The Cadogan Loire guidebook, written by Philippe Barbour says of Bourges: “sing out of the Berry plains like a great spiritual silo, the cathedral of Bourges rival that of Chartres in greatness. It dominates an exceptionally beautiful, compact, historic city...” Barbour describes “the spendours of the Berry's capital” in glowing terms. Below are more of our friend Cheryl's 2003 photos.
Le Michelin Guide Vert give the city of Bourges three stars, recommending it to tourists. It says: « [Bourges] recèle des trésors : promenez-vous près des remparts de la cité ancienne ; admirez la (grandiose) simplicité des ces édifices religieux comme de ses plus humbles demeures... Tout le centre de la ville a été sauvegardé et restauré avec goût. Les maison à colombages (beaucoup datent des 15e et 16e siècles sont bien mises en valeur et ont retrouvé leur éclat d’autrefois. [La promenade des remparts est] l’occasion de traverser un quartier insolite et tranquille de Bourges. Les remparts n’ont pas entièrement disparu : observez bien le soubassement des maisons sur votre gauche, et vous en découvrirez des vestiges [etc.]. »
I assume this panel of coquilles St-Jacques (scallop shells) and cœurs (hearts) is designed to honor Jacques Cœur.
So I wonder why Henry James, in his 1884 book A Little Tour in France, ends his chapter about Bourges with this: Many “curious old houses are supposed to exist at Bourges, and I wandered vaguely about in search of them. But I had little success, and I ended by becoming sceptical. Bourges is a ville de province in the full force of the term, especially as applied invidiously. The streets, narrow, tortuous, and dirty, have very wide cobble-stones; the houses for the most part are shabby, without local colour. The look of things is neither modern nor antique— a kind of mediocrity of middle age. There is an enormous number of blank walls — walls of gardens, of courts, of private houses — that avert themselves from the street as if in natural chagrin at there being so little to see. Round about is a dull, flat, featureless country, on which the magnificent cathedral looks down. There is a peculiar dulness and ugliness in a French town of this type, which, I must immediately add, is not the most frequent one. In Italy everything has a charm, a colour, a grace; even desolation and ennui. In England a cathedral city may be sleepy, but it is pretty sure to be mellow. In the course of six weeks spent en province, however, I saw few places that had not more expression than Bourges.”