Turning French, Part 3: Personal Hideaways

La Vienne, Limoges

I can’t say I know who exactly is reading these pieces – aside from the editor! But, on the off chance it’s a second year French student, with high hopes of coming to Limoges too, I want to share some of my favourite hideaways and incredible finds.

The local library – La Bibliothèque Francophone MultimédiaThe local library

So I’ve always loved visiting libraries; I think they say a lot about the lifestyle of the locals. For example, you can tell if a lot of families live in the area depending on the diversity of the children’s section; or you can guess the sense of community in a town based on the events organised in or by the library. But this library is unlike any other I have been in: if I dropped a book, there are times where you would never hear it over the waves of beautiful music. That’s right! Music…in a library! Everything from gorgeous string concerts in the adjoining hall, to the old French records which usher you out at closing time. I don’t think I can describe just how excited I was when I found the library that has its own soundtrack! But it isn’t just the music that draws me back every week: I have quite a childlike imagination sometimes, and this time, it is a huge part of what makes me love the BFM. It sticks out like a sore thumb: a minimalist, renovated, glass structure in a jungle of old and traditional buildings. Just from the outside it was something out of the ordinary – on the inside, it is something completely exceptional! Rather than a room with rows and rows of books, there was a personality about the place. The bookshelves are broken up and set about the rooms in patterns, so that in amongst them, you find little, hidden spaces when you can go curl up and read, far away from the world. And even better, if you go up to the second level and sit looking down on the main floor, you see before you this gorgeous maze of people, books and people lost in books.

Le Théâtre de la Passerelle

Passerelle literally translates as a small footbridge over a river, or more simply, a link. So even the name seemed special to me – it claimed to be all about making their love of the theatre reach you. And it is. It’s such a sweet, intimate venue that it immediately brought back memories of Camden or Soho’s popular two-man fringe theatre. But let me paint you a picture of this particular French wonderland – you walk through into a very small, darkened room. At the back are a couple of rows of theatre seats; towards the front, two old, wooden tables, with huge block candles and a couple of bottles of cider standing on them; and finally, a stage and a piano under a dim, dappled spotlight. It was immediately my kind of place. And, there, the experience doesn’t end when the curtains are drawn! Trays and trays of glasses were brought out; the bottles of cider shared amongst everyone; and each audience member was invited to sit, drink and discuss! Stumbling across this gem has to be one of my highlights of Limoges! I’m just sad I hadn’t known of it earlier and I hope I have the chance to go there again before I leave.

The river, La VienneThe river

This is actually one that I don’t want to say too much about, because anyone that goes to Limoges will undoubtedly visit La Vienne, and will have his or her own favourite, riverside spots. And part of the joy of a walk along the river is to discover for yourself your favourite hideaway! But I will let you in on one secret: if you ever visit La Vienne, go down to the bank and find the huge willow tree that hangs over the edge, into the water. You’ll find this particular one just behind the 13th century bridge, Pont St-Etienne. From there, not only will you have a fairytale view of the river, the bridge and the cathedral; but you will also find that the hanging branches of the willow are home to the river’s ducks. And they always come out to say hello! I haven’t as of yet found anything so calming and magical, but then maybe you’ll find something incredible when you go.

It’s funny: I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago about what makes a place so special, and she believed it was the ability to share your secret finds; to pass on your must-sees; to spread the love, really! So what a good way to wind down to the end of my stay here – expect my next and final piece on Limoges to be very emotional now! It deserves no less.

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