A stay in Limousin: a place of land and food
Absolute paradise for those seeking a "nature stay", the Limousin region is a land of valleys and woods where the luxurious countryside is punctuated with waterways. The strong culinary traditions of this region make it perfect for a gastronomic break.
Since 1994, Laurence and Alain Bergaud have been running the INTER-HOTEL les Coquelicots, an authentic 3-star hotel in Saint-Pardoux-l'Ortigier, neighbouring Brive-la-Gaillarde. Alain Bergaud speaks about this town which, since time immemorial, has been open to the world and was the historic divide between northern and southern France. Its strategic position increases the accessibility of this sometimes isolated region: "People can come from anywhere in France," says Alain Bergaud. "But in spite of being open to the world, the region has managed to retain its own character."
Laurence and Alain Bergaud,
managers of the INTER-HOTEL les Coquelicots
A gastronomic break in Limousin
"Our favourite places are often those we live in," adds the hotelier. It's the authenticity of the region that drew Alain Bergaud in where, "the people are reminiscent of the land: southern (Brive is the Limousin "gateway to the south"), mountain dwellers (close to Haute-Corrèze), affable and, above all, very attached to a certain art of living."
Here, "tourism is found on the plate," he says. This region is the ideal spot for a gastronomic break. Situated at the crossroads of Quercy, Dordogne and Limousin," it basks in the abundance of the land: beef, with the calf reared on its mother's milk, lamb, "cul noir" pork, foie gras and fillet. Not to mention Limousin hotpot, mushrooms, trout and the famous black cherry clafourtis.
"This culinary culture is in my blood," says Laurence Bergaud, a great cook. You can savour the culinary dishes of Limousin during a stay at the INTER-HOTEL Les Coquelicots. The importance of the land is also evident in the number of regional markets such as the St. Yirieix la Perche cattle market and the Brive 'fat fairs' that take place four times a year selling fillets, foie gras and other capons.
Limousin: a family nature break in a land of legends
More than just a gastronomic region, Limousin is a land of relaxation and greenery: in this region you will find "a healthy and authentic rhythm, a far cry from mass tourism and traffic jams," says Alain Bergaud.
In the area surrounding the town of Guéret lies the forest of Chabrières where a number of paths reveal stones said to be stones of legends. One evening, you may choose to hear the "spells of the full moon" (Sortilèges de la Pleine lune) by taking part in a travelling story festival offering participants the chance to meet the wolves in the Monts de Guéret zoo. Further afield in the valleys of Gartempe and Creuse, you can lose yourself in the enormous labyrinth of Guéret (the largest in the world), formed from permanent vegetation. Solve the puzzles to leave this 3-mile maze... the perfect game for the whole family.
Forêt de Chabrières ©Creuse Oxygène
Limousin is also perfect for practising sport: open air sports (hiking, horse rising, fishing, golf, mountain biking) with over 350 miles of marked-out paths across Creuse, watersports, and for those who enjoy a dose of fresh air, paragliding and other "aerial" sports.
A rich and varied cultural heritage
If you wish to add a cultural flavour to your Limousin stay, venture off the beaten track where you will find numerous hamlets nestled in verdant settings such as the ancient viscountcy of Collonges-la-Rouge, 'one of the most beautiful villages in France'.
"Brive-la-Gaillarde is a very pleasant and popular town," continues Alain Bergaud. Its spectacular architecture means that 17 buildings are classed as "historical monuments."
The town of Saint-Junien has chosen to promote its heritage by sprinkling its roads with signposts, all translated into the Occitan language. They retrace the town's key historical events. A natural site dedicated to Camille Corot on the banks of the Glane commemorates Limousin's abundant nature which inspired the major Impressionist painters for many years.
Limoges near Feytiat is also worth seeing. It's the capital of the arts of the fire and its porcelain and enamel industry has made it internationally famous over the years. When wandering the streets of Limoges, stop off at the Bénédictins station, regarded as one of the most beautiful stations in Europe. And the picturesque "butcher's village" (village de a Boucherie) neighbourhood dating back to the Middle Ages echoes with the power of times gone by. There, you will find a museum presenting the professional, family and religious life of a butcher from the Middle Ages.
City of Limoges
And don't forget to drop in on Bessines-sur-Gartempe just 18 miles from Limoges. Admire the Saint-Léger church whose frontage and roof are listed as historical monuments. Then head to La Souterraine. Situated on the Santiago de Compostela route, the Notre-Dame church points the way for pilgrims via its white bell tower. Finally, end your break in the south of the region in Tulle whose arts and popular traditions museum retraces the history of the town and its arts and crafts. Troubadour country, Limousin will surprise you with the beauty of its landscapes and its local cuisine.