We had promised Mark a medieval castle, but the first sight of interest we noticed was a statue of a butt-naked woman.
“Could it get any more French?” Feng asked.
“I see her bum!” Mark laughed.
“Which one is the wife and which one is the mistress?” my mother wondered.
“Meh. Not that great from an artistic perspective… oh, is that a Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture over there?” my dad added.
At 11:11 a.m., my parents and the three of us had taken the train to Angers, our day-trip destination. Like last year, I had bought the SNCF’s “Tribu” deal—for €45, up to five people get unlimited travel on regional TER lines for 48 hours. Considering the price of a train ticket these days, it’s a steal. Never mind that it was warm but stormy and that Angers probably isn’t on most international travellers’ list—we had rain jackets and our eyes set on visiting the castle.
The TER was older than me but the ride was smooth and the train was on time.
“So, what do we do? Château first? City first?”
As usual, no one could make a decision—it’s apparently a constant in my family.
“Alright, let’s explore, then. It’s not raining.”
We followed the boulevard du Roi René, the rue Toussaint (where we stepped into the lovely Jardin des beaux-arts) and we ended up in the Jardin du Mail, a park with plenty of naked female butts sculpted into stone and a big fountain.
Angers is only about 100 kilometres from Nantes, so I wasn’t expecting a major difference between both cities. Indeed, I could easily find my way around—the streets, the main squares, the stores, the rivers, the tramway all looked familiar. Yet, unlike Nantes, Angers doesn’t have historical or geographical ties to Brittany—no crêpes or Breton folklore here, it’s all about medieval times and King René of Anjou, an historical figure virtually unknown around here.
The Château d’Angers is one of the masterpieces of the city and it looks incredibly massive compared to Nantes’ Château des ducs de Bretagne. We spent time trying to decipher the large Apocalypse Tapestry—just the fact it was produced between 1377 and 1382 and survived to today amazed me.
The city looked lovely from the fortifications, under a stormy sky—the weather matched what I imagined Middle Ages atmosphere could be. Like Feng said, it felt like being in Game of Thrones.
After the castle, we let my parents “binge-arting,” visiting the art museum, while we explored the neighbourhoods on the other side of La Maine river. We made it back in Nantes by 6 p.m. with one question: where would we go the following day?