (the chestnut tree is a symbol of the Limousin region) liqueur is utterly delectable - so much so that our group couldn’t resist the urge to buy a few bottles to stuff into suitcases.
Visiting this ghost village, whose burnt out dolls' prams serve as a shocking reminder of the children killed during the massacre, is harder than you could ever imagine. But visit you must: not only out of respect but out of necessity. For as the great philosopher George Santayanas once said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Essentially Limoges is a perfect mix of historical poignancy and porcelain treasures - may it never change.
NEED TO KNOW
Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Limoges, with fares from as little as £19.99 (one way)
Where to stay
For style on a shoe string, check into the l’Inter Hôtel Saint-Martial on Rue Armand Barbes. The all smiling staff are sharp, on it and forever polite while the rooms boast deceptively comfortable beds: one night I actually slept for eight hours- something, as a stressed out freelance journo, I’d forgotten was even possible.