The city of Angoulême is a mid-sized regional city in the French department of Charente, situated on the Charente River, just east of Bordeaux and about 3 hours south of Paris by TGV.
We are familiar with Angoulême as it is the closest regional city to our little house in Verteuil - it is the step-off point after a long flight from Australia to Charles de Gaulle and the subsequent TGV train south to Angoulême. We typically collect our rental car from here during our stays.
While not typically on the tourist path, it is a typical "working" French town, with an old town perched high up on a plateau overlooking a meander of the river Charente and surrounded by the remains of stone ramparts. The city is apparently nicknamed the "balcony of the southwest" and has a population a little less than 42,000 but it is the centre of an urban area of 110,000 people extending into the surrounding areas.
Angoulême has a long history, extending to neolithic times. More recently, it was linked into the network of roman roads by the end of the Roman Empire. In the 800's the Vikings travelled up the Charente river and attacked the town. In the 1200s the Jewish community was attached by crusaders. In 1360, during the Hundred Years War, the town passed into the hands of the English. The English were expelled in 1373 by the troops of Charles V.
In WWII, Angoulême was located in the occupied zone under German authority. The border with the free zone passed about 20 kilometres east of Angoulême, splitting the Charente department in two.
Angouleme is also well known for its collection of colourful wall frescos, or murales, painted onto building walls across the city and some of its inner suburban areas.
In July, we followed a self-guided walk that explores these murales. You can follow the "hard-copy map from the Tourism Office, or download the app "Murs bd Angoulême".
One of our favourite past times in Angoulême is to wander the old town and its seemingly haphazard, rickety old paved streets. We always seem to get lost. There are plenty of lovely shops and restaurants - including our favourite creperie. Walking along the old ramparts around the old town also allows for lovely views out over the Charentais department.
Jim lives in Brisbane, Australia, works at The University of Queensland, and enjoys visiting, reading and learning about France.