If you like beautiful, ancient buildings then you may as well start with a walk down from the tourist office into the old quarter of Bellac. Locals say that some of the houses in the narrow medieval street that leads down to the church are nearly a thousand years old, while the church itself houses a 12th century reliquary (container of holy relics), the oldest in Limousin. Continue to walk down the hill to see the 13th century stone bridge, or back up into the centre of Bellac to find the 16th century castle that is the current town hall (l'hôtel de ville).
Bellac is by no means exceptional in the wealth and excellence of its architecture. You can drive from Maison du Gui to Le Dorat in less than 15 minutes. This small, hillside town became an important religious centre in the fourth century, when it was home to two saints. The present magnificent church and seminary date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. Wander around the narrow, ancient streets, enjoy the view from the medieval battlements above the city gate, and take time out for a coffee or glass of wine in the big market square.
You can reach countless other places of interest in well under half an hour. Mortemart, for example, is officially designated as “one of the most beautiful villages in France”. There you will find a charming ancient church, a Carmelite convent and an Augustine monastery (neither active anymore), and a ducal chateau.
These are just a few of the places that are very near Maison du Gui. Drive just a little further and the possibilities become endless. After all, the region is historically highly important. Richard the Lionheart's mother (Eleanor of Aquitaine) held court in Limoges, and the king probably spent much more time in Limousin than he ever did in England. The French and the English vied for power around here for centuries, and the Black Prince fought (and won) famous battles at Limoges and Poitiers in the 14th century. Numerous chateaux survive from this time - although few of those that put up a fight are in very good shape anymore.
It is worth spending at least a day in Limoges, taking in the cathedral and old town, and visiting one of the many famous porcelain factories. Be sure not to miss the railway station, which is regarded as one of the finest in France.
A more sombre - but deeply moving - experience awaits you at Oradour-sur-Glane. It was here, on 10th June 1944, that a unit of the Waffen SS surrounded the village and massacred almost all of its residents. In all, 642 men, women, children and babies were murdered that day. After the liberation, Charles de Gaulle ordered that the ruined village should be left exactly as it was.
History and architecture
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