Taxis, skyscrapers, lights, and 24 hour restaurants were what I was expecting when I flew eight hours across the Atlantic to Angers, France. Living with host families and attending classes in French at L’Université Catholique de L’Ouest, seven of my classmates and I took on this foreign city in the summer of 2015. From the minute I stepped outside of the train station after arriving in Angers, I realized that I was not in the type of city I was used to, but it was dreamy nonetheless. “It looked like a charming French town you would see in a movie,” says Helen Roddey (‘16).
Throughout the course of the trip, we took walks around Angers and traveled to other popular sites, such as Normandy and Château de Chenonceau. However, Angers has a different story than anywhere else we visited.
Angers is part of France’s Loire Valley and is divided by the Loire River. In 850 AD, Angers was founded as Europe’s 17th city. In its early years, Angers was considered a Medieval town as a result of its new Christian inhabitants. Today, Angers has two sides. Most of the Medieval buildings are on one side of the Loire, and the Château d’Angers (the castle) is on the other side, with the more modern city. In 2010, the population was estimated to be about 147,570.
During my time in Angers, it took me a while to get settled in, as it was my first time in Europe. After having visited only American cities, this one didn’t strike me as much of a city until a couple weeks into my trip. At first, Angers felt like a quaint little neighborhood with cobblestone streets, a movie theater, restaurants, and a few drug stores. The shops closed during the afternoons for “une sieste” (a nap), and only reopened for a couple of hours until dinner time.
After a homemade French dinner one night, my host family took my friends and I across the river to give us a tour of the Medieval side of town. After about a fifteen minute walk, it was as if we had walked into a different world. The streets became narrower and serpentine, buildings older, and history more prevalent. Most of the streets and buildings were dark and almost looked deserted. Doorways and windows
were tiny, and you could see how time had taken a toll on the buildings. However, after turning a couple of corners we found people out enjoying their nights in Medieval buildings that had been converted into more modern restaurants and bars. Although the rest of this side of town seemed dead, these two little streets or so were hopping. As we continued our walk down these streets, enjoying people watching and the nightlife, we eventually circled back around to the bridge. After crossing the river, we proceeded to climb the Cathedral staircase, which put us back into downtown Angers. “I liked how you could walk the entire town,” says Sarah Whitaker (‘16).
Although it was different than anywhere else I had ever visited, I would feel completely at home were I to return to Angers. “It was a very friendly town,” says Whitaker. The town is welcoming and easy to become accustomed to. It is truly a special place and the most perfectly charming French city I could’ve dreamed of.
All photos by Madison Stewart.