Today we met Silvia for a Greeters Tour of Angers. We’ve now been on Greeters Tours in Paris, Nice, Dijon, Trois, Geneva, and London. The very first Greeters Tour in London changed our minds about Walking Tours. Until then we had been on many Organised and Free Walking Tours in various cities across Europe.
The Tours had become really hit and miss. Many times guides were allowing up to fifty people to join the groups in an effort to raise more money. Once a tour has over 20 people it becomes hard to cross roads and hard to hear. If you are at the rear it seems you just arrive at a point of interest as the tour is about to leave. We’ve abandoning many tours midway as a result. Recently we’ve decided to search out Greeters Tours first when arriving at a new destination. The tours are much more intimate with usually just you and the guide. The guides are not paid so there is no pressure to get extra people. The tours are just like one friend showing another friend their city.
After meeting Silvia at the Bureau de Tourisme, After sampling the unique grey chocolate of Angers, which incidentally was delicious ,we set off on a journey around Angers, the city she loves.
Angers lies on the River Maine and has been inhabited since neolithic times. The city of Angers was situated not far from the confluence of the Loir, Mayenne and Sarthe rivers which join to form the Maine. It’s located at a natural crossroads of trade routes from times when rivers were the quickest way of transporting goods. When the Romans arrived they established a fortified town to protect and control trade. Some of their original walls are still visible.
The most visible building in Angers is the castle, Chateau D’Angers which dominates the landscape. It was built over Roman fortifications in the 9th century by the Counts of Anjou and expanded in the 13th century. Built from slate mined nearby and limestone from the Loire valley the castle is topped with interesting black and white striped walls. Surrounded by a massive defensive ditch the castle is massive. Inside the castle is a museum which holds the Apocalypse Tapestry. Dating from the 14th century the tapestry was commissioned by the dukes of Anjou to display the story of the apocylypse.
During its lifetime the castle was used as a defensive castle, a military base and a prison. The castle was also home to the Plantagenets, the Kings who once ruled England.
The views from near the castle across the River Maine are excellent and it’s easy to see why it was situated there.
Near the castle is the old medieval city. Wandering through the cobbled streets we spotted a few half timbered houses which really had some character. There was also a few mansions, (known locally as Logis) with finely crafted sandstone entry’s. The doorways included crests and the windows shaped in gothic style. As we walked through the streets some of the stone walls revealed how over the years the houses had been renovated. Windows had been bricked up and stone walls had been plastered over to create newer styled houses. The finest Logis is the Logis Pincé which dates from 1535. Built initially for the mayor it is now a museum.
Saint Maurice Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d’Angers)
In the old city is the Saint Maurice Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d’Angers). Built between the 12th and 16th centuries the cathedral was originally built in Romanesque style with smaller arched windows. During the 16th century it was partially rebuilt adding gothic style. It allowed more natural light to penetrate the cathedral. It was to create a style known as Angevin.
The Cathedral supposedly once was home to the head of John the Baptist but its purely speculation. The facade has two spires attached and recently it was discovered that a porch once stood in front. It was demolished in 1806 but recent studies discovered that the facade was once painted. The statues all were painted like live people. The porch protected the painted figures. Currently a project is underway to rebuilt the porch and reprint the facade.
At Place Sainte Croix a few medieval timbered houses really looked magnificent. Known locally as a burgher house the best known oneis Maison d’Adam. Named for its carved figures of Adam and Eve and the tree of life in its front corner the medieval house features diamond shaped timbered front.
The house next door also features carvings however a closer inspection reveals the wood carver left a message for those ogling the house.
In the middle of the city beneath peoples feet there’s traces of the old Roman road. Dead straight it runs up the hill towards what was once the Roman City.
We stopped for a coffee in the main square which overlooks the Opera House, a lovely building from the Haussmann period.
One of the odder buildings in the city centre is Maisson Bleue. It features tiny blue mosaic tiles all over the facade. Although a little faded the building on Rue d’Alsace must’ve been magnificent when first built. The city centre has some lovely architecture. The Haussmann style buildings with ironwork balconies and mansard roofs really remind us of Paris. As the centre was never bombed during the war we were able to see lots of examples of Haussmann style architecture. The old Office Du Poste along with a few nearby buildings are fine examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
One thing which we’ve noticed in most European cities in recent years are modern trams. The tram system in Angers was constructed four years ago and seems to be a great way to reduce traffic congestion within the CBD.
Abbaye Toussaint d’Angers
On our way back to the museum we wandered past the old Abbaye Toussaint d’Angers with its fabulous glass roof. The former abbey dates from the 13th century but these days has been converted into Musée David d’Angers. It houses works of the sculptor David d’Angers.
As we arrived back at the Tourist Office we thanked Silvia for a great introduction to Angers. We now know a little bit about the city and have worked out where everything within the centre lies.
This afternoon after a bite to eat and a little rest we may wander back into the castle to explore it and check out the Apocylypse Tapestry.