Out and About in Angers

Patricia Curd

Our day “Out and About in Angers” got off to a bright, sunny start on the morning of Saturday 25th February when thirty members and guests congregated in the car park by the Tourist Office in Angers for the start of our tour of the old city.


Julie, our guide for the morning, outlined for us the history of the Château. In the 9th century, permission was first granted by the Bishop of Angers to the Counts of Anjou for the construction of a castle. It was built as a fortress on a site once inhabited by the Romans in a strategic defensive position above the river Maine. Julie talked of the links between the Château and the Plantagenet dynasty and explained that Richard Lionheart at one time held court in Angers. The Château was expanded to its current size complete with 17 towers in the early part of the 13th century by Louis IX, “Saint Louis”. Le Bon Roi René was born in one of the towers of the Château in the 15th century. In the 16th century, Henri III reduced the height of the towers and stripped the castle of its embattlements. The stone from these edifices was used to build streets and develop the surrounding village.

We walked a short distance to look out over the river Maine towards La Doutre, an area which was developed in the 11th century as part of the original fortified village of Angers. La Doutre is home to two important Abbeys, l’Abbaye Saint Nicolas, founded in 1021 and l’Abbaye Ronceray, founded in 1028.

Going deeper into the old town along cobbled alleyways we discovered street names with religious links, for example, rue des Filles Dieu, rue Saint Christophe, rue Toussaint. Before the Revolution of 1789, the whole area was controlled by the Church. Everyone associated with the church lived there: canons, monks, priests. The more wealthy and important these people were, the closer they lived to the Cathedral.

We paused by the Logis de Croissant, also called the Maison de la Tour. It dates from the second half of the 15th century and takes its name from an order of chivalry founded in honour of St. Maurice by Roi René.

In the 19th century there was a revival of interest in the area and people bought houses around the Cathedral either for themselves or to give to religious communities. The painting over the doorway of No 7 depicts Saint Francis of Assisi, a reminder that the house once sheltered a sisterhood founded in his name. In front of the Cathedral, Julie told us that whilst undertaking restoration work, brightly coloured painting was revealed under layers of plaster. The archaeologists realised there was once a gallery which protected the paint and plans have been made to reconstruct this in order to preserve the colours.

Our tour ended in front of the Maison d’Adam, one of the oldest houses in Angers. Now a gift shop, it was originally built as an apothecary in 1490. It is a timber framed building beautifully decorated with carvings. Although some of these were destroyed during the Revolution, the building is still adorned with carvings: musicians, lovers, religious symbols, centaurs, and on the corner, an apple tree from which the building takes its name.

Having thanked our guide, Julie, we made our way to the Punjab restaurant where we were joined by several non-walking members and a guest. At first sight, the restaurant appeared too small to accommodate the 38 people in our group. Obviously a popular venue, other customers were shown to a separate room and eventually they overflowed to the tables outside. Despite reservations expressed mainly by our French members about eating spicy food, the dishes were mild to suit all tastes with extra spicy sauce was provided for those brave enough to try it. For many of us it was a first visit to the restaurant: for some it was an initiation into Indian food. The verdict was unanimous – we shall certainly return again.

La-La Land

After having enjoyed far too much lunch in the form of an excellent selection of Indian cuisine at The Punjab, several members staggered to see La-La Land at 400 Coups Cinema. The film has received many awards and was nominated for an Oscar.

It is a musical telling the love story of an aspiring actress who works in a Hollywood coffee shop whilst auditioning unsuccessfully for plays and films and a jazz purist who scrapes a living playing piano where he can but dreams of having his own jazz club.

Eventually success arrives for them both but their desire to achieve their individual goals sees them heading in completely different directions. After five years they meet again by accident and we find that they have both achieved their aims, the girl is a successful actress and the guy has his own jazz club but their love affair has not survived.

A romantic musical with some great song and dance numbers and a haunting theme which reappears throughout the film.

Whether it lived up to the enormous hype generated round the film is debatable but it was a great end to a lovely day in Angers. Thanks go to the committee and everyone involved in organising today’s event.

With thanks to Jackie Sheppard

Lion

The film which had originally fired our imagination was not shown until late afternoon. Some members took advantage of the opportunity to visit the shops in Angers before making their way to the 400 Coups Cinema.

This is a true and moving story set in 1986. Superbly acted, and packed with local colour, it concerns a 5 year old Indian boy, Saroo, from Khandwa who, with his brother, steals coal from freight trains to trade for food. One day he gets carried off on a train and transported thousands of miles across India to Kolkata. He has to quickly adapt to street life in order to survive. Eventually he is put in an orphanage and three months later he is adopted by an Australian couple and moves to Hobart, Tasmania with them.

Twenty years on, Saroo has moved to Melbourne and has made some Indian friends. Through them he is reminded of his childhood and starts to use Google Earth to search for his hometown in India. One evening, he recognises a rock formation and finds the district of Khandwa. He returns to his hometown where he has an emotional reunion with his biological mother and discovers he has been mispronouncing his name, Sheru, a diminutive for Sher, the Hindi word for ‘lion’.

This moving story ends with actual footage of the people involved. Watching it was a lovely way to end the day out in Angers.

With thanks to Monique Hay