When he first came to France and studied a map of the region, Feng found the names of several cities sounded funny pronounced in English.
“It’s not ‘Anger’,” I explained. “It’s ‘Angers’. The ‘s’ is silent and it’s pronounced ‘en-jay’!”
“I’ve been there a thousand of times,” I added. “But for three minutes at most.”
It was true. Angers, the “capital” of the Maine-et-Loire department, is often the one and only stop on the Nantes-Paris TGV line. I used to go to Paris very often (it’s only a two-hour ride from Nantes) and the train always stopped in “Angers Saint-Laud… trois minutes d’arrêt…” as the SNCF voice announced. To me, it was a convenient reminder that we were only 45 minutes from Nantes or 90 minutes from Paris. For most of the passengers, the three-minute stop was long enough to step out, have a quick cigarette and hop back in the train before the doors close.
I had never visited the city, so we decided to take a day trip to check it out and explore the main sights, including the 13th-century Château d’Angers built by Louis IX of France.
Our TER, the regional train, was an older model, the kind I rode when I was a kid before the high-speed TGV train. Less than an hour later, we were standing in front of Angers’ train station, wondering where to start. “… Mmm… This way,” I decided. I have some instinct when it comes to French cities—most follow the same gridless pattern that is confusing to foreigners but natural to French. Old town, now town, business district… it felt familiar. Indeed, we found the castle very easily. It was hard to miss, really. Nantes’ castle looks cute and tiny compared to the giant defensive fortress that clearly means business. Basically, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes is a Beetle car while the Château d’Angers is a GM Hummer. See the castles depicted in fantasy movies? We were standing in front of one of these.
We bought our tickets and stepped in, past the three-meter thick walls, in the inner courtyard surrounded by seventeen massive towers.
One of the main sights inside the castle is Apocalypse Tapestry, the oldest medieval tapestry. It depicts the story of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation by Saint John the Divine in 90 colourful scenes. Mark loved the heroic aspects of confrontation between good and evil and the battle scenes between angels and beasts. It’s a happy-ending story too, with the triumphant success of good, but Mark, still focused on the monster, insisted on looking for it all over the castle.
Like ALL OVER. He climbed on top of the towers, ran on the outer wall, stopped in front of every door. No monster.
“Told you,” I said. “They fought and the monster is gone. For good. Can we go now?”
And so we took the TER back to Nantes, a newer double-decker model.
Angers is definitely worth more than a three-minute stop, I’m glad we finally visited the city!