around angers

Around Angers: Jardin des Plantes d'Angers

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On the first day of February I ventured into the botanical garden, which is less than five minutes away from my apartment, with some of the other students I'm studying abroad with this semester. It was also my first large outing (beyond going to buy orange juice by the liter at the grocery) since I'd been sick the previous week and I was so excited to be able to spend time in nature with wonderful people.

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The garden was founded in 1777, next to the Chateau d'Angers but the space proved to be too small so in 1789 it was moved to where it now lives. It has gone through multiple changes, being reorganized, more plants being brought in to create a very diverse collection, and also houses part of the University of Angers campus.

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One of the things that has been utterly surprising to me since I've been in Angers is how green and soft the grass is everywhere. In Austin there are some parks that have soft grass, but there is also a ridiculous amount of uncomfortable grass. If I could roll around on every patch of grass, believe me, I would.

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All around the garden are these statues of Greek deities, which are all sculpted out of white and starkly contrast from the colorful landscapes around them. They are breathtakingly beautiful, and make me wish I knew more about Greek mythology so I could appreciate them further.

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There are also various vases around the garden, which house plants of their own while also being beautiful to look at. Every one is made a focal point in a portion of the garden, as if they are all their own vignettes in a much larger whole.

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The botanical garden also houses some animals, which I was not expecting! They have rabbits, chickens, and mountain goats. The rabbits were very shy, staying by their food and shelter as opposed to coming to say hello.

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This mountain goat was fearless, coming straight up to me and asking for food. To the right, there was another mountain goat that was being fed by a little girl so eventually this one left my group, which had no food to offer, to compete for the bread being handed out.

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The chickens mostly stayed in their part and together, not venturing outside of their territory until at one point they all ran towards the girl giving the goats food, making her shriek in delight.

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Towards the end of the garden there was a winding portion that broke off from the main path, and these vines were beautiful and soft to the touch. If I go back to the garden, I want to be able to sit in that bench which is occupied in the photograph and just take in all of the magnificence around me.

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Jackie, one of the girls in the group, mentioned that this particular tree looked like a dragon and I haven't been able to get that picture out of my head since. What do you guys think?

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The gate at the entrance is quite magnificent, and it has a bit more heft than is shown in this photograph because the sun decided to come out to play. But it is the entrance and the exit, leading out to one of the main roundabouts in Angers.

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Outside the gate is this statue, dutifully guarding the entrance. I wish I remembered who he is, but alas. The girls in the group had immense fun taking photographs with him, though.

Around Angers: Le Chateau d'Angers

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I've never lived in a city with a proper castle just up the road, so the fact that Angers just happens to have this chateau that was built in the end of the 12th century and that everyone who lives here is just like, "Oh yeah, it's not a big deal" is kind of crazy. Awesome, don't get me wrong, but crazy. Le Chateau d'Angers was the first stop on our guided tour through the city last week, and it knocked me breathless from the first moment my eyes saw it. The gardens exist where the moat used to be and are much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than a moat (although that would've been really cool too, I think).

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The chateau is a mix of white stone and black stone, which were harvested from what the locals call the "White Anjou" (Anjou is the province of France, and Angers is the capitol of Anjou) where the sandstone comes from, as pictured above, and the "Black Anjou" where the slate on all of the roofs is from. It wasn't until our guide was explaining that gargoyles were originally created to funnel the rainwater away from the façade because the stone is very sensitive to nature and eventually will dissolve into nothing if exposed to enough water that I knew their purpose was for anything other than keeping evil spirits away.

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Inside the chateau they have these models of the evolution of the chateau, so you can watch it grow and evolve into what it is today.

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It's really interesting to see how it's been modified and rebuilt and changed to accommodate new threats, new ways of life, new times. And how it was at first very modest and now it is a grand thing.

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The architecture of the chateau is incredibly fascinating, and the various styles all existent in one place make for a very happy Indigo. I could have happily spent hours wandering around, just taking everything in. You can also see parts where there have been more modern renovations and additions, such as the door and windows on the left, where the newer white stone is inlaid in the older.

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One of the things that Le Chateau d'Angers has in it is the Tenture de l'Apocalypse (Tapestry of the Apocalypse), which was commissioned by Duke Louis 1 of Anjou in 1373. The original was about 140m long, but today all that remains is just over 100m. It is housed in a room that is pitch black except the gentle lights illuminating the panels, so as not to damage the fabric further and to preserve it for as long as possible. Standing less than five feet from something so beautiful and with such historical meaning and value was a surreal moment for me.  I may still be pinching myself to make sure it really happened.

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After viewing Tenture de l'Apocalypse we went up to the towers to look out over Angers, which was another stunning sight. There is something so magical about a city that lives in such a modern world with such grand pieces of history built into it, creating the roots and shaping life even today.

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