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