Most of France seems to enjoy a rural respect to die for but no area more so than the Limousin region where time appears to stand still, yet there is a noticeable element of modernism creeping into all walks of life. Its countryside remains as unspoilt as ever and maybe it is for this reason that the region has become such a very popular destination for the British, in which to settle down and play.
Limousin has protected its native tongue well but where you once seldom heard English spoken, now shopkeepers, restaurant staff and many other prominent members of the local communities are now fluent speakers. Also, popular English snacks and "fast foods" such as baked beans, tinned spaghetti, Campbell's soup and so on are gradually appearing on shelves.
At the virtual heart of France, Limousin is almost an entirely upland area covering some 17,000 km2 across three departments - Corrèze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne. With less than 750,000 citizens it is officially the least populated region in Metropolitan France.
Its capital city is Limoges. Other major centres include Brive-la-Gaillarde, Tulle and Ussel in the south, Gurét in the north and, Saint-Junien in the west some 33km from Limoges.
In the region's southeast the terrain rises to 1000m above sea level, in the northwest it's only 250m. Several important rivers criss-cross the area including the Dordogne, Vienne, Creuse and Cher and there are several sizeable lakes. The waters are reputedly of a high quality offering first-rate fishing and their abundance encourages a broad cross-section of water sports.
Limousin has a mild and damper climate than its surrounding regions. Summer temperatures sometimes reach 320C and have been known to rise as high as 420C. Brive, in the Corrèze, even boasts 2000 hours of sunshine each year, which is said to be identical to Toulouse, in the south. By contrast, winter months can be long and cold with a firm possibility of snow, especially over the region's higher areas.
Photo: Olivier Ffrench
Some of the best beef farming in the world has its roots in the Limousin where the distinctive chestnut red cattle are a particular feature of the countryside. Timber, too, is a major product of the region, especially the famed French Oak orchards which, used in the manufacture of casks, pass on a very special characteristic and flavour during the wine fermentation process.
At one time the capital city, Limoges, was the region's industrial power base renowned for its porcelain. It still remains a leader and innovator in electrical equipment factories where the high proportion of the city's porcelain production is used for its insulation qualities.
With its own airport and fast road and rail links to Paris and beyond, Limoges is now a sophisticated centre with an abundance of clothes and gift shops, tearooms, top quality chocolate shops, flourists and perfumeries.
According to some travel writers, Limousin 'is not a place for people who want to spend late nights drinking and it is not a place for expat communities.' It's is more a 'sanctuary' for people who seek simplicity and tranquillity and fully appreciate some of nature's finest characteristics.
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