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.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Artisanal Distillery in Limoges

Saturday was one of those perfect days of cool breezes and ample sunshine that reminds me of San Francisco. We stopped at the boulangerie for steaming hot crossaints, the cheese and fruit vendors at Les Halles, and a chocolate boutique. The real purpose of the outing, however, besides all this blissful browsing and loitering downtown, was to find the distillery.

We went in pursuit of this mysterious artisanal distillery after we sank our teeth into some speciality chocolates that oozed peche liqueur. A gift from Pierre's brother, Manu, a few weeks ago. They were wrapped in shiny foil, gilded with the name of the local distillery.

Towards the train station, in a run-down building with a small plaque outside, we found it. The elderly lady behind the cash register showed us the laboratory where they concocted the delicious speciality liqueurs, heating blueberries or cassis over a flame until the essence was refined into a small glass container. I felt like I was in some alchemist's shop from the Middle Ages.

The walls were lined with beautiful bottles with colorful, Victorian labels, and we sampled the lot of them. The specialty drink in the Limousin is Liqueur de Chataigne (with chestnut extract) but I'm a sucker for cassis, because of my favorite evening kir.


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