Sunday, September 19, 2021

Day trips by train: Limoges.

The landmark Gare des Bénédictins.
The landmark Gare des Bénédictins.
Limoges, the capital of the former Limousin region, an hour by train from Brive. Entering the city through its landmark 'Gare des Bénédictins' (1), take some time to marvel at the art-deco glass windows, the lines of the dome.

Once outside, you can appreciate its distinct 60 meter high clock tower and adjacent park with its fountains. Though the station opened in 1929, the design of its structure predates the art-deco ideas, and was revolutionary because it was build over the railway lines, instead of next to them. The result was a very large hall topped with a metal dome and copper roof.

The interior is art-deco inspired by the Limousin: chestnut and oak leaves in the metal work, statues dedicated to the four provinces served by the station and references to the world famous Limoges' porcelain industries.'
Map of Limoges.
Map of Limoges.
La Ville Haute
Leaving the station behind you will find Limoges a surprisingly walkable'city, the third city in France to be awarded the full 'four leaves' under the Ville Fleurie label: the fountains of the Champ de Juillet are the first of 18 and the park only a small part of the 680 ha of maintained green spaces and over 300 protected remarkable trees in the urban environment. Turn left at the end of the park to reach the tourist office via the Place Jourdan to pick-up a city map, or walk straight to the historic centre of the Ville Haute. Even with a map you should prepare for some searching as the plan does not follow a modern grid.
Les halles centrales.
Les halles centrales.
Roads, alleys and buildings do not seem to follow any particular orientation. The church of Saint-Michel-des-Lions (2) is for example worth a visit but has entrances on 3 sides making it a passage way from the pedestrian streets to the Place de la Motte with its 19th century metal structured covered market. Les halles centrales (3), built between 1885 and 1889, are a very fine example of late 19th century architecture (open Tuesday to Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Thursday to Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
The Verdurier pavilion.
The Verdurier pavilion.
The Verdurier pavilion (4) was built in 1919 (architect Roger Gonthier; same as the Gare des Bénédictins). An octagonal building adorned with mosaics and porcelain stoneware, originally a refrigerated market, it served as a bus station for 30 years. Listed as a historical monument in 1975, was restored by the City in 1978 and became an exhibition space. The Cour du temple (5), connects rue du Temple to the rue du Consulat through a covered corridor. A beautiful 16th century ensemble of granite and half-timbered mansions, decorated with arcaded galleries and an elegant Renaissance staircase.
A must-visit is the butchers quarter.
A must-visit is the butchers quarter.
A must-visit is the butchers quarter(6) surrounding the rue de la Boucherie, with its well preserved medieval wood-framed houses, butchers house and very peculiar chapel of Saint Aurélien, guardian saint to the butchers. The chapel dates back to the 14th century and still supports a wood clad roof and tower. Looking around at all the wood you get a feel of a medieval town, and immediately understand why so little of this type of city-scape survived the fires, revolutions and 'modernization'. The chapel was sold-off after the revolution as a nationalized asset, but bought back by the butchers brotherhood who owns it till this day and continue the worship of Saint Aurélien. Though privately owned the chapel is open to the public.
The Saint Etienne cathedral on the bank of the Vienne river.
The Saint Etienne cathedral on the bank of the Vienne river.
La Cité
From the 'Ville Haute' it is a small walk to a second historic area surrounding the Saint Etienne cathedral(7) on the bank of the Vienne river. Wood-framed houses flank the streets that lead uphill towards to the cathedral,Musée de Beaux-Arts and the botanical gardens (8). In 1370 the Cité opened its gates to the ‘French’ (Capetian) whiles the city stayed loyal to the Angevin (‘English’), this did not end well for the Cité that was largely destroyed after a siege.
Musée de Beaux-Arts and the botanical gardens.
Musée de Beaux-Arts and the botanical gardens.
The Saint Etienne cathedral was (re)constructed over a 600 years period in a mixture of styles, prominent are the early attempt at flying buttresses with relatively small openings between the cathedral walls and massive blocks of counterweight towards the outside. Water from the roof is channeled through the buttresses away from the building to exit through the mouths of dog-like ornaments sticking out over the sides. Restoration brought back some of the colorful interior decorations providing an insight into how colorful and elaborately decorated medieval churches ones were.
Colorful and elaborately decoration of the Saint Etienne cathedral.
Colorful and elaborately decoration of the Saint Etienne cathedral.
When we visited, the museum had spilled over into the botanical gardens with a temporary exhibition of sculptures. The botanical garden provides space for 3000 different plant species and has a great view over the Vienne river and towards the old Saint Etienne bridge. The area around the bridge (dating back to 1203) is pleasantly green and here you can hike over the banks of the river towards the Saint Martial bridge and walk back on the opposite side. Or walk upstream towards theMusée du four des Casseaux (9), located next to the 'Royal Limoges' factory.

