Friday, June 5, 2015

Gardens are the stars this weekend

Flowers frame a view of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers
in Limeuil.

Private and public gardens throughout France are celeberating Rendez-vous aux Jardins this weekend, June 5-7. The annual event, first organized in 2002, features around 2,300 gardens and parks, some of which are open to the public only this weekend. This year's theme: The Garden Walk. The event is a perfect excuse for me to visit a garden that's been on my "places-to-go" list for a couple of years, les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil.

Panoramic view from Limeuil's gardens

The lovely village of Limeuil (24510) is perched on a mountaintop at the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers. We park in one of the abundant free spaces at the edge of the town and take a walk by the river before starting the leisurely climb to the top. Kayaks and canoes dot the water, and even on this weekday, there are children wading in the river. The two riverside cafés are doing a brisk business, but we decide to explore a bit before taking a refreshment break.

Bikes by the riverside in Limeuil

We stop at the Mairie, which is closed for lunch, and admire the garden there, which honors fallen WWI soldier Jean Belanger. Also here is the Limeuil tourist office and a handy W.C.

Garden in front of Limeuil's Mairie

Along the way, we learn a bit about Limeuil's history via placards. This area has been inhabited since Magdalenian times (15,000 to 10,000 BC). Its name comes from the Celtic word lemoialum, meaning "place planted with elms." The Gauls were here, as were the Romans and Vikings. The stone fortress was built in the 12th century prior to the Hundred Years War. Several centuries of violence ensued, and Limeueil was a center for the "Croquants" uprising in 1594. Later, commerce replaced war as the village's primary enterprise. With its prime location on the rivers, the 19th century was a particularly fruitful one for the town. But the railroad and roadways put an end to Limeuil's prosperity until the late 20th century when the town was carefully restored as a tourist destination.

A placard along a rue in Limeuil

The jardin is just reopening after lunch when we arrive. When we see the artisan ice cream offered in the snackbar, we know have made a good decision to delay our refreshment: The green tomato, lemon and basil ice cream is amazing.

Inside les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil, we find more placards and signs explaining the various trees and plants. Clearly, this is garden that offers knowledge as well as tranquility.
This séquoia géant makes me think of home.

Learning opportunities abound at les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil.

Tying the knot at les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil

La font Jean Manein at les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil

The gardens also feature hands-on activities and a witch garden for young visitors. Near the summit, you'll find a wooden hive with windows that allow a glimpse of the bees inside.

La ruche at Les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil

An ancient cave at Les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil

Flowering tree at les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil

To celebrate this weekend's Rendez-vous aux Jardins, les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil have an array of special events planned. But beyond this weekend and throughout France, gardens can be a delightful destination or respite amid a busy day of sightseeing.

For more information, visit the official Rendez-vous aux Jardins page here.

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