Friday, June 15, 2012

Angoulême, Cognac & Niort

We thought we'd run away from the rain, so we drove south, farther than we usually drive in a day.  The clouds followed us, but we didn't feel a drop of rain.  When the clouds would open, we were either in the car or in a restaurant, so we kept our powder dry.

Angoulême is the capital of the Charente department, in Poitou-Charentes. Based on a plateau overlooking a meander of the Charente River, the city is nicknamed the "balcony of the southwest".

The ramparts offer a long, bracing walk with views over the Charente Valley.  A vintage car race takes place along the ramparts in mid-September.  The Circuit des Remparts is held annually, one of the last such street-racing course in France, together with Pau (and Monaco).  The famous cars driven in the past are presented at the modern event.

Cartoon Mural

Angoulême is mostly known for its Angoulême International Comics Festival (Festival International de la Bande-dessinée), which receives nearly 200,000 visitors each year.  It has a reference collection of French print and movie cartoons dating back to 1946.  The town includes murs peints, various walls painted in street-art cartoon style. A statue has been erected to Hergé, creator of The Adventures of Tintin.

This is the celebrated 12th-century Cathédrale St-Pierre, which dominates the centre.  It is the fourth to be built on the site.  One of its most interesting features is the Romanesque frieze on the façade.  Some exaggerated restoration work was done by the 19th-century architect Abadie.  In his eagerness to wipe out all details added after the 12th-century, he destroyed a 6th-century crypt.


Unfortunately, he was also let loose on the old château, transforming it into a Neo-Gothic Hôtel de Ville (town hall).

Beautiful gardens surround the Town Hall, which is appropriate for all the weddings taking place in this location.

Beautiful flowers, yes, but their fertilizer seems to be a mixture of rotten fish and farm dung.  Trust me - the appearance is better than the smell!

This Statue Carnot provides a great location to  look at the panoramic view of the valley.

This is the 15th-century tower where Marguerite d'Angoulême was born in 1492.

Marguerite was the sister of François I, she spoke six languages, had an important role in foreign politics, and wrote a popular work, Heptaméron.

Théâtre d'Angoulême

Palais de Justice

Great city to walk since the centre part is flat.  Lots of trees provide shade for the hot days of summer, and where else would you find two benches face to face, just waiting for friends to meet and chat...

Some people bring their cats in from the rain, their laundry that's on the clothes line, but this lady brings in her motorcycle.  We have our priorities!

Speaking of cats, we had a lovely lunch at "Le Chat Noir" - the Black Cat.

A lovely lunch, with a Grand Marnier crêpe for dessert.  Oh my - how delicious!

Time to start the long drive back home, but since we were so close to Cognac, we decided to stop and see what was happening.  Since we've visited the Maison Otard already and learned how the distilling of cognac is done, we decided to tour the Cognac Museum instead of another Maison.  It was well presented and very interesting.  We then stopped at Rouillet-Fransac and bought two bottles of specialty cognac: one chocolate and one coffee.  SOOoooo smoooooth.

By the time we arrived in Niort, one hour from Thouars, we checked to see if "La Table des Saveurs" could offer us dinner.  They could, so we knew we were in for a treat!  But first, a quick tour of the town.

The Keep, or Le Donjon de Niort, is still standing strong and proud.  (Karl keeps saying he has it on good authority that my ancestor stayed - or was locked up - in the upper right window!)

The architecture is still interesting, varied and beautiful.  But frankly, we are most attracted by the food!

Amuse bouche: chicken pâté

M's appy: chopped lox with milk mousse, lemon and dill

Duck for both of us, on stir-fried veggies

Cheese plate and salad

Pre-dessert: cheese cake with passion fruit and tropical topping

M's strawberry feuilletée

Karl's chocolate ganache with raspberry coulis

We arrived home at midnight, happy with our wonderful and interesting day!

1 comment:

  1. Each day you chronicle seems to be more wonderful than the previous, and this day is my favourite so far. I loved the sightseeing in Angoulême,the Black Cat (of course), and your dinner. A perfect outing!