Angouleme quite possibly the coolest unknown small city in Europe. The capital of the Charente in south-west France, home to one of Europe’s largest comic festivals and The Circuit des Ramparts motor racing event where classic cars race around the city entertaining the crowds. None of which I’ve been to just a bit of WikiBoum! for you.
Here’s why it ranks high.
I have stayed in Angouleme many times as a stop off before travelling to a family holiday home just 40 minutes from the city centre. This year I have been and stayed in some amazing towns and cities including Paris, Monaco, Avignon, Florence, Cinque Terre, Bern, Brussels, Edinburgh and a handful of others (It’s Been a good year!) and each time I return the same questions get asked, How was it, where does it rank, does it beat Angouleme? The answer always seems to be the same, ”Angouleme has still got the edge”. It’s hard to say why because Paris, Florence, Barcelona and others are bigger and better but something inside me says that Angouleme’s still the one.
When first arriving at the TGV train station you get the impression that Angouleme is quite a harsh, dirty looking place with very square and industrial looking buildings, a nothing town on the way to Bordeaux. I think this is why it’s stayed so cool with its unassuming start and fantastic ending. From the station head up the steep weaving hill that always seems to go on for longer than the last time you did it. still wondering what you’re doing here you will all of a sudden get to the old town. A mini acropolis filled with café’s, restaurants, and the odd museum.
The narrow streets are quirky and filled with vibrant and meaningful street art. Being home to the comic Angouleme is etched with murals splashed across whole buildings, another little peculiarity of the city is its street signs which are made up from speech bubbles as another nod to comics.
This typically French city Is alive with students, business people and visually enhancing eccentrics. Lunch time is laid back but important with narrow streets lined with tables set out for the ever necessary plate du jour. The night-time is abuzz, often with street music, most congregate at either the Chat Noir or Blues Rock Café (my personal choice) with people having a sneaky Pastis or sipping wine and having a good time, the atmosphere is chilled outers. After a few here wander the streets aimlessly, stopping at the personally created bars, some odd but always welcoming, once I’ve done my mooching and want to finish the night with a bang I head for Cafe Chaud where three streets meet and two café’s compete. A naturally well dressed crowd meet to drink and eat the night away, my French is quite non existent but the people in Angouleme always seem to help you out and adopt you into their conversations, sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes racy. The owner seems to know me well after my many visits and on the last three occasions I’ve been persuading or should I say had no choice but to get up and do a rendition of New York New York! an everlasting memory followed by another, where it was the morning after Beaujolais day and was suffering red wine fatigueness, I walked into a boulangerie (L’Elysee, my favourite) ordered a pain au chocolate, bought a bottle of Beaujolais, and walked out with Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe playing from the speakers at street corners, it was like living in a film! BOUM!
When in Angouleme I stay in Hotel du Palais a colourful and traditional hotel where the rooms are clean and all designed individually, staff are very helpful and the location is perfect!