Angouleme

Our summer this year ended with a wedding in Chenon, in the Charente region. Luckily for us, this is about a three hour drive from where my parents live near Argentat. This meant we were able to book a chambres d’hotes for a long weekend and leave Arthur and Eirlys with my mum and dad.

Angouleme is not a place I had really heard mentioned before. But, when I googled the area, knowing we had some time to explore as a couple, it’s name popped up. I didn’t do a lot of research, as it was just going to be the two of us, we decided to just turn up and head into the Office de Tourisme. This was the perfect call. The OdT was situated right next to Les Halles, a big covered market full of stalls selling everything from half a lamb to locally grown beans. We were also given a map which laid out two trail options; one covering the historic buildings and the other guiding visitors to all the unique murals on the city’s walls, perfect for me! It also highlighted the Musee de Bande Dessinee (comic strip/art museum) as the place to visit.

Honestly, we didn’t complete either trail fully. Angouleme is built on a fairly steep hill and my pregnant self could not be bothered with sweating round the whole lot! On our first day we covered much of the historic centre of the city though. There are a number of impressive buildings, the cathedral probably being the most beautiful. What we enjoyed most though was wandering through the smaller streets and places, admiring the traditional French architecture, peering into independent art galleries and reading the menus of restaurants. Evidence of the city’s comic strip scene is everywhere, with small murals popping up on telephone wire boxes and walls; an interesting and pretty contrast with the historic building style.

Worn out, we looked for dinner, forgetting that most French restaurants offer a large menu for lunch then often narrow the choice down to snacks for dinner. The centre place of the city was home to several cafes and restaurants. A band was setting up and there were young, trendy people filling the cafes. Apparently none of whom needed actual food, just cigarettes and glasses of Perroquet (Ricard and Mint syrup). So, we gave up on the food front, snaffled a burger from a Quick outlet (it was pretty good!) and settled down for a drink with everyone else, soaking up the busy evening’s atmosphere. Not being particularly young or trendy ourselves we didn’t stay late but headed back to our chambres d’hote, looking forward to the lie in and undisturbed breakfast to come!

Shout out to our lovely B&B, Le Coin Trouvé, about twenty minutes away from Angouleme, in the tiny village of Maine de Boixe. The house itself is beautiful, with a private courtyard and little sitting room/dining area for guests to use. A huge freestanding tub made the bathroom extra inviting and the soft four-poster bed was super comfy. Our hostess couldn’t have been more welcoming and the breakfast she served us was delicious and fitting for the region. Give it a search online if you are heading nearby.

  

Our friend’s wedding was being preceded by a barbeque on the Friday, so we had the morning to spend doing the artier side of Angouleme. We began with the museum itself, situated right on the river. This is spectacularly arranged, with examples of artwork and comics by a range of artists from Will Eisner to Albert Uderzo, interspersed with videos of interviews and cartoons, and several large seating areas with large selections of anthologies and biographies to peruse. There was also a fantastic children’s space (although the whole thing was very child-friendly) with colouring activities, dress up areas and themed toys. Currently the museum is also playing host to a Gaumont Film Company exhibition. Gaumont is the oldest and first film company in the world, responsible for films including the recent blockbuster Intouchables. Again, wonderfully curated with sets, costumes, poster art and videos being shown. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

  

The mural trail is walkable from the museum, but we were feeling lazy so drove and parked up the hill. The street art that we saw was fantastic. A huge range of styles and themes, the street art is painted by artists including Frank Margerin and Philippe Druillet. I love the Girl on Ramparts by Max Cabanes, best viewed from the rampart itself. It combines a view over parts of the river and railway line, as well as the mural itself. Time and sleepy pregnant vibes meant we didn’t go round the whole lot, so let me know if you do! I’d love to hear about the rest of the artworks.

We had lunch at Les Relais D’Alsace. I ordered the choucroute, which should have come with a warning as it could easily have fed three hungry adults! Delicious but embarrassing having to leave more than half of the dish! Unfortunately the heavens then opened, so a leisurely walk back to the car was replaced by Tom running through the rain to fetch the car and then get me from where I was huddled in a doorway.

Luckily, a warm bath and fresh towels were waiting for us back at the chambre d’hotes. Refreshed, we were soon ready to head off to the barbeque to catch up with old friends and begin celebrating the wedding of one of the most in love couples we know.

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