This part of the river banks was ones the place were 'rafts' made of wood from the upstream forested areas would arrive for use in the large numbers of porcelain kilns that produced the world famous 'Limoges'.
There are a number of producers within the city.
There are a number of producers within the city.
Porcelain
Many references in the street and buildings, market, exhibition, kilns. Though the number of kilns has gone down and the use of charcoal has stopped, a select number still thrive. The kiln of Casseaux was constructed in 1884 and operated till 1995. The kiln and factory were declared a national (industrial) heritage and transformed into a museum.
Musée National Adrien Dubouché.
Musée National Adrien Dubouché.
For those interested in Limoges porcelain the dedicated Musée National Adrien Dubouché(10) has the largest collection in the world. For those interested in buying there are a number of producers within the city (in alphabetic order):

Bernardaud (27, avenue Albert Thomas), Bruno Mercier (1, boulevard Louis Blanc), Harviland – Pavillon de la porcelaine (3, avenue du Président Kennedy), Morpho blue (14 rue de la Boucherie), Perl porcelaine et recherche de Limoges (9, boulevard Louis Blanc), Porcelaine Arquie Limoges (3, rue Font Pinot), Porcelaines Lachaniette (27, boulevard Louis Blanc), Raynaud Limoges (14, ancienne route d'Aixe), Salamandre – Porcelaine de Limoges (5, rue Haut Cité).

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Detourism: Bordeaux.

Take the TGV straight from Charles De Gaulle Airport.
Take the TGV straight from Charles De Gaulle Airport.
Avoiding Paris

For those who would like to visit the south-west of France but avoid the hassle and pressures of Paris, we highly recommend you to visit Bordeaux, southwest of France. With over a million inhabitants, the metropolitan area of Bordeaux has a pleasant atmosphere with 'everything you did hope to find in Paris’ without many of its draw-backs.

Find out more in our earlier posts; You are not a wine lover?! Day trips by train: Bordeaux (1) and You are a wine lover?! Daytrips by train: Bordeaux (2). To visit the vineyard outside the city, have time to explore the museums or sample the nightlife, you should spend a few nights in Bordeaux. Spend a day our two in Bordeaux on your way-in or out!
Bordeaux Saint Jean train station.
Bordeaux Saint Jean train station.
TGV from Charles De Gaulle International Airport
You can take the TGV (High-speed train) straight from the Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris (CDG) and reach Bordeaux in about 3.5 hrs.

Trains leave from the TGV train station in terminal 2 of the airport. You can book your tickets in advance online through: https://oui.sncf/en .

Select: [Train]. From: [Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport]. To: [Bordeaux (FR)(New Aquitaine)]. Booking up to 3 months in advance will get you great deals.
TGV train station in terminal 2 of the airport.

TGV train station in terminal 2 of the airport.

Fly to Bordeaux from many European destinations
Ones you include Bordeaux into your travel plans many destinations in Europe are just a short flight away. And the "Terminal billi" is specially dedicated to low-cost airlines EasyJet, Ryanair and WizzAir! Look-out for great offers! Some of the destinations served are:

Destinations

Marseille (France)

London (UK)

Nice (France)

Madrid (Spain)

Strasbourg (France)

Malaga (Spain)

Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Milan (Italy)

Barcelona (Spain)

Porto (Portugal)

Basel (Switzerland)

Prague (Czech Republic)

Berlin (Germany)

Rome (Italy)

Brussels (Belgium)

Tenerife (Spain)

Lisbon (Portugal)

Venice (Italy)



Please check full flight schedules at: www.bordeaux.aeroport.fr/en

Bordeaux airport is served by airport coaches connecting with the city centre and the St.Jean train station. Cheapest way has been the bus (line 1) a single ticket €1.70 OR a 1 day pass €5.00, if you would stay like to spend few days in the city of Bordeaux. The extension of tram line A is supposed to reach the airport any time now, keep you eyes open as this would be a real improvement.
Direct train to Terrasson, easy & comfortable.
Direct train to Terrasson, easy & comfortable.
How to get from Bordeaux to Terrasson?
There is a direct train to Terrasson (2 hrs, route 25 via Périgueux to the direction of Brive-la-Gaillarde), it’s easy & comfortable.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Day trips by train: Bordeaux (2).

