Limoges must be the best kept secret in France.
This enchanting city is full of sunny squares, stunning architecture and fascinating subterranean cavities.
It appears to have all the advantages of a big French city – fabulous shops, fine dining – but none of the hassles – non-stop traffic, rude natives.
Life is a leisurely pleasure.
And although I spent five days on a whirlwind tour taking in its top attractions, I’m already dreaming of returning in the summer to rediscover its many treasures at my own pace.
There’s so much to see and do, you’re spoilt for choice.
You can sign up for an entertaining enamel-making workshop at La Maison de l’email or take part in a multiplicity of sports. You can also enjoy less active persuits like sampling its many restaurants and mouth-watering cuisine.
I loved the Moulin du Got near the historic town of St Leonard de Noblat. This 15th Century mill is still producing paper in the old fashioned way and its guides are so knowledgable and enthusiastic it’s contagious.
Then there’s the Denoix distillery at Brive la Gaillarde, which has been run by the same family for generations.
Here walnut liqueur is made in a wonderfully atmospheric old factory complete with copper vats and glass pipettes. The liqueur is surprisingly delicious and we were told (with just a hint of a smile) that it’s medicinal to boot.
No trip to Limoges would be complete without a tour of its renowned porcelain factories and we learned that exquisite porcelain – like crystal – should ‘ring’ when tapped.
A short distance from Limoges is Collonges la Rouge, among France’s top 100 beautiful villages. If you stop for lunch in one of its picturesque vine-covered restaurants, be warned: you may never want to leave.
We ended our visit on a poignant note at Oradour sur Glane. Its entire population was massacred by the Germans in June 1944 and the village has remained frozen in time as a perpetual monument to their memory.
A stone plaque at the entrance read simply Souviens toi - remember. The memorial centre is well worth a visit.
> There are regular flights from Stansted to Limoges. For more information about the Limousin area go to www.tourismelimousin.com