Another monthly #TravelTuesday post for you… just some scribblings I did a while back that I decided to post. Frequent readers to the blog will recognize this place… we’ve been there a number of times… I just wanted to walk you through it. C’mon along!
Over the hill and around the bend and you’re just about there. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that the road passes directly through the village square, it would be possible to miss it altogether.
I suppose this could be true of many a small hamlet in western France, but I’m not describing just another rural village, I’m talking about Angles-sur-l’Anglin, perched between the hilltop overlooking the Anglin River and the river valley below, little more than a winding road and a few well-worn stone stairways and alleyways separating the two.
Initially, it was merely another name, on another road sign, coming through our own city. Later a youthfully elder neighbour, who bikes through various parts of the region weekly, mentioned in passing that he’d recently ridden through there and how lovely it was, recommending it to our attention should the opportunity to visit ever present itself.
That was enough to pique my curiosity and we coordinated a visit. Lovely was an understatement.
The road winds gracefully uphill then through a tiny vale before the bend in the road announces your arrival. You pray that another car doesn’t meet you coming the other way because the houses on either side of the road were obviously built when two-way traffic hadn’t been thought of yet… at least not there.
You emerge at the western side of the tiny village square and have a choice; either turn left and head toward Sorcerer’s Rock or turn right and squeeze around another corner, headed past the Mairie and on to the champ de foires (fairground field). We head right where there is a generous amount of parking, between the local graveyard and the row of horse-chestnut trees.
Just a few steps from here however is a sight far less ominous than that of the walled graveyard, for you are only 100m or so away from a belvedere (or lookout point) which is directly across from the castle and which overlooks the Anglin River valley and what’s left of a small abbey, well proportionate in size to the village itself.
A walk up the rue de l’Église (church street) takes you past turreted manor-houses, past the small parish church as well as what could only be considered one of the two hubs of the village; the café that also doubles as a newsstand, vegetable market, smoke shop and post office all wrapped up in one.
From there, a steep cobblestoned pathway leads down to the lower city, past a house where, if you’re lucky, someone will be playing relaxed jazz on the piano with their windows wide open. We were lucky on not just one, but two of our visits. Cross the stone-arch bridge to discover a musty smelling antique-filled garage, virtual treasure trove of yesteryear, or to rent a pair of kayaks for water-views of the village rising behind you.
The bridge is perhaps one of best picture spots in the village for in a single frame you can catch the fronds of a weeping willow draped over a no longer functioning water wheel in the lower right corner. In the lower middle of the frame and on into the center, your eye will follow the bridge, with its scrolled lamp posts, through to the street that winds back uphill. In the upper left portion of your frame you’ll see the Belvedere where you arrived only moments ago, though it seems like ages since you have the distinct impression of having stepped back in time. In the upper middle portion of your lens, you’ll see the houses atop the hillside, the church steeple and the café turned post office, before directing your gaze to the upper right hand section of your frame where the castle in ruins dominates the rest, giving a weighty, sombre tone even though its roofless walls soar to the sky.
You have just taken in the view that captivates every person that makes their way to this tiny hamlet.
You head back across the bridge and up the winding road but this time, rather than taking the cobblestone pathway, you follow the road around slightly to the right and you’ll come up behind the castle.
To your left and just below the la grange aux dames (the ladies’ barn restaurant) is an old garage that has been transformed into a cooperative boutique filled with hand made goods of the finest quality. It is not always open however, so count your lucky stars if you do find the doors flung wide.
Continue to make your way up hill, following the switchbacks in the road, to find yourself back in the village square, a tiny plot littered with café tables in summer and surrounded by sycamore trees year-round. This is the second hub of the village.
Only steps away and across the street is the Crêperie d’Angles; a wonderful and wonderfully priced place to have a simple yet typical dinner. It is our restaurant of choice in Angles-sur-l’Anglin. On one visit, with our Tibetan Terrier companion Pollux, the owner brought a bowl of water at the same time she brought our menus; as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Incredible!
Once you’ve finished eating, you have an ideal walk back to your parked car: long enough that you can walk off the uncomfortable “I just filled myself with great food” feeling, but yet short enough that you don’t arrive back to the car winded.
If you are going to try to be there at all, may I recommend the month of August. In addition to the village itself, there are two events that draw thousands upon thousands of people each year: a grand fireworks display (usually the first Sunday of August) and the 3-day book festival (which usually takes place 2 weekends after the fireworks). In both cases, arrive early and things get filled up very quickly.
Angles-sur-l’Anglin, a must-see in western France.
Go ahead… step back in time, you may not want to come back.