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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Vesunna Musée Gallo-Romain, Périgueux: The Coolest Museum in France?

The best part of any visit to Périgueux, the capital city of the Dordogne département, is the Vesunna Museum. Designed by the celebrated architect Jean Nouvel to showcase the ruins of a Roman residence dating from the 1st century, this place will take your breath away. Head to the southern part of the city, near the ancient Roman ramparts, stroll over a bridge and you'll come face to face with an enormous circular temple, the Tour de Vésone. Continue through gardens and pleasant landscaping, gaping at the monstrous Tour, and then you'll discover Nouvel's brilliant contemporary building.

Voila, one of the finest museums in a country famed for them. Tall glass walls are built around the very foundations of a miraculously preserved Roman villa, dating back millennia to the days when Périgueux was called Vesunna. (In the first century, this ancient city was the most celebrated in all of Aquitaine.) It is possible to walk around the museum's glass walls and peer inside to the incredible archeological finds. You'll find another spectacular view from a balcony inside the museum.

From a series of wood walkways that traverse the site, you can see the Roman heating/cooling systems, incredibly colorful wall murals, even a water pump. Not to mention the exhibits of jewelry, plates and cooking utensils, and other neat finds. On my visit, I couldn't stop raving about the place (poor Pierre). Through the glass, you see across thousands of years, and-- as Jean Nouvel intended-- you find yourself admiring the advanced civilization the Romans left behind, comparing it to our own.


Post a Comment

<< Home