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Limoges 

Sitting just west of France’s centre point, and only a few hours’ drive from Bordeaux or Toulouse, this sleepy city is the gateway to the south.  Originally a Roman settlement, Limoges’ early riches came from tin and lead, and later gold and copper.  Renowned for its enamelling since the Middle Ages, Limoges is most famous for the fine porcelain it has produced since the nineteenth century.  The centre can be easily walked in a day and many of the main landmarks are near one another, with plenty of eye-catching patisseries and cafés conveniently strewn in between.  The bridges of Limogesare the city’s focal points. On your wanders you’re sure to stumble upon the Saint­ Etienne bridge, under which the Vienneriver flows.  On one side you’ll find Le Pont Saint-Etienne restaurant, a fine eatery where you can enjoy hearty regional dishes with a modern twist. On the other, you’ll come across the neighbourhood around Rue du Rajat, a particularly beautiful example of ancient Limoges.  Rewind a few centuries as you explore this meandering little area with its half-timbered medieval houses standing at crooked angles.  Gold conches sit among the cobblestones, showing pilgrims their way through the narrow serpentine streets. Look for the St. Pere fountain, an old, moss-covered wishing well purported to cure illnesses.

Inthe 18th century clay was found near the city and Limogessoon became the capital of the burgeoning ceramics industry.  Today more than 50% of France'sporcelain is produced here, bringing us to Limogesmain museums. Le Musée Municipal de L’Evêché is found in the historic quarter and displays enamelware going back to the twelfth century.  The Musée National Adrien Duboché, is home to Europes richest collection of enamel and porcelain, including services made for Napoleon and even Charles and Di.  Visit the Bernardaud china factory and shop for bargains in a variety of factory showrooms.

The Evêché building, an old palace sitting atop the eastern apex of Limoges, adjoins the Jardins Botanique, the most picturesque gardens in town.  These are not the only gardens, however, as each Limogeaud enjoys 44 metres square of greenery in this small, yet vastly verdant city.  Today, this centre for the decorative arts is a major university town hosting an important September festival of (mainly French-speaking) writers and musicians.  Enjoy the superb botanical gardens, church of St Michel-des-Lions’ impressive towers and spires, and St Etienne’s fine stone carvings.

Visit the tourist information centre and arm yourself with maps, guides and information on walking tours, attractions and restaurants. Or log on to www.ville-limoges.fr