On a beautiful summer’s day, when my children and grandchildren were visiting from Paris for the week, I decided to take them to Limousine Park. With the picnic prepared and packed, we set off towards Limoges, switching to the A20 motorway towards Toulouse for a few miles, and leaving at junction 38.
While buying the tickets in the shop, the children (aged 8 and 4) have a nice surprise when they’re each given a treasure hunt game. In the game, they have to find ‘Limou’, the little calf who’s lost in the park.
The tour begins with a film about cattle farming, which seems to fascinate the adults more than the children, who prefer to run towards the colourful cow illustrating the various edible parts of the animal. We continue to an exhibition showcasing ‘Hathor’, the red beauty in the surrounding fields, as depicted on an Aubusson tapestry, on Limoges porcelain or even in a stew!
As we leave the exhibition, a guide is waiting to introduce us to this very special place distinctive for its landscape, its Jean Nouvel architecture, its genome research centre, its (Herdbook) breed selection and preservation centre, and its panoramic restaurant serving speciality dishes created by French MasterChef winner Anne Allassane.
As the impatience level rises, we set off on a hunt for clues, and on the way poke our heads through some cut-outs for photos. But before losing ourselves in the maze, we stop for a break. In the cool of the huge picnic area, there’s everything you need for a refreshing break: big wooden table, chilled drinks dispensers and toilets. A group of children are listening attentively to the guide, who’s showing them how to make clay animals, which they then proudly carry back as gifts to their mums!
After this well-deserved break, we take up the quest again with a visit to the mini-farm. The guide introduces us to the animals (including Ass Black Limousin pigs, hens and pygmy goats), and lest the children into the pens to pet them. The children love it, and the sound of cameras rises to fever pitch as parents immortalise these moments of shared happiness.
On the way back, we meet the mascot Lanaud, who comes to say hello to the delight of the children. We then complete our quest for Limou facing a closed door. The suspense is palpable: will we have the right code to open it and see if we’ve found him? The anticipation peaks as the children squabble over who will enter the code into the keypad.
Phew! We’ve won the treasure hunt, and head back to the shop to tell them that we’ve found Limou. The children are delighted to pass on the good news and receive their congratulations in the form of personalised certificates. The shop offers a representative cross-section of Limousin expertise, and has something for all the family. Everyone chooses a souvenir: ‘Made in Limoges’ salt and pepper shakers in the shape of stylised cows for mum, a ‘Limou’s Cousin’ cuddly toy for the youngest child and local beers for dad.
Did you know? To continue the process of improving the breed, the Lanaud research station selects 700 calves every year, and those that pass many different tests will become the top breeding stock for the breed.
Great ideas for older children:
You’ve always dreamed of being a cowboy, so head to the Wild West with bull riding as your introduction to the rodeo. You can also test your muscles on the CATA-Bouses... quite a challenge!
Insider tips: Best time to visit: when the park opens in the morning to enjoy the cool air and have a chance of seeing the heat haze that gradually rises from the landscape as the sun emerges. Photographers will know precisely what I mean!