Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bourges. The hidden gem in the center of France. Part 1.

The first  thing I’d like to do is to say HUGE Thank You! To my dear talented friend Virginia , whose blog Paris Through My Lens I admire, for introducing me  so generously to you.
Merci beaucoup dear Virginia.

And thank you very much to everyone for visiting my blog and leaving such encouraging comments. Your support means a world to me and I’m thrilled to meet new friends and discover new blogs!

We’ll travel together. I’d love to share with you whatever jewel I find.

Welcome to my blog.

City of Bourges is right in the center of France  and on the crossroads of history. A stronghold once conquered by Romans, whose presence you still can see, and a prosperous city of the 16-th century where exactly we found ourselves today.

We got there at the dusk when everything gets a marvelous golden glow. Magic!

But nothing was as incredibly beautiful as wandering these peaceful streets at night.
With soft light from windows above, the streets in historic center are lit with those famous French lanterns which are nowadays such a hit on all antique markets.

Beautiful, lovingly preserved mostly medieval city of Bourges with rows of authentic maisons de bois - half-timber houses and narrow cobble stone streets, gorgeous little squares and tiny babbling fountains,  breathtaking Palais de Jacques Coeur and world known St. Etienne Cathedral, secret alleys, hidden passages behind the  ramparts, lanterns and cute courtyards, grand Hotels particuliers and XVIII century townhouses. 

This entire block is actually a colourful trompe-l'oeil painted on the side wall.

The historical center is a pedestrian zone and is a part of proudly restored national heritage. It’s kind of a miracle that people haven’t abandon this tiny dwellings in favor of more comfortable contemporary housing at outskirts, where traffic allowed and most of the businesses located. But they stay there for many generations, and judging from how every detail is attended with care, they love their city and it certainly shows.

For some unexplainable reason Bourges is largely overlooked by tourists, no crowds at all where they likely should be.  There’s so much to see and  learn and the city is very inventive and generous in showing off all  its treasures to attract the visitors. 

One of them is Route de Lumiere, an array of historical streets nicely lit with lanterns  and leading you into the Nuit de Lumiere.  Spotlights on the most significant architectural landmarks like Palais de Jaques Coer. They are highlighted in the dark with a lights-and-sounds show, when colors, pictures or ornaments projected onto façade and surroundings. Accompanied by  string and flute Renaissance music it creates magic feeling, transporting you through times. Brilliant idea and absolutely free and only a handful of people to see…

Surprisingly there were very few tourists, calm and quiet like having this magic city to ourselves.  An intimate experience. We started to whisper as even a quiet talk echoed.  Wouldn’t you hear a clatter of horses’ hoofs on paving stones? I’d better step aside to let a carriage  pass by.

Stores with modern, design-y windows are closed. The city looks asleep and it’s not 9pm yet. Somewhere at the end of the street you can hear those unmistakable tinkling of the glassware, light murmuring and it smells really good – the restaurant, means we’re  approaching the main hub Place Gordaine surrounded with gorgeous medieval 4 stories skyscrapers. It was a long day and a nice dinner at such a beautiful setting is a travelers dream. 

Oh this eau de vivre, a bottle of cool Badoit on a hot day and a glass of wine and I’m pretty much content. My husband and son look in awe around while waiting for a meal to come. Unbelievable. Isn’t it a movie set? Nope, it’s for real.

Place Gordaine.
Steep roofs, wrought iron doors, unexpected passages around the corner and people actually still live there for the last 500 years.
It's not a decoration though sometimes it feels like someone shouted "Action!" and in minute , as soon as we turn, it may disappear after the sharp  “Cut!” No, it won't. People LOVE their city and it shows at every step and any direction you go.

I wish we had there a full day from early morning till late night . If there are cities walkable and huggable, this is the one.

Sweet dreams. See you in the morning.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


  1. Welcome back. I do not know Bourges but you made me feel like going. I have always wanted to attend the famous "Printemps de Bourges" but now I want to go just to see the town. Yes, "la Province" (loosely defined as any town outside of Paris) can be very quiet in the evening. How lucky you were to stop by on such a beautiful day. La Belle France indeed -- Oui, I am biased. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Thank you, Veronique. Bourges to be continued. By the way how to call people who live in Bourges: is it bourgois?

  3. I don't know why, but I must jump through several hoops to have my comments published.

  4. Sorry, Harriet, I'm working to fix it.

  5. Hi Natalie........have not been to Bourges but it looks like a medieval treasure to explore, beautiful soft warm light.
    Have fun on your blog journey!
    Carla x


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