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The Limousin, famous as the birthplace of the painter Renoir, is situated in south-west central France with much of its area lying within the Massif Central. The least populated region of mainland France, it is a largely upland region most of which is over 350 metres above sea level.

The predominately rural landscape is completely unspoilt and dotted with pretty villages and hamlets, linked by almost deserted roads.

Three major rivers run through the region: the Vienne, Charente and Dordogne. The good quality water is excellent for fishing while canoeing and white water rafting are popular sports on the fast flowing sections.

With hundreds of lakes to choose from there is ample opportunity to partake in many types of water sport or to just sit and picnic on the banks in an idyllic spot. Some lakes even provide sandy beaches and life guards.

This quiet, relaxing ambience will appeal to lovers of nature and the great outdoors. The region includes two National Parks and at Les Loupes de Chabrieres at Gueret it is possible to observe several species of wild wolf in their own habitat. Also popular with ramblers are the many country trails or ‘chemin’ which cover miles of remote terrain, the Creuse area being one of the most wild and rugged.

As regards climate, summers can be very hot and sunny but the prevailing weather is mild and damp with long cold winters and even snow at times in higher areas.

The rural character of the region gives rise to a basically agricultural economy. The muscular Limousin cattle are reputed to provide the best beef in the world. The distinctive chestnut red breed is a common sight throughout the region. Timber production is also important and there are large forested areas of pine and chestnut trees. The French Oak orchards supply the Remy Martin Company exclusively with wine fermentation products.

Limousine’s largest city and regional capital is Limoges. Once famous for porcelain production, there are now few large factories in existence. It is, however, an important centre for the alloy electric equipment industry. Visitors to the city will find a fine cathedral and the interesting historic Butchers’ Quarter to explore. There is also an impressive aquarium located near the town hall, containing over 2500 fish of many species.

The lively market town of Brive La Gaillarde holds both truffle and flower markets and a famous book fair in the autumn. The medieval centre has shops and cafes and is the town’s commercial hub. Famous as a centre of the French resistance during World War 2, the town was the first in France to liberate itself in August1944 and it subsequently received a military decoration. Here you can also try local delicacies such as walnut liqueur and purple mustard made with added grapes.

Aubusson is another important town of the region and is famous for its beautiful tapestries.

Throughout the Limousin region can be found locations associated with the 12th century English king, Richard the Lionheart. History enthusiasts might like to follow ‘The Route of Richard the Lionheart’ which traces the significant places he frequented during his time in France up until his death.

There are good transport links with the rest of France via the A20 motorway and with the UK via Limoges International Airport. There is also an airport at Brive La Gaillarde.

Culturally, the Limousin retains close links with its past. The Occitan dialect is widely spoken and there is a strong musical tradition with instruments such as the bagpipe and hurdy gurdy still being used in performance. There are several annual music festivals which take place in July and August. For example, there is the Festival of 1001 Notes and Festival du Haut Limousin both held in Haute-Vienne and the Fest de la Vezere, held in Correze. You will also come across numerous traditional village fetes celebrating events which often date back centuries.

Naturally, the cuisine of the Limousin relies heavily on its famous beef and steak is always on the menu. However lamb and veal are also widely used ingredients. Most dishes tend to be on the heavy side very often in the form of some kind of stew. The locally grown chestnuts are made into stuffing to accompany the meat. A speciality vegetable dish is the delicious pate aux pommes de terres.

Cherry clafoutis is probably the most recognised dessert along with apple flangnarde and almond gateau – all made with butter and very tempting!

The region also produces some tasty cheeses, similar in type to Roquefort. Generally only sold locally, they can be found in markets or bought directly from the farm where they are produced.

For anyone looking to experience the largely untouched heart of France with its spectacular scenery and traditions dating back two thousand years the Limousin is an ideal location.


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