Quick guide to... Tulle
There is much more to the capital of the Corrèze département than the fabric it shares its name with. Known as the ‘town on the seven hills’, Tulle is nestled in a narrow valley at the confluence of the Corrèze and Solana rivers and can be explored via a network of steep stairways. The origin of its name is disputed but most historians think it comes from the Roman goddess of guardianship, Tutela. A temple was created in her honour to protect travellers crossing a treacherous ford on the road between Brittany and the Mediterranean. This rural town has long been a hub of industry. Home to the national firearms factory since the 16th century, it is now also known for automotive manufacturing and metalwork in general. Tulle has a surprising presidential past: it has been the political base of both Jacques Chirac and François Hollande, with the latter being the town’s mayor from 2001 to 2008.
What can I see and do? The stunning Romano-Gothic cathedral has the highest bell tower in Limousin, towering over the town at 75 metres. The cathedral is also noted for its pipe organ and striking modern stained glass window, designed by Jean-Jacques Grüber in 1979. Head next door to the former Benedictine Saint Martin Monastery, home to the Musée de Cloître where you will find everything from the gothic cloisters that give the museum its name, to medieval artworks and, of course, the town’s famous lace. If you want to see the intricate needlework in action, visit the Atelier du Poinct de Tulle, which aims to preserve this traditional art form. Tulle is also renowned for its accordions and plays host every September to the Nuits de Nacre, France’s largest musical and cultural celebration of the unique instrument. You can also tour the Maison Maugein, a local accordion maker. A favourite stroll for Tullistes is at Gimel-les-Cascades, situated around 10 kilometres to the north of the town. The three waterfalls – the biggest of which plunges an incredible 60 metres – are linked by a trail which takes around an hour to walk. Feeling homesick? Look out for the telephone box by the river – a patriotic gift from Tulle’s twin town, Bury, Greater Manchester.
Where are the best places to eat? Local specialities include the farcidure, a potato dish supposedly favoured by Hollande himself, and the bréjaude, a lard-based soup. The place to try them is Chez Gus et Olga (tel: (Fr) 5 55 20 81 62) which serves traditional regional cuisine near the Musée des Armes. If you want to follow in the Presidents’ footsteps, the dining locale of choice for both Hollande and Chirac is the Taverne du Sommelier (tel: (Fr) 5 55 20 26 73), a modestly-priced bistro next to the theatre. It is perhaps a favourite with the politicians thanks to its extensive wine menu boasting more than 300 to choose from. If you’ve got room for a crêpe for dessert, Crêperie le Bilig (tel: (Fr) 5 55 20 97 97) boasts a large range of sweet (and savoury) Breton-style pancakes.
Where should I stay? Just 1.5km from Tulle railway station, the 50-room Inter-hotel Tulle Centre (doubles from €87, hotel-tulle.com) is ideally situated in the town centre, enjoying views over the Old Town and the scenic Corrèze docks.
Get me there!
Direct flights from London to Limoges (50km away), with Ryanair, Flybe or British Airways take around 1hr 35min.