If a holiday away from it all is what you are seeking then a trip to the Limousin region of France might be just the thing for you…
It is a small region, located just South-West of central France and is a sparsely populated area with around 750,000 inhabitants.
We spent weeks and weeks choosing a holiday house for our summer break and finally decided on a gite in the small village of Mezieres-sur-Issoire. After a very long journey which involved a 5-hour car drive, an 18-hour ferry journey, followed by another 8-hour car drive we were so relieved when we arrived at our holiday home in the early hours of the morning. Our 3 sleepy sons disembarked from the car, stiff from sitting so long, and were immediately captivated by the canopy of stars overhead. Coming from the city, we rarely get to see the night-sky in all its glory.
After a quick survey of our accommodation for the next 3 weeks we all slipped into bed exhausted but happy. The following morning when we flung open the back door onto the garden we were delighted to see that the outside space was just as the pictures had shown. There was loads of space for the kids to roam around, play games and explore. The owners of the property also owned the fields behind the house and so the kids took off to climb hay bales, I made a beeline for the hammock under the Silver Birch trees and my lovely husband headed for the local bakery for breakfast supplies.
Mezieres-sur-Issoire is a typical, quiet French village. If you want entertainment or lots to do then this may not be the place for you! If however, you want to truly unwind, get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and hear yourself think again, then I highly recommend this location.
That’s not to say there is nothing to do. There are lots of beautiful villages to visit and the city if Limoges is a short drive away. Ensure you pack good shoes as you will spend a lot of time wandering around picturesque hamlets and towns, sampling the local produce and generally enjoying the slower pace of life.
St.Junien is the place to go for its early morning markets which often play host to a brass band parading along the main street. Here you will also find the finest patisserie in the area-not to be missed! Stock up too on the local fruit and veg for some delicious home-cooking and soak up the atmosphere of a busy market day.
Montrol-Senard is a great little museum village, complete with traditional schoolhouse for the kids to experience life in the ‘olden days’. We were fortunate enough to arrive on the evening of a local producers market and sampled wine, snails, cake, breads and crepes for less than 20 Euros. It was great fun to watch the locals arrive carrying their picnic hampers packed with table linen, cutlery, crockery and glasses and set up home for the evening on the trestle tables laid out in the market square. There was music, free-flowing wine, chat and laughter and we felt privileged to be part of it.
Mortemart is one of the most beautiful villages in France (according to the signs) and we enjoyed a horse and cart ride around its environs and received a brief history of the area (in French no less!). Despite my poor translation skills we learned things from our guide that we would never have known otherwise. There’s a lot to be said for learning about local history from someone born and raised in an area. They tell you things the guidebooks don’t.
We also took some time to visit the martyr village, Oradour-sur-Glane. It was here on 10 June 1944, that the 642 inhabitants of the village were massacred by the Germans retreating from France. The village has been left as it was and it is heart-breaking to walk around the remains of what was a small but vibrant community. From the ruined buildings trees and flowers have sprung and it is achingly beautiful to see nature create something quite special in that devastated landscape.
We split our time between relaxing in the garden at the gite, playing croquet, catching crickets and reading and also exploring the local region. The castle ruins of Chalucet are worth visiting and the nearby town of Confolens is a wonderful place to relax. The café of ARThe has the best seats in town, set right on the river, and it serves some wonderful snacks and meals. We whiled away a few hours here, dining on cheesecake and exploring the secret gardens filled with pieces of quirky art.
Another day we also came across a horse and falconry show set in an old castle ruins. Our oldest son was delighted to be picked to hold a huge bird of prey (I’ve forgotten the name!) and we relaxed once more by the river enjoying the sound of birdsong whilst sampling the best crepes ever!
A holiday to the Haute-Vienne is great if you want some time together without a hectically packed schedule. Slowing down, talking to one another and appreciating the simple things in life is rewarding and puts the everyday pressures of living into perspective. Spending time together while enjoying a beautiful meal is precious as is walking hand in hand through quaint villages and staying up late to watch the fireworks explode over the Lac de Saint Pardoux after swimming all day. Snuggling up on a picnic blanket mesmerised by the popping and banging and rainbow of colour on display I learned that I had everything I could ever need right there. I had my boys and my hubby together and happy and that is the memory that stands out the most for me from this holiday.
There were lots of great moments of course-renting a pedalo and sitting back while the kids navigated the way around the lake, a day out at Futuroscope and celebrating hubby’s birthday at a great eatery in the stunning town of Bellac. We took home with us from the Limousin a million treasured memories and a deeper connection that comes from time well-spent together.