Our first glimpse of La Creuse

The snow continued to fall. By time we left the hotel to drive east from Limoges, along the N141 it had reduced to an occasional flutter; a mere annoyance as it stuck to the windscreen, not quite wet enough to stop the wipers make a deep scraping sound as they juddered back and forth.

Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat was the first town we drove though in Limousin that had an involuntary “oooohhh” from both of us. As you drive down the hill, on the approach to Noblat, there is a beautiful collection of lopsided wood-framed buildings on the left that teeter on the edge of the river, almost hanging over it. This is the old part of the town, it looks as if it were built in the Middle Ages, or perhaps it originated from Middle Earth. It certainly has the appearance and the feel of a place a bunch of Hobbits might have stopped over if they weren't being chased by Ringwraithes and instead had the time to chill with a beer, a baguette and a large, ripe, slab of fromage.

It is the river Vienne that runs through Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat (not the Brandywine), and we soon crossed that and climbed the hill to the newer part of town, of which the centre point is the town-square, and market place. Regretfully, on this occasion, we didn’t have time to stop and we sailed through and back into countryside which was beginning to endear itself to us – not flat and dull, like yesterdays scenery had been (a French version of Norfolk) – but a landscape of rolling hills, trees, and lakes.

Eventually (about a 45 minute drive from Limoges) we arrived at our destination: Bourganeuf. In addition to having a museum dedicated to electricity (Bourganeuf was the third town in the whole of France to have public electricity – in 1886 4000 homes in the area ditched their oil lamps and went electric) the town also has an amazing castle-like building in the middle of it. This 12th century tower was once used by the Templer Knights to keep an Ottoman prince captive. More recently, it was used as a prison for members of the Resistance, during the German occupation of France. You can read the account of one member of the Resistance as he documents his memory of being marched outside into the square and lined up against the prison wall, here.

We met Jean-Pierre the owner of the Immoblier we had contacted via the internet. We had 7 properties ready to view. Jean-Pierre wasn’t like any estate agent we had ever met. A pleasant man, wrapped up warm in a thick jumper he reminded me of a teddy bear, comforting and trustworthy (not two adjectives you would normally use to depict a professional seller of property). He spoke good English, although my wife spoke French to him. He sat us down and explained that he had bad news for us. The snow meant that some of the properties were only accessible by four-wheeled drive vehicles and (he apologised) unfortunately his was in for repair.

We would only be able to see 2 properties, one in Vallière and one in Aubusson. Disappointed, but not downhearted we set off in our lucky rental car once more, following Jean-Pierre in his little Peugeot, deeper into La Creuse.

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