Since 1968 the Tour du Limousin has run in mid August through the mostly rural region of France, the Limousin. This year on Tuesday August 17th the four day tour starts in the famous city of Limoges and then will return to finish the tour there on Friday, August 20th. Sitting in the heart of France surrounded by the mountains of the Massif Central and north of the Midi-Pyrenees and Aquitaine and Auvergne Limousin covers just 3% of the area of France and is the second least populous region of France only behind Corsica. The landscape of Limousin is covered with oak and chestnut trees and rivers that include the Dordogne, Creuse and Cher. Named after the Gallic tribe Lemovici that was conquered by the Romans in 49 B.C. The area became part of the Aquitaine in 27 B.C. and in 1152 when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet who was crowned King Henry II of England in 1154 the Aquitaine fell under the control of the English and remained until early 13th century. During the Hundred Years War it was lost to the English again but in 1370 it was returned to the French and In 1607 the French King Henry IV united the region to France once and for all.
The first stage of the Tour du Limousin has been the shortest for most of the past twenty years but this year it will be the longest at 120 miles. It starts out rather easy for the first 30 or so miles and passes through the small village of Saint-Pardoux. Named after Pardoux a peasant’s son who set fire to an old chestnut tree causing it to fall on him and causing him to lose his sight. He became a hermit and found solace in God, it wasn’t long before people started coming to him looking for cures to their problems as it was spreading that he had a gift to heal people. In 670 the Count of Limoges was setting up a monastery in Gueret and asked Pardoux to be the priest. He died in October 737
Near the Vallee de la Creuse and the Foret de Chabrieres is the town of Gueret. The count of Lantaire founded a monastery here in the 8th century, located at the base of the Grandcher hill. Gueret became the capital of the county of La March in 1514 and has been the administrative center ever since. The nearby Foret de Chabrieres has an animal park where you can see wolves as well be there for feeding time at 4pm. I think I would maybe avoid the feeding time, but I am pretty sure that they must have a fence between you and the wolves.
The finishing town of Boussac sits on the right bank of the Petite Creuse a tributary of the River Creuse and in the northern most edge of the Limousin region. Overlooking the town and River Creuse is the Chateau de Boussac. First built in the 15th century it went through some renovations in the 16th and 17th but by the end of the 18th century it was set to be demolished. In April of 1794 it was set to be dismantled by a contractor for $13,000 and began to tear down the towers and gates, filled the ditches surrounding and left only the main building. In 1837 it was sold to the department by the Countess of Ribereix. In 1965 it was purchased by a private couple the Blondeau’s who began to restore it back to its stately form.
In the guard room of the Chateau the famous tapestries “The Lady and the Unicorn” or La Dame a la licorne. Woven in Flanders and made of wool and silk between 1484 and 1500. Five of the six tapestries depict each of the five senses; sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, but each one has a unicorn, lion and noble lady on them. They were discovered within the Chateau in 1841 and were moved to the Musee de Cluny of Paris in 1882 where they still are today. The images have been reproduced many times over the years and can even be seen in the Harry Potter films in the Gryffindor common room.
One of the most famous dishes in Limousin is the Clafoutis. A dessert that is normally made with cherries and then a pudding like batter pored over and baked. We will get to that later in the Tour but first I we will have a savory version. I found one online and altered the cheese a bit and added more bacon. It is basically a crustless quiche and was fantastic. Great for a brunch or lunch or pair it with a salad for a light dinner.
Clafoutis au bacon et au gruyere
¾ cup whipping cream
½ cup ricotta
7-8 slices bacon cut into ½ pieces
½ gruyere cheese, grated
¼ cup flour
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F
In a sauté pan cook the bacon until browned and crispy, drain on paper towel and let cool. Add the grated gruyere and set aside.
In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs, whipping cream and ricotta until smooth and ricotta is incorporated. Add the flour and whisk until combined. Pour in the milk and continue to whisk until smooth, season with salt and pepper.
In a 9 inch pie plate arrange the bacon and cheese so evenly distributed and pour in egg mixture slowly.
Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes so it is easier to cut and serve.