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.