Angoulême, the birthplace of Marguerite de Valois, sister of King Francis I, is a delightful ancient town, full of narrow, cobbled streets, terraces brimming with cafés overlooking the surrounding countryside, art galleries and market halls. Located close to Cognac in Destination Poitou-Charentes in France’s South-West with a history dating back to the Romans, the nearest access points from the UK are Limoges, Poitiers, Bordeaux or La Rochelle.
For many years, this small town was the centre of the paper industry so it might come as no surprise that they feature an internationally renowned Cartoon Museum (with over 8,000 pieces), an annual festival every January but exceptionally, the town fathers have allowed a cartoon mural trail around the ancient streets with over 26 painted walls to admire. Created by members of the ‘Cité de la Création’, famous cartoonists such as Yslaire, Zep and Moebius are featured. This is the only place in France where such a group has maintained their own vision over so many years.
Where to stay:
Opened this April, the Hotel Le Saint-Gelais was built in the shell of an old nineteenth century priory and has a contemporary, close to nature feel. There are seven rooms and five suites and each is different, furnished in soothing neutral tones of burnt orange, khaki, ecru and gold with the designers using their savoir-faire in terms of elegance and modernity – Moroso Diesel, Vanessa Mitrani, Zoffany, Cole & Son. There is a ‘bistronomic’ restaurant and a sports area.
Named after owner Céline Rochet-Bisaro, Mondo Bisaro is situated in the heart of Angoulême within a nineteenth century house. This lover of contemporary design offers accommodation with a difference – two loft-style vintage apartments “Bis” and “Ter” together with a suite styled in homage to the Ramones and a “Sonic” bedroom. As you might expect, these latter two rooms are styled in 70’s retro-cool with graphic motifs and a rock and roll feel. There are also two chambres d’hôtes available.
Where to shop:
For collectors and art loves alike Galeries MR, has all the style of an interior design shop with the, careful curation of a contemporary art gallery. Owned and run by Nicole Masset and Simone Rabaud for the last 20 years, Galeries MR is a firm favourite of locals and tourist alike.
For chocoholics, The Chocolaterie Duceau is an artisan chocolatier in the rue des postes under the auspices of Jean-Christophe Crosnier and his team. Dating back to 1876, there are over 40 different types of chocolate to taste and intricate chocolate sculptures to admire!
Where to eat:
Les Artistes, rue des Trois Notre Dame in the heart of old Angoulême specialises in seasonal produce.
La ruelle, restaurant gastronomique under the ownership of Guillaume and Séverine Veyssière, was once a former and ancient public right of way, now roofed over and beautifully appointed making it one of the most unique restaurants in town.
Le St André offers simple yet original bistro cuisine using the freshest of seasonal products and is situated in a contemporary-styled 19th century house in the centre of the Place St André.
What to visit:
Angoulême Museum, adjacent to the cathedral, features an archaeological collection telling the story of the Charente from the Palaeolithic period to the Middle Ages. It notably displays dinosaur bones found at Angeac Charente – the most important Palaeolithic deposits in France. There is also a collection of art from Oceania and Africa.
The Cartoon Museum is composed of over 8,000 pieces pertaining to the cartoon industry – the largest collection in France and is based in an old wine and spirit warehouse.
The Old Town – the paved and cobbled narrow streets, the cathedral, market hall built in glass and steel in the Baltard style, the little shops and terraces…
Date for your Diary – Les Circuit des Remparts – 16th – 19th September 2016
The annual Circuit des Remparts, held the third weekend of September, is a highlight of any vintage car enthusiast’s diary. A true spectacular, this weekend event was first held in 1939 and sees classic cars hurtling around the ancient roads of this pretty hill-top town. The track hasn’t changed since that first race and it is one of the very few motor races that uniquely takes place within the walls of a town. Not for the faint-hearted, this challenging course is very demanding and involves twisting turns around the town ramparts, two right angle bends and three hairpins!
Photo-credits: Francoise Roch / Destination Poitou-Charentes
Notes to Editors: With its equitable climate, Poitou-Charentes – the sunniest part of western France – is an area where you can enjoy many attractions. Visitors may enjoy for example the famous and unique Marais Poitevin, also known as Green Venice, which connects the Poitou and the Vendée; the historic port of La Rochelle with its fine restaurants and magnificent sites; Futuroscope – a theme park for the senses; Cognac and Poitiers, the city of spires. Poitou-Charentes is easily accessed by land, rail, air and sea for more information on getting to the region click here.
This is the perfect family holiday destination with a wealth of well-run campsites, B&B’s, hotels and gîtes to choose from together with wide open spaces to enjoy activities which range from golf to water-sports.