With more than a toehold in the delectable Dordogne valley it is not surprising that Corrèze is attractive to British people with a quest for la vie francaise, especially those in search of out-of-the-way places. Even the French would have difficulty explaining what lies in Corrèze.
Much of the department is embraced in that amorphous region known as Quercy, and popular with short-stay visitors although it is well off the main tourist drag, which if anything makes it all the more appealing.
What makes Corrèze such an alluring place is the low population density, and, as a result, a low crime rate. But beyond these pertinent issues, it is the fact that, like its neighbours in the broader region of Limousin, this is the empty quarter, unknown to many, dismissed by others, yet prized by those who come to know it.
This is a region of gently rolling hills, wooded and farmed, where the ubiquitous Limousin cattle browse contentedly and soaring black kites give shape to the wind. Vineyards, maize fields and orchards feature prominently, and contribute to the pervading atmosphere of pastoral rusticity.
There is no haste here, quiet, anything-but-direct, roads meander up hill and down dale, leading the tourist to sequestered villages where the tempo of life is very much andante sostenuto. There are towns – Brive-la-Gaillarde and Tulle – but they are administrative and commercial centres with little to contribute to the culture or patrimony of the region.
Among the local people – Corrèziennes – Corrèze inspires passion, pride and devotion. This is a place where peace, legend, solitude and tradition live on, touched by charm and a welcoming gracefulness. In some ways, the prevailing tranquillity might be thought to be epitomised in the Regional Nature Park Millevaches – the Park of a Thousand Cows – largely set in the north of Corrèze, but overlapping into Haute-Vienne and Creuse. This is Limousin’s highest area and one of France’s main water sources, but it has nothing to do with cows – although they are about in abundance. The name comes from the Celtic mil batz, meaning a thousand springs.
It takes time to work your way around Corrèze, and that's no bad thing. This is a most enchanting department, and one that responds beautifully to taking a leisurely approach.
A start in Collonges-la-Rouge is always welcome, and from there visiting the former stronghold of Brive-la-Gaillarde before heading south to Turenne and then Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in a wooded valley on the upper Dordogne – doesn't the name say it all? – 'beautiful place on the Dordogne'.
Continuing in a somewhat haphazard way, you can head for Varetz, and visit the lovely Jardins de Colette, and maybe even stay in the house, now a luxury hotel, where she lived. Le Saillant is a quiet backwater with some impressive stained glass windows in its church, by Marc Chagall, while Uzerche is probably a place you wouldn't even think of visiting unless I encouraged you to do so.
Tourisme Intercommunal Tulle et Coeur de Corrèze
Antenne de Tulle : Place Jean Tavé - 19000 TULLE
Tel: 05 55 26 59 61 www.tourismecorreze.com
For all information before and during your visit call Tourisme Infos Limousin (Bilingual French-English receptionists) +33 5 55 35 03 26 (from England), or 0 810 410 420 (in France); Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.tourismelimousin.com.