Saint-Emilion is a beautiful little town.
Saint-Emilion is a beautiful little town.
You are a wine lover?! You are in luck. Bordeaux is the dynamic capital of the Nouvelle- Aquitaine region at the heart of the vineyards. Taking the early train, Bordeaux is a 2 hours train ride away from Terrasson, and heading back by the end of the afternoon will give you enough time to explore the historic center. To visit the vineyard outside the city, have time to explore the museums or sample the nightlife, you should spend a few nights in Bordeaux. Spend a day our two in Bordeaux on your way-in or out (see detourism post). Leave your luggage at the consignes counter of the Saint Jean train station and explore Bordeaux lightweight!
Map of Bordeaux wine area.
Map of Bordeaux wine area.
The Bordeaux wine area is divided into five sub-regions: Médoc, Graves, Entre-deux-Mers, Rive Droite and Sauternes, all benefit from the same temperate oceanic climate. As the saying goes; ‘Le merlot fait le beau, le cabernet fait le bouquet, le teinturin fait le vin.’ The main red grape varieties in the region are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. A teinturin grape is a red wine grape with dark skins and flesh, also known as malbec. The three white grape varieties are Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle. This mixture of grape varieties is at the core of the Bordeaux vs. Bourgogne ideological divide.
Theatricality of the wine-growing chateau.
Theatricality of the wine-growing chateau.
Bordeaux vs. Bourgogne
Having more than one grape variety is one way of making corrections. I am opposed to artifices which allow repentance. I like the idea that a grape variety is a key, the unique key that opens up a terroir and allows it to reach its truth and mystery.’ *

Burgundy is the French wine par excellence, it corresponds to the French idea of what a good wine should be. Bordeaux is often seen as ‘foreign’, characterized by order and balance. It represents measure, symmetry and domestication of nature. Bordeaux appellations makes no allusion to the ‘terroir’. It is the owner who marks the quality of the vintage, producing wines in accordance with the reputation of the chateau. Cosmopolitan, international and quality viticulture: shared belief in progress and investment. But there is also a certain form of theatricality in the wine-growing chateau, invented by the Bordelaise to market their wine.

If Bordeaux is the product of a human-will, this opposes burgundy’s ideal of a prevailing terroir, openness to nature, mystery or spontaneousness. Invented and sculpted by man the Bordeaux vineyards are a real garden at the cost of draining and moving soil. Burgundy presents itself as a vineyard of its unchanging terroirs. Bordeaux is a blended wine, Burgundy is married to its Pinot Noir. Bordeaux pragmatism of vs. Burgundy idealism?

Almost every classified cru has changed hands since the original 1855 classification. Since the turn of the century tycoons, investors, moguls and the world wide nouveau riche have descended on the Bordeaux vineyards. An excellent bourgeois or grand cru has become more of a commodity.
The Cité du Vin.
The Cité du Vin.
Wine in the city
Fortunately, Bordeaux wine is not limited these snobbish hundred or so ‘star labels’. Those represent only 4,000 out of a total of 115,000 ha. Surrounding the city there are over 7,000 chateaux vineyards. Together, they produce more than 10,000 different Bordeaux wines. And if you widen your scope you will find the vineyards extending into the Côtes de Duras and Côtes du Marmandais. And particularly the ‘rive droit’ bordering Bergerac wine area, with its appelations Montravel, Rosette and Pécharmant that can take on Saint-Émilion, and its Monbazillac equaling Sauternes.

In Bordeaux, the wine merchants (cellar men) offer you thousands of references, red, rosés, whites, crémants. There are some 250 guided tours of the city, its vineyards and its wine. If this is what you are looking for, the website of the tourist office (https://www.bordeaux-tourisme.com) is a good place to start. Bordeaux world is famous for it’s wine production, but there are no vineyards or wine makers in the city itself, two ‘wine destinations in the city stand-out.

