Lost In Limoges

From the sheep-dotted pastures of France's underpopulated Southwest, Limoges rises in all its grey glory. The city's claim to fame: fine porcelain. The half-timbered houses of the Medieval center are surrounded by strip malls and McDo. Land-hungry Brits descend with flailing pocketbooks (thanks, RyanAir). The weather is remarkably cool year-round. Sure, I live on rue de Nice, but this is NOT the Cote d'Azur. Welcome to Limoges, "the middle of nowhere"-- or as Pierre says "everywhere"-- France.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Welcome to Limoges

We arrived in the rain. Speeding along the highway, I glanced up from my Lonely Planet to see the huge, unmistable shape of twin nuclear reactors, the spewed column of steam visible for miles. We were about halfway to Limoges from Poitiers, and the night before I had finished the National Geographic article on Chernobyl's aftermath. Good God, I thought, I am NOT living anywhere near these babies! No way! Where else are they lurking in the rolling green countryside? After all, most of France's energy is nuclear (which is a lot cleaner a fuel than coal or oil) but still! An hour later, through the rain-streaked windshield, I caught my first glimpse of the city. A criss-cross of highways (ala DC beltway), mammoth parking lots outside Conforama (the French equivalent of Target), and some strip malls and porcelain warehouses. Sweet.

We traipsed around in the rain-- after the mandatory morning espresso and crossaint-- and visited about ten rental agencies. Followed by the house hunt. You can imagine my barely concealed contemptuous facial expression at this point (I hardly have a poker face). I'm looking for the cute cafes, boutiques and bars and they are just hiding, frankly. My salad lunch, flavored by clouds of cigarette smoke, is seriously lacking.

But then we toured a little house on rue de Nice. Three levels, lots of windows, a garden. A whole bunch of light-filled space with a lot of character (and plenty of holes in the walls). Followed by the discovery of the most comfortable little hotel, its ancient corridors and breakfast room decorated with antique gramophones. And a hearty Italian dinner where the chatty maitre d' offered us plenty of gratis after-dinner drinks as a big welcome to the neighborhood. And a meander through winding, narrow alleyways, lined with Medieval houses and a majestic cathedral, in the old city center.

The following morning the sun was shining and Limoges had shed her gloomy gray layers. Pierre raced around town full of energy and optimism: to the rental office at 9 am sharp to deposit a check, to the bus station to get maps, to the city hall to announce his arrival as new resident and load up on maps and information. Even to the library to check their English language section. I couldn't help but smile.


Post a Comment

<< Home