France 79 - Angers - Black and white stripes on a stunning castle

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Europe » France » Pays-de-la-Loire » Angers
June 4th 2014
Published: June 4th 2014
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Well now is the time to say goodbye - we are on our last few days of our holiday. Where have the last 31 disappeared to?. One minute we are planning and the next it is nearly over. We have given a lot of thought of what to do over the last few days and as always we have a few days left without any real thoughts about what to do with that time. On our last campsite I fell into conversation with a lady who had just arrived and was in the same dilemma. She and her husband had been to Italy and had used the train to travel down and back. She could only travel on a Saturday and found herself like us with a few days left but with nothing to fill it with.

We decided in the end to visit the town of Angers. Homework had been done and we had identified a suitable car park within walking distance of the castle. As we proceeded up the street we first found a car park which had overhead barriers. Even if Suzy ducked she would have struggled to get in under the 2.2 metre height barrier. Working up the street the next car park was open and accessible but was reserved for lorries. The third with no height barrier and a few motorhomes who had obviously spent the night there was the one for us. A touch scruffy but plenty of parking spaces.

We had a bit of time to kill as the castle did not open until 9.30 so we walked along the river into town where we passed an interesting fountain. Quite large and unexpected. The town was totally empty and it felt odd to be on our own. Many of the shops were closed and looked as if they had been that way for some while. A closed e- cigarette shop, a shoe shop and a clothes shop.

Angers as usual is built on a hill. On the highest point is the church. A creamy white lavatorial stone building with an heavily ornate frontage. We peeked in but it was sparsely decorated and not all that interesting.

From the church we walked back down to the fountain and made our way along the river to the castle . Angers wasn’t new to me as we had come this way about 12 years ago. I remember the striking castle as being different to most castle and chateaux in the area. This is where adjectives come in and I try to describe what I could see. The site is a rocky and overlooks the River Maine. It is another castle that was built by the Count of Anjou. The castle is built of that same white stone but this time banded with black slate. It is a very powerful castle, strong and quite intimidating. Not a pretty castle. There are towers which were originally 10 feet higher with a pepperpot roof to each one. They were reduced by that 10 feet and the roof removed during the 100 years war when new warfare demanded a different style of castle. Perhaps with the roof it would have looked less intimidating and a more pretty castle. I am guessing a touch like Carcassone. There are 17 of these towers and a grassed moat which now is covered with flower beds full of orange French marigolds. Around the perimeter a market was going on. I found myself remembering the programme Put your money where you mouth is . A programme where antique experts spend their own money buying items to sell and make a profit for charity. Sometimes they go to France to a market such as this. I looked around and saw lava lamps, fake fur furniture, tables and cabinets and I wondered if any would sell at home for a profit.

It cost 8 euros 50 each to go into the castle and we entered via the 15th century fortified gateway. Inside the space opened out and we saw in front of us the Seigniorial residence built between the 14th and 15th century. The royal residence was built by King Rene between 1435 and 1440. Everything was lavatorial white with the exception of the new mid 20th century building designed to hold the Apocolypse Tapestry. We set off for the usual coffee before looking around the gardens. Single crimson roses climbed the ramparts. The hanging garden was full of medicinal herbs and there were even vines growing. As well as these there was a formal garden with clipped topiary hedging.

The chapel was built around 1410 by Louis II for his bride Yolanda of Aragon. The building was quite sparsely decorated and unfortunately had been hacked by the prisoners who had been held there. There were a few traces of red paint and three altarpieces which enlivened the space a touch. We walked the parapets which gave us excellent views over the river and the town.

Our last port of call was the very modern Apocalypse Gallery. Built of dark stone some might say it clashed with the older building. L Shaped it was massive and linked between one side of the castle and the other. It was built to house the oldest tapestry of this size 100 metres long. I think it was a stunning addition and at least you could tell what was original and what was completely new.

What can I say about the tapestry? Well I had seen the Bayeax Tapestry a few years ago and expected this to look that . Well it didn’t . If I have a criticism it would be that the room was so dark it was almost impossible to see the tapestry. Even close up to it you could not make out the colours nor the design. The tapestry was commissioned in 1375 and looked more woven. It was long. Incredibly long and stretched along two walls. Made completely of wool it took 7 years to complete. It stretched up 6 metres high so being 5 foot 4 I had great difficulty seeing the top. It is 23 metres long. Apparently each piece started off with a major figure and was followed by two rows of seven scenes between a strip of sky and earth. There were few information boards just a green sheet which told you a little about the work but it was impossible to read this in the near darkness. I think the work would have made sense to someone from the age it was produced in but for us unless you knew the Book of Revelations inside out it was hard to make out what was going on. Digging back into Religious Education lessons at school I did recognise the breaking of the seals which led to a plague being released on mankind. I remembered the story of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and it was easy to make out the throwing of mankind in the fiery pit where they were prodded by devils and demons. Babylon was thrown into the pit and prostitutes rode many headed beasts. The whole thing culminated with the heavenly city – the new Jerusalem.

It was impressive to say the least but I think to take it in properly you needed some better lighting and a good knowledge of the last Book of the Bible.

We left after viewing it and moved on to our next to last campsite. Camping St Nicholas. A little campsite in the middle of nowhere near to Le Bec-Hellouin. The journey to the campsite took us through lovely countryside. Pretty villages with half timbered houses. All with a thatch roof and most with Bearded Iris growing along the roof line. Apparently Marie Antoinette liked Bearded Iris on a thatched roof and it seems that the clay they are bedded in help with drainage. They must have looked lovely when in flower. In parts of Cheshire and Shropshire it is usual to see a thatch peacock on the roof but not a living plant.

The site had everything you could wish for. Home made fizzy cider at 2 euros 50 a bottle, an indoor swimming pool and a small bar. The owner was wonderfully friendly and his mother (I think) was in charge of cooking which she did in a small shed. Chips, sausages, mussels she did the lot whilst on the mobile phone talking all the time. We only paid 12 euros for the site and felt it was grossly underpriced for all the facilities it had.

Tomorrow we head off towards home. We have already contacted Eurotunnel to find out if we can change our booking and were offered a 16.20 crossing with a surcharge of £136. This was on top of the £71 we had already paid. When I complained the lovely lady told me that I should be grateful to have got the fare so cheap in the first place. End of conversation. Waited an hour or so and tried again. This time got another lady and explained that we needed to change. We had already checked on the internet and knew that there was a train at 6.50 the next morning which would cost £91. She booked me on it and charged a surcharge of £20 which was a bit more like it.

Our last night would be spent at Camping Bien Assise at Guines. This is a campsite we have booked in to quite a few times as it is handy for the tunnel , half and hour away and has an excellent restaurant for a farewell to France last meal. It is always full of English who are like us either on the way home or others on their way on holiday. You know what you are going to get.

Any disappointment yes – the restaurant doesn’t open on a Monday !!!!!!


6th June 2014
Through the arched window

Great sites
This is lovely and very artsy.
6th June 2014
Through the arched window

We both take photos and this is one of my husbands so thankyou for the compliment
12th June 2014

Just found your blog and it looks as though you enjoyed your trip around Spain and France! I shall certainly be reading it all more thoroughly to get some ideas for places to visit on our next trip down to Southern Spain! It's a trip we do fairly often!!
12th June 2014

Hi we have been reading yours too. Love to hear where other people go to and what they enjoy. It gives you such good ideas. We have found places to visit that we would never have dreamed of without reading about them in blogs. I guess we wouldnt have done Spain had we not read blogs.

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