The Cité du Vin
Bordeaux has gone through a remarkable transformation since the days it was known as ‘the black pearl of the Aquitaine’. Under mayor (and former Prime Minister) Juppé decades old dossiers on public transport, markets and infrastructure started to move. But Bordeaux was also in need for modern statement architecture to mark its maritime entrance. A High-tech ‘cathedral of glass and metal, curved and rounded, where with the help of innovative technologies, visitors will be able to discover ancestral savoir-faire’, ‘a place to celebrate wine, its culture, its economy, its traditions, and the men and women who produce it.’ The architects were given the explicit instruction not to construct a traditional wine cellar or wine barrel, the building ‘evokes the swirling of wine in a glass’. Reserve 2 hours to visit and end at the roof terrace to sample a glass of wine.

Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux
Close to the Les Hangars (Médoc) river ferry stop this museum is everything the Cité du Vin does not like to be. Old equipment representing 2000 years of wine production in the region, housed in the building of the royal broker of Louis XV. Discover three centuries of history and fame in the vaulted cellars built in 1720. The Museum offers; Self-guided tour with tasting of 2 Bordeaux wines(€ 10.00), Wine workshops (€ 40.00) and a 3-hour guided tour: Bordeaux city center + Tasting of 4 wines (€49.00).
Guided tours of the vineyards and its wine.
Guided tours of the vineyards and its wine.
Excursions to the vineyards
To visit the surrounding vineyards the tourist office in Bordeaux offers half day and full day tours, they include visits to chateaux, vineyards and villages like Saint-Émilion to taste the famous Bordeaux wines.
No other wine is associated with its ‘city’ the way Saint-Émilion is.
No other wine is associated with its ‘city’ the way Saint-Émilion is.
Saint-Émilion
‘Saint-Émilion is maybe too much: too immaculate, too typical, too glorious, too opulent, too touristy. Saint-Emilion is a beautiful city ... The only thing one can find fault it with is its lack of mystery.’**

The quote above is from 1989… today Saint-Émilion has become the ‘bucket-list’ destination of the global globetrotter class. Do not worry if you not like french food, you will find tapas- and sushi-bars, and if you do not like wine, the ‘Irish pub’ will pour you a pint of Guinness. Asian women in school-girl coseplay-outfits…

No other wine is associated with its ‘city’ the way Saint-Émilion is, perfectly placed for the 80’s tourism – product promotion trend it is slowly becoming self-defeating. Tourists attracting tourist services and facilities, which in turn attract more tourists.

Ligne du Médoc
For the independent traveler train line 42 Bordeaux – Macau – Point de Grave (Ligne du Médoc) travels through the Médoc vineyards with stations in Pauillac and Margaux.
Excursions to the vineyards.
Excursions to the vineyards.
Wine Marathon
“Wine Marathon” for all you Marathon enthusiasts and tasteful people!!!

'The world's most idiotic Marathon (according to the UK telegraph): ”Who could possibly have thought it a good idea to combine a 26.2-mile run with a feast of oysters, cheese, entrecôte and foie gras, all washed down with up to 23 glasses of wine? Well, the French, of course.'

The Marathon du Medoc (www.marathondumedoc.com/en/) runs through the vineyards every September, registration opens in March!

References

*) Burgundy winemaker quoted in Kaufmann, 1992. As published in: Tentative d’autocritique Bordeaux-Bourgogne. In: Kauffmann J-P, 2014. Voyage à Bordeaux.

**) Voyage to Bordeaux, 1989. In: Kauffmann J-P, 2014. Voyage à Bordeaux

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Day trips by train: Bordeaux (1).

Built on the banks of the Garonne river, city of art and history.
Built on the banks of the Garonne river, city of art and history.

You are not a wine lover?! Actually, the city of Bordeaux has much more to offer! We highly recommend you to visit this gem in southwest of France. After Paris, it has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France. 

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux.
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux.
Built on the banks of the Garonne river, richly & beautifully decorated with Gothic style churches, medieval monuments, 18th centenary architectures, and Europe's longest pedestrian shopping street.

