Friday, 8 October 2010

A visit to Angouleme and Strikes!

While D and D were staying with me last month, we decided to take a trip into Angouleme on the Monday before they left. Angouleme stands on a rocky promontory, bordered by the river Charente and its tributary the Anguienne. I offered to drive, as the skills for driving there are somewhat complex, if you do not know  your way around. One-way streets and confusing signs in the city centre seem to be only part of the problem, with the very busy roads. D does not drive on the right of the road under normal circumstances and I did not want a divorce on my hands!

Well, it was a good job I decided to drive. As we arrived near the railway station we realised that something was in the air, as there were many people hovering around with banners and placards. Police were in all directions and I was turned away from all the roads I knew, in what was to me the wrong direction; as soon as I could turn right I did just that. I found myself in a long tunnel that I had never been through before, and it seemed we went under the whole city and came out on the other side. Phew, where to now? I had the GPS with me but 'he' (I call him George!) seemed as confused as I was, and was keeping very quiet, just showing a series of maps that were of little help. We headed down a road that suddenly branched into two; there was a one way sign in the middle of the two roads, did it mean the right or the left branch was one way? Luckily there was a gap in the traffic and I pulled over to the side where there was a  car park entrance. As I had no card to open the boom this was not going to work for us. A Frenchman saw our dilemma and came over to see if he could help. As by then I was getting a bit wound up, it was a good job the man spoke excellent English. "Take the road to the left" he said, the right hand one was the one way road. I would soon see the market and then I would know where I was. Thankfully, he was spot on; we soon found ourselves in an area I recognised and we  were able to park in the excellent underground car park below the covered market. Merci beaucoup Monsieur, if you should read this.

We next discovered that there was a huge demonstration going on, with, I would guess several thousand people. The French trade unions were launching strikes against President Nicolas Sarkozy's unpopular pension reform and seeking to force his government to go back on plans to end retirement at 60. Unions and the left-wing opposition say the plans to raise the retirement age to 62 by 2018, raise civil servants' pension contributions to private sector levels and make people work longer for a full pension are unjust. We found out later that train services were cut by half or more and the airports had come to a complete standstill. How lucky D and D were only flying out on Wednesday!

Having established what was happening, we then took a walk around the city sights, making sure we kept well out of any areas where there was any sign of police or protesters!!

It was interesting to see that they were putting up all the barriers for the car road race which was to be in Angouleme two weeks later. See http://lifeincharente.blogspot.com/2010/09/for-car-lovers-out-there.html

The protesters in action; they were coming from a road on the left and disappearing off to a road on the right.
St Peter's Cathedral
There is a large amount of restoration going on at the Cathedral, both inside and out.  This has been ongoing ever since we bought our house in France in 2005.  It will be interesting to see the final result.  The present building was preceded by three earlier churches. Nothing is known about the first one. The second one was completed in the year 506, then a great fire swept through the city in  981.  The work on the present day cathedral started about 1110 and was completed around 1128. Outstanding craftsmanship from the Middle Ages!
The organ inside the Cathedral.
D and D by the statue overlooking the wonderful view of the countryside from the heights of old Angouleme.  The statue was created by Raoul Verlet in 1897, and was erected in homage to the president of the Republic, Sadi Carnot who had been assassinated three years earlier.
The streets of Angouleme
Church St Martial.

45 comments:

  1. I have never been to Angouleme. It seems like a charming little city with the typical pedestrian streets.
    (I would get so tired of all those strikes).

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  2. Awesome detail in the historic cathedral. Isn't it neat how people were able to construct something like that and it still stands today. I'm afraid the same can't be said of the stuff being build today.

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  3. Angouleme seems to be a really nice place and the cathedral is just fantastic!

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  4. Diane, what a time you had driving around. It was a great thing that you encountered that wonderful man who helped you so much! I don't blame you with steering clear of the demonstrators; I've done that in Chicago and best to keep your distance sometimes!

    I love your pics of the city streets. What great architecture and the church is amazing! It's all just so different from here near Chicago. I loved touring around France years ago and would like to do it again someday.

    Thanks for the history lesson. You do it so well and it's always interesting!

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  5. Nadege the strikes are certainly making life difficult. Nigel flies in on the 14th and it appears there are going to be strikes on the 12th. Hopefully this will not be a problem for him. We cross back to the UK on the ferry on 17th, again we hope that day will be OK!!!!!!! Diane

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  6. Becca it amazes me how some of these buildings were actually built without the equipment we have nowadays. BUT as you say things built today do not last the way they used too! Diane

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  7. JM the cathedral is fantastic, When the restoration is finally done I will try to get more photos. Diane

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  8. Pam I have to say, I more than appreciated someone stopping to help. We may still be milling around the town without his help LOL.

    Glad you enjoyed the photos. Perhaps we will see you back in France on holiday one day. Diane

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  9. What a lovely place and I do love the monuments that you photograph... they speak so much of pride of place and of their citizens. Lovely work... how you must love living there!

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  10. I agree with you Diane ... It is a miracle how they ever built these beautiful buildings, with out the equipment we have today ..

    Fab photos ... How brilliant that someone noticed your dilemma and came to your rescue :-) well done to him.

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  11. longpastremembered, I really do love living here. I never thought I would leave Africa and be happy anywhere else. The two places are so different that it hard to compare. I love Africa simply because it is Africa and I do get home sick from time to time. France though has so much history attached to it, living in the country is so safe and tranquil, and the people are so lovely. I love it when my S.African friends visit and bring a little bit of Africa here as well
    :-) Diane

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  12. Anne I find that there is always somebody here to help when you find yourself in a predicament. Last year I had pneumonia and the Dr wanted to put me in hospital, I did not want to go and the whole hamlet rallied round and looked after me. Some I hardly knew were there to help. The Dr either called or phoned me every day for over a week. It was an amazing experience.

