In the year leading up to coming here, I would tell people that I was moving to Angoulême for 7 months and would get different reactions depending on where the person I was talking to was from. If they were American, they would usually sigh and say “oh how wonderful to live in France for 7 months and get away from New York for a while.” If they were French, or, to be more specific, Parisian, they would roll their eyes, ask me “WHY?”, say “WELL, you’ll get a lot of work done, that’s for sure”, and then warn me that going to Angoulême from NYC would be a shock and I might just die from boredom as if I’ve never lived in a place that wasn’t a big city (I have never lived in a place that wasn’t a big city).
I’m sure I’ll survive. The point of coming here IS to get a lot of work done, after all, and although I miss being able to get anything I want at any hour of any day for cheap within three blocks of my apartment, so far I really like Angoulême. It’s also a good sign that all the other artists and animators who I’ve met here seem to be pretty happy with it (and did you know there are special tax breaks for animators and video game makers in Angoulême? Or something like that. I don’t understand 20% of what people say to me in French here but I’m pretty sure that’s what they said.)
It is pretty tranquil here, and its hard to imagine what this place will look like when the festival starts in a few days and about 200,000 people will descend on a town with a year-round population of 44,000. I’m told it will be unrecognizable and that I will get very depressed afterwards when everyone leaves again.
So here’s a little walking tour to show you Angoulême before it gets insane:
My apartment building is attached to this place:
This is the main building of the Cité International de la Bande Dessinée. I still don’t really understand what a “cité internationale” is, but according to Wikipedia, the CIBD is “a public establishment of cultural cooperation of an industrial and commercial character created by the Department of Charente, the Ministry of French Culture, the City of Angoulême and the Region of Poitou-Charentes, devoted to comics and images” (poetic translation my own).
So under that umbrella you have the Maison des Auteurs, which gives studio spaces (and, in some cases, apartments) to cartoonists and animators, you have the Musée de la Bande Dessinée (across the river), a giant comics library, a cinema with a killer lineup, and a sort of school thing. The library, cinema, and school are contained in this monstrosity of a building which scares the bejesus out of me.
I live in one of these futuristic pods.
I may die of boredom but at least I’ll have a nice view.
Also this place sits right on the edge of the Charente river, which has a path all alongside it. When I visited back in October I took a bike ride and almost died of pretty:
The center of Angoulême sits on the top of a big hill which you walk up from the riverside.
Then at the top of the hill is the Maison des Auteurs (more on that in another post, someday)
Because its Sunday, I walked over to the market at place Victor Hugo, which is a little ways away from the center of Angoulême. There are a lot of interesting looking shops along the way. Some have been closed down:
Some are still going strong, like the House of Rubber
And the awesome looking driving school
Here are some pictures of places where people live:
I don’t want to be one of those people who moves to Europe and then starts telling everyone how much BETTER everything is there, but there is one thing (besides the healthcare system) that I can say is definitely better: the outdoor markets.
Sure, there’s the fancy farmers market with artisanal garlic just like back home, but most of the produce here is really pretty cheap and fresh.
And the lobsters run free. These guys are alive and crawling around:
Then you walk home with your little basket of groceries and relax, probably:
Angoulême has been known for the festival for about 30 years now, so comics has become part of its identity. All the street signs are speech balloons:
And then there are murals which pop up all over the place:
And of course, Corto Maltese vending machines
Then there’s the unsanctioned graffiti. I like these stencils that instruct passers by how to break into this abandoned building:
I don’t really want to break into that building though. I want to break into THIS building:
Can someone tell me the story of this mansion and why no one lives there and why its for sale? Is it haunted? It must be haunted and that’s why no one has bought it yet.
I had the Downton Abbey theme song in my head for the rest of my walk after this.
Anyway here’s some more pictures:
Ok I’ve spent enough time uploading photos for today. I should probably do some real work before the festival comes and destroys us all.