Map of Bordeaux.
Map of Bordeaux.
With over a million inhabitants, the metropolitan area of Bordeaux is also the sixth-largest city in France. Its center has a pleasant atmosphere with 'everything you did hope to find in Paris’ without many of its draw-backs. Museums, bronze sculptures, fountains, places gardens, public art, culinary markets, luxurious brands, artisans and designers shops and a thousand bars, cafes and restaurants of local and international cuisines.
Richly & beautifully decorated with Gothic style churches, medieval monuments, 18th centenary architectures.
Richly & beautifully decorated with Gothic style churches, medieval monuments, 18th centenary architectures.
World Heritage
Bordeaux, city of art and history, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provides day tours, gourmet trails, initiations of Bordeaux wine tasting and visits to wine storehouses in the city. The Water Mirror (Miroir d’Eau) in front of Place de la Bourse together is a ‘must photo taking spot’!
Monument aux Girondins, Quinconces.
Monument aux Girondins, Quinconces.
The historic Bordeaux Cathedral, Church of the Holy Cross, Monument aux Girondins, Gothic style St. Michel & Peu Berland tower are stunning and enchant you with fantasy. Porte de Caihau, La Gross Cloche (Fat bell) are adorable and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is breath-taking… and the list doesn’t end!
The Bassins de Lumières.
The Bassins de Lumières.
Art & Culture
Bordeaux is a city of art & culture with the Aquitaine Museum, Musée des Beaux-Arts, CAPC musée d'art contemporain, Musée National des Douanes, Musée des Arts Décoratifs et du Design, and many public art pieces… You will be well satisfied, if you are an art lover! Outside the center the Bassins de Lumières (7) is housed in the giant German WW2 submarine base bunker. The largest Centre d’Art Numérique (and sometimes size does make a difference) has changing exhibitions/experiences. The easiest way to get there is by bus 9 from ‘Brandenburg ’, take tram B till one stop passed the Cité du vin (8).
Marché des Capucins.

Marché des Capucins.

Shop & Eat

There are a thousand of bars, cafes & restaurants of local and international cuisines spread all over the metropolitan of Bordeaux. And shops of high-end brands or designers & artisan shops are all awaiting to be explored! The 'rue Sainte-Catherine', is a 1.2 km long pedestrian main shopping street. Marché des Capucins (6) is a covered market where you will find all kinds of fresh and preserved food to satisfy you eyes and taste buds.

The Water Mirror (Miroir d’Eau) in front of Place de la Bourse.
The Water Mirror (Miroir d’Eau) in front of Place de la Bourse.
Gardens
Bordeaux has a number of gardens, parks and green spaces, we mention here the central Jardin Public (4) from where you can walk to the Palais Gallien; Ruins of a roman amphitheater dating to the 3rd century (5).
Palais Gallien, ruins of a roman amphitheater.
Palais Gallien, ruins of a roman amphitheater.
Take tram A over the iconic Pont de pierre to Botanical garden (9). Also close to the terminal (Stalingrad pier) for the river ferry that connects to Quinconces - Les Hangars – (passes under the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas) - La Cité Du Vin - Lormont Bas terminal. The ferries are part of the public transport system, a great way to get a different view of the city, and use is included in the TBM-daypass.
The tram crossing the iconic Pont de pierre.
The tram crossing the iconic Pont de pierre.
Getting around
Bordeaux city is very easy and economic to explore. Thank to its users friendly public transportation system (TBM, Transports Bordeaux Métropole). The tram line covers most places in the metropolitan area of Bordeaux and you can hop on & off the tram as you like for a price of €5.00 (1 day /24h pass), while a 1 hour pass is €1.70.
One of many public art pieces, Stalingrad.
One of many public art pieces, Stalingrad.
Tickets are available from machines at all tram stops. On the other hand, many attractions are within walking distance, and will allow you to enjoy strolling the streets and alleyways. Our suggestion to those arriving at St. Jean train station: hop straight onto the tram (line C) to the center (Quinconces) where you will also find the tourist office.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Day trips by train: Cahors.

