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October 25, 2011

A Visit to Angers – A Half Term Idea

by Val Reynolds

We jumped on Eurostar, off for a four day visit to Angers. Angers castle, a newly opened nearby botanical theme park, an organic vineyard in the Loire valley close by, and an intriguing oriental garden about an hour’s drive away, were on our must do list.

River Maine from Angers Chateau

River Maine from Angers Chateau

Angers has space, light and air, courtesy of the wide river Maine that runs through it with its six beautiful bridges.

Angers castle

Angers castle

The massive castle dominates the city and holds an impressive number of events throughout the year.

Angers was once the capital of the province of Anjou. Its history is well documented on Wikipedia We wandered through the cobbled streets and restored medieval houses, a great place to explore.

Anjou was controlled by the Plantagenets, rulers of England from the twelfth century, and the Hospital of Saint Jean was built in Angers by King Henry II. It currently houses a modern tapestry, Le chant du Monde by Jean Lurçat.

The Thursday market in Anger’s main boulevard had a wonderful selection of fresh fruit and veg without a vestige of plastic baggery in sight.

It was refreshing to meet with dedicated food producers, especially those from the local countryside with products from their own gardens.

Fresh cherries, very tasty

Fresh cherries, very tasty

We went on to visit a vineyard run on organic principles – see our feature

And then on to Parc Oriental de Maulévrier gardens in 29 hectares first established in 1899 in the grounds of Chateau Colbert where we wandered all afternoon and admired the precisely formed trees and shrubs, known as cloud pruning representing the path to heaven.

Paths to Heaven

Paths to Heaven

On then to the restaurant in the chateau in the grounds, for an excellent meal of a very high culinary standard with a price to match. It was the best meal we had had during our trip. We noticed a decline in the standard of food in French restaurants overall and wondered whether anyone else has. Let us have your comments.

Returning to the gardens after dark, we were given paper lanterns to light our way round the perimeter of the lake which took about an hour. Comprehensive details about the garden are on their website

We visited Terra Botanica, a theme park with natural history and travel at its heart. Opened in spring 2010 it is intended for children to experience the adventures of travellers to exotic places and gains insights into plants, which it does very well. However for the serious gardener it needs to mature, the plants are needing to establish themselves and become part of the landscape. At the moment it has an uncomfortable look of a park needing a lot of attention. Labelling needs to be more in evidence too. There are some quite surprisingly good dynamic events to experience – the most riveting being one devoted to the ‘life’ of a raindrop from its formation in the cloud to its entry into the earth. Be prepared for a ‘moving’ experience, belt yourself well into your seat!

We travelled to Angers via Eurostar to Lille and TGV to Angers. Accommodation and transport information is on the Angers city website.

If you intend hiring a car be sure to read the recent BBC news item regarding hire car scams – forewarned is forearmed.

Val Reynolds Brown Editor

All photography © Pintail Media

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