To begin with Brive-la-Gaillarde was simply called ‘Brive,’ then in 1919 ‘Gaillarde’ was added in what seems to be a reference to the strength and security afforded to the town by the two sets of walls that surround it. The name thus remained and Brive-la-Gaillarde, strong and secure, is now a lively market town, with its property prices and population set to soar in response to the establishment of an international airport next year.
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Located in the Correze department of the Limousin region, Brive-La-Gaillarde lies on the banks of the Correze River, directly between Paris and Toulouse. Limoges airport can be reached within 45mins and the French Motorail service runs directly through Brive.
Brive-la-Gaillarde started to develop in the 5 th century, centering around a church dedicated to Sain-Martin-L’Espagnol (a Spanish aristrocrat who arrived in pagan Brive in 407 AD, on the feast of Saturnus, and managed to smash various idols before being stoned to death). The church continues to stand in the centre today but has been entirely renovated so only a few original features remain.
In the 12 th century, the first set of walls was built, during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), the second set was built, and very soon after, Brive-la-Gaillarde began to establish itself as an impressive market town, so much so that George Bassen (an iconic French poet) wrote a song about it called ‘Hécatombe.’ The market square was then renamed ‘Place Georges Brassens’ in memory of him and his appreciation. By 1970, Brive had significantly made its mark in the market world and continues to thrive today.
For any visitor, the market should be the first port of call. A sacred place to the people of Brive, a cultural heritage they take seriously, there are all kinds of produce on sale: flowers, vegetables, Limousin beef, jam, mushrooms, foie gras, the list goes on and throughout the year there are festivals in the market place, celebrating the extensive farming produce. With a ceremonial air, farmers cut, carve and discuss their goods, while customers happily fill their baskets. In February, truffles headline the show, in June, stawberries are the star, in August, milk calfs reign supreme and in October, apples feature highly, to name just a few. A book fair, meanwhile, takes place in November and is one of the biggest in France, bringing together over 300 authors every year.
Once the market has been thouroughly absorbed (and this will take time), other delights are: the Hôtel de Labence, a 16 th century hotel built during the Renaissance and now dedicated to the history and art of Brive, including exhibitions of archeological finds and a collection of 17 th century tapestries. The Edmond Michelet Museum, a former house of Edmond Michelet (minister of de Gaulle) that portrays the occupation and the French Resistance through photographs, posters and objects of time.And the Ernest-Rupin Museum, an elegant building from the time of Louis XIII, showing works of art and documents of regional interest.
The Edmond Michelet Museum
Like Paris, Brive creates its own artificial beach in the summer (‘Brive Plage’), with a swimming pool, numerous games for the children and an eccletic mix of live music in the evenings: Brazilian, African, Carribean, and Classical. July to August is particularly lively with the Festival de la Vézère, music, opera and poetry are all on the menu, along the river and throughout the villages, meaning summer visitors will be entirely entertained. And at Christmas, an ice-rink is set up.
There is also the Brive rugby team to support, a very successful team; it is passionately followed by the residences of Brive. And there are sports in abundance to partake in: canoeing, fishing, sailing (thanks to the gorgeous rivers and lakes surrounding Brive), golf, horse-riding, hiking, sky-diving, piloting, mountain climbing and potholing (thanks to the stunning landscape).
To capture a flavour of the region before arrival, Firlight and Woodsmoke by Claude Michelet are good reads.
There are two gourmet treats that must be tasted when in Brive-La-Gaillarde; walnut liqueur, and purple mustard (color produced through the addition of grapes). The Eric Lamy Chocolate Factory should also be visited.
Straw wine is a local favourite. It has existed since the 3 rd century AD and was first deported from the Corrèze to Paris by Saint Eloi as a gift to the King Dagobert in 622 AD. It is a sweet wine that can be savoured as an aperitif as well as with cheeses and deserts. There is also ‘le Vin de Mille et Une Pierres’ (wine of a thousand and one stones) which is only produced in Corr èze.
Our team of sale advisers at Sextant Properties will be happy to help you to find a property in Limousin. All of our agents in Limousin are registered French real estate agents and speak both French and English. Whatever kind of property you are looking for: flat, gite, B&B, villa, castle or mansion, we will do our best to find a property in Limousin matching your requirements. Do not hesitate to contact us to find out more about our selection of properties for sale in Brive la Gaillarde.