    As for the buildings and those very high domed ceilings, it is a complete mystery to me how they managed them. Diane

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  13. Oh dear, the French are not going to give in easily!

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  14. I homeschool my kids and my 8 year old and I are learning about european cathedrals and architecture. I'll have to show him these pictures! Thanks!

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  15. What a trip!! It is always nice to have some friendlt fellow tell you where to go. If I see people tat look a bit lost, I always stop and ask if I can help too.

    That is a fantastic cathedral!!

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  16. What an adventure! Yet seems worth it to see this marvelous cathedral.

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  17. Jan you are so right, there is going to be a lot of disruption before things get sorted out!!! Diane

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  18. Debbie also take a look at
    http://lifeincharente.blogspot.com/search?q=reims . My personal feelings are that this is one of the finest cathedrals in France. It is beautiful. It would be interesting for your children. Diane

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  19. Joan I was more than happy to find a friendly face on the streets, especially one who could speak English. My French is not good and when flustered it totally falls apart :-) Diane

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  20. Gaelyn, we had a lovely day once we had got past the effort of getting there! The cathedral is lovely. Diane

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  21. I have never been to Angouleme but it looks inviting, apart from the strike!

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  22. Lindy there are some lovely shops there and some great cafes as well. I prefer not to get tangled up on marches though!! Diane

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  23. We must meet up for a coffee there one day - if the sat navs will allow it!! :o) xx

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  24. That would be a gret idea. But maybe easier is Rochechouart for you. I only have a week left now before I have to return to the UK :-( I collet Nigel (if no strikes!) on Thursday from Limoges and we drive back together Sat and Sun. Diane

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  25. Merci pour cette belle visite d'Angoulême.
    Vos aventures, un jour de grève, sont bien racontées! Il faut du courage pour s'aventurer dans ce cas en ville!
    Bonne chance pour vos déplacements la semaine qui vient!

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  26. lejardindelucie Merci pour votre commentaire. Je n'ai plus qu'une semaine avant de partir pour l'Angleterre pour l'hiver. J’espère apprécier ma dernière semaine en France. Diane

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  27. I am much more interested in your beautiful pictures of Angoulême's monuments than in the strikes!
    I read you are going back to spend winter in England!
    I wish you a nice weather, then!
    Will you keep this blog going??
    Keep well Diane,
    Cheers!

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  28. Noushka I agree the strikes are just a bore. I just hope that Nigel can fly in this week!! Angouleme is beautiful.
    Re the blog, I hope I have enough photos to keep posting through winter about France. Diane

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  29. Bon séjour en Angleterre Diane! Votre point de vue sur la vie en Charente est toujours très plaisant à lire!

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  30. I'm so glad someone took the time to stop and help you with directions! What a lovely church, full of history. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous pictures!

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  31. Hi Diane!
    I felt sorry for you since you told me you couldn't see the right part of my blog!
    So I reduced its width just for you!! :)
    Tell me if you find it useful!
    Cheers!

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  32. lejardindelucie - Merci. J'ai encore plus de photographies. J'espère assez jusqu'à ce que je retourne en avril 2011 ! Diane

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  33. Faith there always seems to be sombody to help you here in France, they are such lovely people. France is steeped in history, and I would love to visit every town and village but I could never find the time! Diane

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  34. Noushka it is perfect if I view in Explorer but not in Google Chrome!! I do not know why, as it does not happen to any one else's blogs!!!!!!! Diane

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  35. What an adventurous day! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  36. It was a fun day Velva once we had overcome the early problems :-) Diane

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  37. Hello Diane!!
    I am glad you can now see my blog entirely!
    My banner is made up with 2 of my drawings indeed, and you see them here:
    http://carlibelle.canalblog.com/albums/animaux_sauvages/index.html
    Thanks for your appreciation!
    Have a great day!

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  38. Noushka they are beautiful. You are an excellent artist. Diane

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  39. Diane, bless your heart for sharing such a beautiful poem with us on the death of our beloved friend, our little dog. It means so very much. God bless. Susan

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  40. Glad you were able to skirt around the strike - it could be a little frightening and most inconvenient to get in the middle of it. One never knows what might happen.
    Like parallel universes - the rest of life in the city goes on. Enjoy your pictures, looks like a lovely city.
    Looking forward to your posts from the UK.

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  41. Susan I feel for you, I have been through the same thing so many times in my life and it never gets easier. Take care. Diane

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  42. Mya my posts from the UK I hope will be about France. There is little of interest around our little house (Nigel calls it the rabbit hutch). It is mostly too cold to cycle and view the country, and I will probably spend most of my time decorating the rabbit hutch. Not easy as there is no room to move anything out of the way!! My posts will keep France alive and kicking for me I hope! Roll on April :-) Diane

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  43. When I was 20, 60 was a gazillion years away, and really ancient. Now that I'm less than 2 weeks from the last decade before 60, it's just not that old. People are living a lot longer, and really need to work longer. Society can't afford to support people for 20 or 30 years after they retire. I admire Sarkozy for taking on this hugely unpopular battle.

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  44. And I forgot to say that I always love your photos. Dummy me!

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  45. Marjie thanks for the two comments. You are so right, people live so much longer now and an added 2 years on a life span of work is not very much. As you say society cannot afford to support people anymore. It is also difficult with inflation, to work out if you have enough money to retire these days as we have discovered, and why Nigel is still working. I hope for not too much longer but....

    I wish you all the very best for your birthday in two weeks time, that was a mile stone for me 7 years ago and I now am looking at the next one. I feel no different to when I was 20 in mind and thoughts but the body reminds me differently from time to time!!

    All the best Diane

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