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The home of the Va­lois royal fa­mi­ly and a mec­ca for fans of co­mics- just 35 mi­nutes from the centre of Bor­deaux.

Bordeaux Moments - - Escapade / The Excursion -

The high speed train line (LGV) has trans­for­med re­gio­nal geo­gra­phy. An­gou­lême is the most ob­vious case. From Bor­deaux ci­ty centre, it is much qui­cker to reach the ca­pi­tal of Cha­rente than it is to go to the coast, still in the Gi­ronde de­part­ment. Let's meet the neighbours! As soon as you step out of the train sta­tion you meet an obe­lisk co­ve­red with speech bubble en­gra­vings, de­di­ca­ted to Gos­cin­ny, the co-crea­tor of As­te­rix. You know im­me­dia­te­ly where you are; this is the Co­mics Ca­pi­tal, not just du­ring its in­tense week-long fes­ti­val in Ja­nua­ry, but all the time. The street si­gns have speech bubbles, py­lons are co­ve­red in graf­fi­ti, mo­nu­ments ce­le­bra­ting va­rious co­mic book he­roes are scat­te­red around the ci­ty, and spec­ta­cu­lar pain­ted mu­rals rise up in va­rious places (ar­tists range from Fran­quin and Zep to Druillet, De Cré­cy or Schui­ten, tours avai­lable from tou­rist of­fice or with smart­phone app*). La Ci­té in­ter­na­tio­nale de la bande des­si­née et de l'image (“In­ter­na­tio­nal Centre for Co­mics and Images”) has trai­ning fa­ci­li­ties, stu­dios, a ci­ne­ma, a li­bra­ry, a re­source centre, book­shop, tem­po­ra­ry ex­hi­bi­tions and a mu­seum that re­traces the his­to­ry of French and Ame­ri­can co­mic books, with a col­lec­tion of works that is unique in Eu­rope. The fa­ci­li­ties are spread over both sides of the Cha­rente ri­ver, but are lin­ked by the Musée du pa­pier (“pa­per mu­seum”), which re­counts the re­gion’s rich lo­cal his­to­ry in the print trade. Five hun­dred metres ups­tream on the left bank lies the Frac Poi­tou Cha­rentes ex­hi­bi­tion space. “The most beau­ti­ful stream in the king­dom” Your ar­tis­tic trip al­so pro­vides you with an op­por­tu­ni­ty to sample the de­lights of the ri­ver and the ci­ty’s gree­ner side. Be­hind the train sta­tion (the walk­way opens in No­vem­ber, in the mean­time take the de­tour over the bridge and go past the Schui­ten dra­wing on the De­part­men­tal Ar­chives buil­ding), pass through the l’hou­meau neigh­bou­rhood to reach the Cha­rente and the old port from the Middle Ages. On the ri­ver­banks along Bou­le­vard Bes­son Bey, you can take a Ba­teaux Rouges elec­tric boat or pe­da­lo to tour the ri­ver. Just next to where you dock, La Reine Mar­got of­fers short ri­ver cruises, with or wi­thout a meal. About a ki­lo­metre downs­tream from the Ci­té de la BD, the Fré­ge­neuil re­crea­tio­nal park is a great place for adults and chil­dren alike. Adults can en­joy the open air bar-grill. On the other side of the ri­ver there is a 20km bu­co­lic trail, la Cou­lée verte, which runs along an old tow­path.

« New An­gou­lême » An­gou­lême is not just a ri­ver­side ha­ven, it's al­so a na­tu­ral bal­co­ny. The his­to­ric ci­ty centre, per­ched on its ram­parts and un­bur­de­ned by hea­vy traf­fic, of­fers a gran­diose view of the sur­roun­ding coun­try­side. His­to­ry seeps from its pores. The Saint-pierre quar­ter bears wit­ness to the ci­ty's pros­pe­ri­ty in the 12th cen­tu­ry. In the 16th cen­tu­ry, the Or­léans-an­gou­lême branch of the Va­lois fa­mi­ly gave France four kings, trans­for­ming the ci­ty into an in­tel­lec­tual and ar­tis­tic hub. The Hô­tel de ville's round to­wer, a ves­tige of the castle that lay there, may have seen the birth of Mar­ga­ret of Va­lois. It was in ho­nour of her bro­ther, King Fran­cis I, that the fu­ture New York was ori­gi­nal­ly na­med Nou­velle An­gou­lême by the first ex­plo­rer to dis­co­ver it. Art and his­to­ry lo­vers- or sim­ply those who en­joy wal­king- have plen­ty to whet their ap­pe­tites: the mu­seum next to the ca­the­dral with its pre­cious col­lec­tion of Afri­can and Ocea­nic art, l’hô­tel Saint-si­mon (17 Rue de la Cloche-verte), plus the streets around Place Lou­vel, Place du Mi­nage and Place du Pa­let. The area around the 19th cen­tu­ry Bal­tard-sty­led co­ve­red mar­ket hall is a gas­tro­no­mi­cal pa­ra­dise, and a great place to grab a drink.

Of­fice de Tou­risme d’an­gou­lême 7 bis Rue du Chat (place des Halles) 16000 An­gou­lême Tel: 05 45 95 16 84 www.an­gou­leme-tou­risme.com Open Sept-jun: Mon-sat 9am12.30pm (Tues 11am-12.30pm) & 1.30pm-6pm (Sat 5.30pm) Ju­ly-aug: Mon-sat 9am-6.30pm, Sun 9.30am-1pm

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