Views of Cahors from Le Mont Saint Cyr.
Views of Cahors from Le Mont Saint Cyr.
Cahors presents an attractive day trip or detour with its medieval city at its center and the surrounding vineyards. Take a themed walk and let the historic Valentré 'devil's' bridge tell its classic Faustian tale. Explore the architecture, secret gardens and St. Etienne cathedral. Or hop on a bus and explore the vineyards, chateaux and villages along the river Lot.
One of the Secret Gardens of Cahors.
One of the Secret Gardens of Cahors.
Cahors was the capital of pre-revolution Quercy and now of the Lot département. Founded by the Romans and Nostradamus studied here. Whiles you are in Cahors, make sure you sample some of the famous 'black wines of Cahors', you will be drinking history. Produced from Malbec grapes grown along the river Lot since Roman times.
Arriving at the train station of Cahors.
Arriving at the train station of Cahors.
Arriving at the train station of Cahors, less than an hour from Brive, you can take a bus to explore the vineyards (see the Vineyards of thesouth-west: AOC Cahors post) or walk into town. The train station is located in the 'modern' part of town and you have the option to follow the indicators to the tourist office to get to the medieval city, or walk to the close-by Valentré bridge (1). Icon of Cahors this 700 years old bridge was classified historic monument in 1840. The construction started in 1308 and finished by 1385. It is the best preserved example of a 'military architecture' bridge in France. The defensive system is based on 5 gates under 3 towers and 2 gatehouses. What catches the eye is the lack of machicoulis on the central tower. This is the subject of the Faustian tale:
The Valentré bridge; icon of Cahors.
The Valentré bridge; icon of Cahors.
Legend has it that the architect had to overcome great technical difficulties, so much so he called-in (or accepted) the help of the devil. In return for his soul, the devil assisted in the drawing and construction of the bridge on the agreement that the architect's soul would be his upon completion... The bridge was however never 'completed' … the devil being a bad loser attacked the central tower.

In 1879 a sculpture of the devil was added to the central tower as a reference to the legend. The statue is still there today.
Little sculpture of the devil.
Little sculpture of the devil.
La Fontaine des Chartreux
The birthplace of Cahors, the Fontaine des Chartreux (3)(a large natural well where an underground river comes to the surface), was a holy site dedicated to the Celtic goddess of water: Divona. Archaeological research brought to the surface roman coins dating back to the first centuries before and after Christ (yes, that strange habit of throwing coins into fountains goes way-back).
Fontaine des Chartreux; the birthplace of Cahors.
Fontaine des Chartreux; the birthplace of Cahors.
The Roman's decision to founded Divona Cadurcorum next to it was a typical decision based on the Roman worldview, as it was for the Christian order of the Chaterhouse to build their monastery right on top of it, that is how it got its current name. Since 1853 it has been supplying Cahors with drinking water, first through the pumping station now known as the Maison de l'eau (2), and since 1926 through the electric pumps installed in the little building next to the well.
Map of Cahors.
Map of Cahors.
Medieval town
This is the main attraction of Cahors, the old town can be found between the Boulevard Léon Gambetta on the west and the river Lot on the east. Its moat, wall and gates disappeared under the boulevard, but for the rest the original structure of small streets, alleys and courtyards has been well preserved. A program of restoration has been ongoing and some buildings stand out, but much remains a bit raw and to be discovered. La Halle de Cahors (8) dates back to 1865 and was recently renovated to meet modern standards is open Tuesday to Saturday 8:30AM–2PM, 3:30–7PM, Sunday morning (Monday’s closed) with a large selection of local produce on offer.
La Halle de Cahors

La Halle de Cahors.

Worth special mention are the Jean XXII tower (5), Chateau de Roi, Maison de la Rue Daurade and the Olivier-de-Magny square. The Saint-Etienne cathedral (6) has a shrine dedicated to St. Perboyre who after 4 years in Macau crossed into China in 1839. Despite his disguise, he was arrested, tortured and put to death on a cross by the Qing authorities in 1840. When visiting the cathedral look-up to admire the round decorated dooms and make sure not to miss the cloister on the right towards the back. Towards the river you find the Hôtel de Roaldès (also know as Maison Henry IV), Maison de Patrimoine, and the Hôtel de ville.
One of the Saint-Etienne cathedral decorated dooms.
One of the Saint-Etienne cathedral decorated dooms.
Today very little dating to roman times is visible; the Arc de Diane (4) stands a bit lost in the modern section of today's town, the ruins of the Roman amphitheater (7) can be found (and visited) in the underground car park next to the tourist office, entrance at the back of the Gambetta statue. Best views of the town can be had from Le Mont Saint Cyr (9) which is quite a climb and look right on when crossing the bridge to get a view of the Pont ferroviaire de Cahors (1883).
The ramparts or Barbacane.
The ramparts or Barbacane.
The ramparts
The city of Cahors has a clear medieval old town still recognizable today. The wall, moat and gates that ones protected this part have been demolished to make space for the Boulevard Léon Gambetta. A second (or first line of) defense has however been largely preserved. These ramparts run from the river on west to the river on east of the peninsula, that way creating an island protected largely by the river, and the wall. The ramparts date back to the 7th century and were reconstructed and improved upon in the 12th and 14th. On the eastern side the Barbacane and the St.-Jean (or hanging) tower form an interesting cluster of buildings. Enclosed you will find the Closelet des Croisades garden with plants that were brought back from the middle east like the Rose of Damascus, Myrtle, Agapanthus and peach.
The Secret Gardens of Cahors.

