Ten days after my trip to La Mayenne and the Sarthe and little Loir – (see my page “Down where the rivers are” –
– I once again headed south, this time aiming for Department 49 (Maine et Loire) and a visit to the ancient city of Angers (once the seat of the Plantagenet Dynasty), plus the River Maine and eventually the River Loire. By the time the rivers reach Angers, the Mayenne, Sarthe, le Loir and l’Oudon have combined and the river has a new name, Le Maine, which later joins La Loire at La Pointe, near Bouchemaine.
I enjoy city based days once in a while, and looked forward to seeing the powerful River Loire again that I first became acquainted with when I visited Nantes in early spring of this year.
Here is a link to my Nantes page – https://chriswormald.wordpress.com/nantes-off-season-with-the-xt10/
My mistake was, in finding myself on a very expensive campsite where the price charged for my little one person tent and small car was the same as if I had brought on an enormous motor caravan loaded with unruly kids and dogs. The site has a pool, and a cafe and is quite large, a saving grace is that it has wifi in the cafe area, good showers and individual water points to the pitches and electricity, whether you want it or not. My little North-Face tent has alloy poles and would be very upset if I connected it to AC mains, as would I. But Grassy pitches? – Ha! Dust or gravel, more like, the dust gets everywhere but then it has been very dry.
My other beef is a very busy four lane highway running by the river and cutting Angers in two, (who planned that?). There are under and over passes, but I am glad the campsite is on the outskirts of the city and a cycle path, runs mostly off road for the 5km to the centre of the town, where the traffic seems better behaved.
The path runs through the Parc de Loisirs du Lac de Maine, a large nature reserve where the lake borders the river and various watery activities take place. Thankfully the four lane highway runs mostly on the other side of the Maine and if one is careful to follow the path closest to the river, the busy Pont de la Basse-Chaine can be avoided and cyclists can cross the river via the ancient Pont de Verdun and enjoy the flowers on either parapet and the views of the West Front of the Cathedrale St-Maurice rising above the fountains.
The afternoon views of the Chateau across the river from the Port Fluvial (where some enviable live-aboard barges are moored) are worth seeing and the bars are a popular meeting place in the evenings. I enjoyed a glass or two of the famous Rose d`Anjou and imagined beautiful peasant girls in long dresses moving amongst the vineyards, Hey Ho! The menus at the port cafes are limited and hopeless for vegetarians, by the way.
An area that is well worth visiting at any time of the day, is the Medieval maze of lanes between the Cathedral and the Chateau. It is interesting to compare this area with the Plantagenet City area that I wrote about recently on the page about Le Mans.
Link to Planagenet City, Le Mans page – https://chriswormald.wordpress.com/plantagenet-city/
Whilst Le Mans has gone all out to commercialise its Medieval area with cafes and boutiques, in Angers the buildings are residential or house religious groups/schools/colleges, and the ancient interiors are secreted behind the beautifully restored exteriors and history is safely shut away for a further millennium. The area was very quiet even in the height of summer; the visitors were somewhere else.
The shopping streets were busy and some Fin de Siecle glimpses are to be had by looking up at the facades; also the city does not shy away from the new and some glass and chrome is visible if you look around.
Head to the Jardins des Plantes for a rest in the shade. I don`t know what the temperature was at 3pm that afternoon, I don`t have a watch that smart, but it was h-h-H-HOT, and drinking lots of water was a necessity.
The views of the enormous walls of the chateau are also a must see at any time of the day, however the cost to enter the chateau is prohibitive as are the museums.
Don`t miss the interior of the Cathedral St-Maurice. Rest until your eyes adjust to the light coming through the beautiful, ancient stained glass windows. There is a stunning Madonna and Child painting, Do Not Miss Her!
On a more prosaic note, there is a summer bar, resembling a child’s wooden fort, about half way along the riverside path called Le Heron Carre, “The Square Heron” which is a play on words (in French) which I do not fully understand. It is a very popular meeting place for all ages. They show films after dark and have regular bands playing different genres of music. Moreover, they serve Veggie, indeed they mostly serve veggie. Yesterday evening I was reduced to eating bread and butter at one of the eateries at the Port! This evening I ate the most delicious veggie platter that I have had in France. Wow!
So good luck (Bon chance) to those walkers and runners of every size and all the cyclists on the path du Lac de Maine, those bird watchers including the one with the >600mm lens who sat by the lake the whole day whilst I was in Angers and seemingly never moved, I hope you got your shot – and thanks – I got quite a few.
And today, tomorrow and forever, La Loire absorbs Le Maine (and La Mayenne, La Sarthe, Le Loir and l’Oudon) and long may she continue to do so! Flooded in June, now there is enough water in August for boats to still ply. Pink flamingos, big grey herons, delicate egrets (and all of us) depend on your life-giving, life affirming waters – Jai Ma! Jai Shakti MA!