Recently, I travelled to Limoges in the foothills of the northern Aquitaine region of France. Traditionally known as a butcher (breeding of sheep and cows) and manufacture town, Limoges has sustained its graceful position from the late 18th Century as a capital of “fire arts” – enamel, porcelain, and oak barrels made for Cognac and Bordeaux. It continues to attract visitors and luxury brands alike with its know-how and natural resources. And it was designated “City of Arts and History” by the French Ministry of Culture in 2008.
Never had I imagined visiting this city! Speaking with friends and meeting locals, I decided to take 24hrs to explore, despite the rain. Here are my favorite discoveries:
Musée national Adrien Dubouché – Cité de la Céramique: The video presentation on the ground floor of this circular museum – that boasts the largest permanent collection of Limoges porcelain in the world – is of incredible beauty. It provides an educational and visual understanding of the craft and its passionate artisans. A curated exhibit from Antiquity artifacts to contemporary creations takes you on a fascinating journey through French and world heritage. A must and perfect introduction to the next place…
Bernardaud: Fine homes in all parts of the world are proud to design or display their Bernardaud or Haviland tableware. I only made it to the first maison, and what a pleasure to find that the decoration is still in the hands of skilled artists located in the ateliers dating back to 1863 at the center of town. A walking tour offers a behind the scenes view on this fine art.
I really enjoyed feeling the raw materials and watching our host mould a teapot handle, as she introduced the Bernardaud family history and savoir-faire. The tour ends with a gallery of limited editions by world-renowned artists and exhibition of contemporary artists’ showcasing their modern interpretation of ceramics.
Gare des Bénédictins (train station), built in 1929: the rain didn’t stop me from rushing in and out of this registered historic monument to capture the look and feel.
Quartier Boucherie (Butcher’s quarter): A traditional freshly-fried beignet in hand from the nearby central market Les Halles, and off you go exploring this charming area of timbered buildings that remind me of a combination of Bayonne in the Basque country and Normandie. Independent shops, antiques, bookstore, bars and restaurants… await.
Epicerie des Halles: This is what I truly love about travelling – spots recommended by locals. I discovered this small shop thanks to a conversation I had with a lady who owned a nearby boutique. In this foodie hideaway, steps from Les Halles, one can find niche produce made by former urbanites, whilst a friend of the owner cooks up a simple menu daily in the back, and locals exhibit their photos in the hall. Love it!
Tom & Lulu concept store: I spent an hour chatting with Lulu inside her store (26, rue Adrien Dubouché). We spoke of actors she’d met in Limoges, the arts scene, local eateries, plus what she enjoys locally – while her adolescent son lingered around, late for his hair appointment. Walk-in and find off the beaten path gifts, bio teas, home products, fashion, children’s toys, cushions, and her own line of porcelain and ceramics! Creative haven.
Bonus: Lulu mentioned that her favorite place to seek modern porcelain – aside from her own atelier – is at the outlet store of Sylvie Coquet, 20 mn out of town (18 Avenue de Limoges, 87400 Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat). Coquet is apparently the only woman at the head of a porcelain manufacture locally. Her creativity sounds inspiring and she likes to take up challenges from great chefs.
Philippe Redon & La Fabrique du Café: Street food is fabulous at times to soak up the local atmosphere and people watch, sitting on a bench. And that is just what I wanted once I spotted the take out window facing the restaurant of Philippe Redon (14, rue A. Dubouché). His take on a salmon sandwich, and fromage blanc with apple crumble, was original – now time for a coffee. And the owner of L’Epicerie des Halles had told me about La Fabrique du Café. If you want to talk at a bar with a world-travelled barista, over a freshly brewed Columbian coffee, this is the place. The back room is half lounge – half vintage. Once I mentioned my coffee spots in Paris, he offered me several business cards of where to sip the best coffees in Bordeaux! Love it.
The St. Michel des Lions church: Gothic style, high vaulted ceilings, sculpted plaster and the 15th century stainglass inside the majestic monument at the heart of the shopping district.
And last but not least, Le Huit-Sept Limoges: I include this gallery – concept store based on locals’ recommendations, though it was closed (sacré lunch time!) when I dropped by. A mix of exhibits for emerging artists, talks, design, accessories and vintage. Right up my alley for next time.
Bye bye Limoges… I just may be back one day!
Tried it. Loved it. Shared it.