A Walk Around Angoulême

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:

wtf

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.

 

home sweet home

I live in one of these futuristic pods.

picture taken on a sunnier day

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:

pretty

 

possible case of death by pretty

 

ack

I didn't know these changing cabanas existed outside of cartoons

The center of Angoulême sits on the top of a big hill which you walk up from the riverside.

Not sure what this thing's original purpose was. Hangout post?

just a little further

 

Then at the top of the hill is the Maison des Auteurs (more on that in another post, someday)

the Maison des Auteurs

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:

former music store

former AUO store

???

Some are still going strong, like the House of Rubber

all your rubber needs met here

And the awesome looking driving school

 

Here are some pictures of places where people live:

little houses with back gardens

apartment buildings

 

prison

 

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.

spices and dried fruit guy

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:

photo blurry because I couldn't understand whether the guy was telling me I was welcome to take a photo or to please not take photos.

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:

I'm not sure who is supposed to be saying "Rue Jean Guichard." Me, maybe?

And then there are murals which pop up all over the place:

Marc Antoine Mathieu

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:

use an axe for plywood

use a crowbar for these window grates

I don’t really want to break into that building though. I want to break into THIS building:

home sweet home

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:

my dream car

musical offerings

Ramp being built for the closing ceremony of the festival when Art Speigelman will jump a motorcycle over the Charente river and land in his exhibition in the Musée de la Bande Dessinée to wild applause.

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.

see ya

PS: if you want to get updates from me about new work, new posts and more, click HERE to sign up for my newsletter!

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19 comments

  1. Grandma Lilly:

    Jan 22, 2012

    Reply

    Beautiful, unusual, mysterious, most interesting – and foreign to me.

  2. Simon Fraser:

    Jan 22, 2012

    Reply

    Those bring back memories. I love Angouleme and I look forward to more of your blog posts on the subject. Have fun.

  3. Claire:

    Jan 22, 2012

    Reply

    This is great! Look forward to more and to being there .

  4. Bill Wittman:

    Jan 22, 2012

    Reply

    Love the beginning of the opening chapter…

  5. Joe Decie:

    Jan 22, 2012

    Reply

    The French do the best markets. After eating French vegetables, those here in the UK just taste of nothing.

    Do you buy lobsters dead North America then? I thought they HAD to be cooked alive (or very nearly)

  6. sarahglidden:

    Jan 22, 2012

    Reply

    we buy them alive but they’re usually in a big ole lobster pile in a tank of water.

  7. Sean Azzopardi:

    Jan 23, 2012

    Reply

    Great stuff, i will be there on Wednesday and really looking forward to returning :)

  8. Brad Brooks:

    Jan 23, 2012

    Reply

    My wife lived in one of those flats attached to the CIBDI when she was working for Jean-Pierre Mercier. I wonder if it’s the same one? I love Angouleme, haven’t been there in a looonnnggg time (one of the last times was with Simon Fraser if I remember correctly). Really enjoyed the post, Sarah, look forward to future ones.

  9. Matt Madden:

    Jan 24, 2012

    Reply

    I’m reading along breathlessly, keep it coming!

  10. Annie Koyama:

    Jan 24, 2012

    Reply

    Next best thing to being there, thanks for this Sarah!

  11. Stfn:

    Jan 26, 2012

    Reply

    I’m going there today! You live in what may be the coolest building ever! I took so many pictures of it the first time I went to the festival.. Great pics, Thanks!

  12. Sarah:

    Jan 27, 2012

    Reply

    Thanks for the introduction to Angoulême. Hope you have a super (and productive) stay. Must “politely request” that the husband takes me on holiday to the festival next year…

  13. louise:

    Jun 13, 2012

    Reply

    I live in Angoulême and I ‘ve been trying to find out why this beautiful house was abandonned too. I’d like to spend an entire night in this mansion and see if it’s really haunted! :)

  14. Blanc:

    Sep 14, 2013

    Reply

    Came across your Angouleme adventure whislt thinking of moving to France, for a while, need to be in the area. Know now not to move here.
    Must admit thought,your ccoments made me smile, maybe there is something in the air that gives you a sence of humour, unless of course you already have a great one in the first place.

  15. ERIC:

    Oct 29, 2013

    Reply

    Angouleme is a lovely town, that will give you only enough to do so that you feel obliged to go exploring into greater Charente…east, to the Cognac distilleries and the coast, north to Poitiers to the tomb of Eleanor D’Aquitaine, south(west) to Bordeaux, and east, to Limoges, the Dordogne, La Rochefoucauld (nw), and the sad Oradour-sur-Glane, scne of an appalling act of brutality towards the end of WWII. Angouleme itself is so historic, with remarkably intact ramparts looping the old city and examples of architecture from every era in French history. What will you miss in a smaller locale, much fewer tourists, no traffic, politeness just about everywhere, flowers grown around you, not brought in from the countryside, no McDonalds (unless they replaced the one that was removed from the walking shop area), and brocantes, brocantes, brocantes (antique/flea markets). And the beach is a few hours away…so many choices…La Rochelle/Ile de Re, Royan, Rochefort, Ile D’Oleron, Arcachon, etc. On weekend nights, venture out to Sers, or Montbron, or Hiersac, or Mansle, or any of the small little hamlets that dot the countryside, and find a dance with a live band. What a lovely French tradition, with the old familiar tunes, the accordion, everyone dancing. In many ways, Angouleme and Charente have yet to be exposed to the world. Hurry and have a taste before its too late!

    • sarahglidden:

      Oct 29, 2013

      Reply

      Ok.

  16. lisa mills:

    Jan 21, 2014

    Reply

    Thanks, that was fun! We’re off to Angouleme next week, it’ll be my first visit and I’m really looking forward to it! Hope to get time to wander around while husband does signings and stuff.

  17. [...] There have been rapturous reports from the inimitable D&Q Crew, and travelogs by past residentSara Glidden and current residents Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. But nothing too solid on how and [...]

  18. [...] There have been rapturous reports from the inimitable D&Q Crew, and travelogs by past residentSara Glidden and current residents Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. But nothing too solid on how and [...]

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