Haute Vienne

The Haute Vienne is one of 3 departments that make up the Limousin, and takes it's name from the Vienne river. It has the department number 87 which is used for official identification purposes. Probably the most noticeable use is on the "immatraculation" or registration number on vehicles. The department is further divided into 3 arrondisments or districts. These are Bellac, Limoges and Rochechouart. Limoges is the departmental capital.

The Monts of Blond are the first high ground when approaching from the atlantic or west coast, and this accounts for the fact that it is the wettest region in France. Unsurprisingly there are thousands of lakes in the area and the region has been dubbed "The french Lake district". People often assume that being the wettest region, it rains continously...this is certainly not the case. It's just that when it rains, it pours! The advantage of this is a lush green countryside with beautiful forests even in the height of summer. The landscape is often compared to New Zealand, Scotland and the Lake District. The summers, however, are still warmer and longer than those in the Uk with top temperatures in the mid to high 30s (degrees centigrade) not unusual. The winters, however, are short sharp and cold. It is possible to reach minus 20 degrees centigrade on some winter nights, and snow is a certainty rather than a possibility.

The dramatic countryside is divided into 3 areas

The capital Limoges is steeped in history and the earliest recorded foundation of the city is as far back as 10BC when the roman Emporer Augustus reorganised the province. In medieval times it was renowned for its' enamels which were applied to copper. In the 19th century it became famed for its' porcelain. Even today Limoges China is highly regarded and the factories and shops are still in existence. In fact over 50% of the porcelain produced in France today is manufactured in Limoges. Despite the area being one of the very few non-wine producing regions of france, Limoges is also known for its' oak barrel production. These barrels are used across the border in the Charante for Cognac production.

Chestnuts and apples grow in abundance and many villages have a festival in the autumn dedicated to chestnuts and cider! Highly prized cépes can also be found growing and it is not unusual to see the locals out and about in the early morning looking for these delicacies.

The region is a walkers paradise with hundreds of marked walks ranging from a few kilometers to full day treks covering over 25 kilometers.

The Limousin has strong British ties, Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited the realm after the death of her father in 1136. She had been the queen of france through her marriage to Louis VII, though the marriage was not a happy one and she was granted an annulment in 1152. Less than 2 month later she married Henry Plantagenet, the grandson of Henry 1 and the future king of England. Eventually their son Richard the Lionheart (a name he earned through his courage on the battlefield) became king of England and set off to france on a crusade leaving his mother regent in England. The route of Richard the Lionheart can be followed throughout the region.






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