France, Limousin: Saints and Sinners

France, Limousin: Saints and Sinners
Empty country roads, cultural treasures, deep green forests and waving meadows were some of the highlights of my tour through Limousin. But on a trip like this, you also have to be prepared for encounters with knights and nobility, saints, and quite a few sinners.

The crowd moves back when the first knights reach the castle. The drawbridge lowers. The huge gate slowly opens, and a stream of coaches, riders, horses, cows and goats meander into the fortress.

My mind plays games while I'm sitting on a curb in the middle of the 700-souled village of Turenne and trying to capture the right angle for a mixture of narrow cobblestone streets and historic buildings in my camera's viewfinder. Turrene is located in Depártement Corrèze in southern Limousin. When you approach the village, the first recognizable features are parts of the ancient fortress, built in the eleventh century. After the French Revolution, only two towers and the square in between survived. The scene beams me back to a time when I built sand castles and defended them with plastic swords. But now, my only weapon, if you can call it that, is the camera. At least you can shoot with it.

The range of historical goods for the mind to acquire is amazing when you travel France in general, and that's especially so in Limousin, where I've traveled with a group of six dedicated, Harley enthusiasts. Our tour guide, Monika Kleppinger, a former PR person for the French tourism office in Germany, leads us through the Depártements (larger than a county, but not quite a state unless we're talking about Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, or Monaco) of Corrèze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne.

Our next stop is Collonges-la-Rouge, right at Highway D38. The town with its small alleys, little towers, steeply angled roofs and archways seems to have been dipped in burnt-orange paint. All the buildings are made of red sandstone. Like many other towns around here, Colonges-la-Rouge was originally an abbey (founded in 785 AD), and in the thirteenth century it developed into a town and 300 years on the officers from Turenne completed its fortifications.