Being Richard the Lionheart

By | Category: Travel destinations

The castle of Chalus

Chalus where the Lionheart died

One of the great English heroes was thought to be Richard the Lionheart whose “baddie” brother, Prince John tried to usurp the kingdom whilst he was away.
Today that interpretation may not be accurate. What is a fact is that Richard spent little time in England during his ten year reign and died just outside Limoges in Limousin in 1199 whilst besieging the castle at Chalus. His remains are buried here rather than somewhere in England. the French honour him with a big festival every second year. For those considering a holiday or short break somewhere slightly different in France, this year is one of those years when you can enjoy the spectacle as well.
Held in early August, the Le Rando-Festival Richard Cœur de Lion combines tourism, culture and sport. Or so the website says. What it really means is an opportunity for many to dress in medieval costume, enjoy lots of eating and drinking and follow the trail to Chalus. It is also supposed to celebrate our common history although I think the drinking and eating that occurs probably contributes more to camaraderie. For hundreds of years part of modern day France was part of the realms of the English monarchy. Richard probably didn’t understand English using a form of French as his language. In fact in this part of France there is a dialect – if that is the correct word – called Occitan and the festival website has all three languages on it.
But if mediaeval jollies don’t appeal there is plenty of other attractions in this part of France where Britons are the leading international visitors. For example, Limoges is forever linked with porcelain so how about visiting the factories. And the museum. In the nineteenth century the potteries were at their zenith and their wares were eagerly sought throughout the world. Today it is still a name to conjure with and visitors arrive to see the factories and the museum. Perhaps it is a little strange that, despite the fact that so many Britons travel there that Limoges is not twinned with one of our centres of china making like Stoke-on-Trent. Limoges isn’t twinned with any British city at all.
The countryside in Limousin is the other big attraction for visitors. There are two large national parks in the area, Millevaches Regional Park and Périgord-Limousin Park. Millevaches has forests, peatbogs, lakes and rivers as well as opportunities for hill walking since the highest part of the plateau is higher than Ben Nevis. Perigord-Limousin appeals to bird-watchers and people on pilgrimages to take of the healing waters. (The Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrims’ route goes through Limousin.) But flowing through the area is the mighty Dordogne so fisherman flock here to feast at the river whilst others just travel the river in an unconcerned, languid journey of discovery.
Not as well-known as a wine producing area as some parts of France, Limousin still has many vineyards and produces about 200,000 bottles of Limousin wine a year.
Limousin is easily visited because there are direct connections into Limoges via Flybe and Ryanair from Bristol, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Southampton and Stansted

For more information about Limousin, click here.

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