The Secret Gardens of Cahors.

The Secret Gardens of Cahors
Explore these 30 little gardens with their evocative names: The Garden of Inebriation, the Little Garden of the Poor Clares, the Garden of the Ladies of Cahors... etc. The Jardin de la Sorcière et du Dragon (the Garden of the Witch and the Dragon) is an enclosed garden with plants connected to sorcery and witchcraft. Get a free map from the tourism office.
La Villa Cahors Malbec.

La Villa Cahors Malbec.

La Villa Cahors Malbec (7)
Although there are plenty of restaurants, bars, terraces and shops where you can buy and sample Cahors wines around town. This visitor information and wine tasting center next to the tourist office invites the visitor to discover all about the wonderful wines of Cahors and their history. Run jointly by the Tourist Office and the Union of Cahors Wine Professionals it offers wine tasting and background information.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Day trips by train: Tulle.

Tulle is above all a city of civil servants, the train station.
Tulle is above all a city of civil servants, the train station.
Les gens de T(ulle) disent que’on pleure en y arrivant, et qu’on pleure en la quittant. C’est vrai pour beaucoup de fonctionnaires. Ils sont nommés à T(ulle)…’*

‘Tulle is above all a city of civil servants’ observed Denis Tillinac in his book: Spleen en Corrèze (1979). And ‘...must have many resources to make itself loved by the civil servant - because the civil servant, fundamentally, necessarily, is a stateless person, member of the great International of the bureaucracy …’. To understand, and appreciate, Tulle you have to accept it is a departmental capital that is essentially governed by ‘Paris’ and for-fills the responsibilities of the state.
The modern ‘Médiathèque Intercommunale Eric Rohmer’.

The modern ‘Médiathèque Intercommunale Eric Rohmer’.

It receives tasks, responsibilities and budgets that have to be implemented by qualified civil servants living in what they perceive as an exile. An exile in space and time, ‘... it deprives me of the rhythm of contemporary life’ wrote Denis. “… Along its murky river… Tomorrow will be yesterday, and my exile will be like Paradise Lost.’ The ‘perfect place to dream of Paris, or America’, America where they ‘burn the past like they burn gasoline ... We burn nothing, we save, we let Time sort out the useful and the useless, the solid and the inconsistent, the permanent and the ephemeral, certainties and randomness …’ an important insight walking around Tulle wondering if there is, at all, a plan to this? (And the short answer is: ‘No’ ).
Tulle is constructed on the banks of the Corrèze river in a narrow valley.

Tulle is constructed on the banks of the Corrèze river in a narrow valley.

Denis was a ‘localier’, a regional press journalist who does not work at the headquarters of his newspaper but from a local agency, writing the ‘local pages’ for La Gazette. The localier is locally known, ‘when they see us walking down the street with our camera, people say, "Hey, the journalist from La Gazette. There must be an accident somewhere."’. I read a few of his books, but reading Spleen en Corrèze made me so curious about Tulle so as to disregard the general negative advice. And with several direct trains a day connecting Terrasson and Tulle… what stops me?
Map of Tulle.
Map of Tulle.
‘... while attending the inauguration of the new gendarmerie. I met the usual bunch there: the prefect and the secretary general, the mayor of Tulle and two deputies, the prosecutor, the president of the Chamber de Commerce, the Commissioner of General Information… The same people, and a few others, meet in all the ceremonies, wines of honor, commemorations, inaugurations. The localiers are also there, by necessity with a notepad and a camera.’
Walking up one of the stairs and looking back.
Walking up one of the stairs and looking back at the historic center  of town.
Time to take my notepad and camera and explore Tulle. First impression did not ‘disappoint’, the train station (1) is located at half an hours walk from the ‘historic center’ and the mismatch of buildings is impressive. End 1900’s buildings line the street and recall the Belle Époque when the railroad arrived. The modern Médiathèque Intercommunale Eric Rohmer looks actually good, some 60s/70s concrete blocks a little less.
‘Cité administrative Jean Montalat’ complete with podium and pedestrian bridges.
‘Cité administrative Jean Montalat’ complete with podium and pedestrian bridges.
Tulle is constructed on the banks of the Corrèze river in a narrow valley. So space is limited and the shortest routes perpendicular the river are often stairways up the steep hillside. The highlight was a huge high-rise Cité administrative Jean Montalat (9) complete with podium and pedestrian bridges. A city within the city. It would not raise an eyebrow in any of the new towns on Hong Kong, but smack in the middle of Tulle…
Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Tulle.

Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Tulle.

Reaching the historic center we walked the heritage trail that starts at the Church of Saint Jean (2), towards a cluster of medieval buildings surrounding the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Tulle (4) with its cloister. The cloister museum had an interesting exhibition ‘Poincts en suspension’ by artist Annie Bascoul. The ‘poinct de Tulle’ (needle-point lace) is a combination of embroidery and its square ‘fishnet’ knotted mesh support. When the original hand knotted mesh is used it accentuates the embroidery on a slightly pecked background.
exhibition ‘Poincts en suspension’ by artist Annie Bascoul.

Exhibition ‘Poincts en suspension’ by artist Annie Bascoul.

The exhibition is a culmination of different projects supported by the city of Tulle since 2013. Several artists have been invited through residencies to create unique works that will; ‘bear witness to generations to come of the fertile dialogue between historical know-how and contemporary creation’. It was done in collaboration with the Association Diffusion Renouveau Poinct Tulle a group of friendly ladies who run a small workshop just next door.
14th century frescoes and a central vault with chevron design moldings.

14th century frescoes and a central vault with chevron design moldings.

Worth a mention are the Hôtel Lauthonie (3) and the Maison Loyac. We explored the neighborhood a bit and were surprised to find an (abandoned) Belgium Consulate. Somewhat surprised I looked for information and found a La Montagne article** online explaining how a Mr. Vackier had ran a hardware-store in Tulle since 1906, occupies himself with Belgium refugees during the first world war and by 1931 received the title of vice-councilor by royal appointment. By 1940 he found his loyalties split between king Léopold III’s surrender to Nazi-Germany, and the Belgium government’s decision to go into exile.
The (abandoned) Belgium Consulate.
The (abandoned) Belgium Consulate.
Here the story gets an intriguing twist when the Belgium King decides that Tulle, initially part of non occupied (Vinchy) France, would be a good place to shelter his three children from the war. So princes (and future kings) Boudewijn and Albert arrive, together with their sister princess Charlotte, an aunt of the king finds refuge joining a religious order in nearby Aubazine. As a thanks for his good care of the children Mr. Vackier receives the title ‘consul de Belgique à titre personnel’ in 1946, with jurisdiction over the three departments of the Limousin. A title he holds-onto till his death in 1962, ‘Portant une fière moustache, bardé de distinctions et roulant dans les rues de Tulle avec une grosse voiture noire, une Chambord ou une Versailles dotée de plaques du corps diplomatique.
The Church of Saint Pierre.
The Church of Saint Pierre.

The rest of the heritage trail passes the Church of Saint Pierre (5), the tour d’Alverge (6) and the municipal Theater (1899) (7) once know as the Théâtre des Sept Collines in reference to the geography of the town. Looking up the hillsides you are surrounded by government buildings, schools and services. A good selection of restaurants in town make it an interesting day out. I smiled leaving, maybe it was the nice weather, maybe I left in time...

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*) ‘The people of T(ulle) say that you cry when you get there, and you cry when you leave. This is true for a lot of public servants. They are appointed to T(ulle) ... ’
Denis Tillinac (1979): Spleen en Corrèze. Collection <<Les Localiers>> Éditions des autres, 1979. ISBN 2-7305-0031-6  

**) Albinet A., 2015. Comment le plus tulliste des Belges a ouvert un consulat dans sa ville d’adoption ? In: La Montagne, 29/07/2015.

Day trips by train: Limoges.

The landmark Gare des Bénédictins. Limoges, the capital of the former Limousin region, an hour by train from Brive. Entering the city thro...