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Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Granville to Angers

Angers, river Maine & chateau

Angers, by Phil Long, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

A guide to Stage 3 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 3 of the 2016 Tour is from Granville to Angers, via Villedieu-les-Poêles, Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët, Louvigné-du-Désert, Fougères, Vitré, Argentré-du-Plessis, Ballots, Renazé, Segré, la Pouëze, and la Meignanne. Stage 3 is the second-longest of the 2016 Tour, at 223.5km. It's classified as flat, and there's a single climb, the Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles (Category 4) after 25.5km. The intermediate sprint is at Bouillé-Ménard, with 52.5km left to race. The finish is flat, and should favour the sprinters. Read about Stage 3 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 3 race report.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 3 of the Tour de France 2016 is 222km from Granville to Angers.

Stage classification Flat
Distance 223.5km
Sprints Bouillé-Ménard (after 171km)
Climbs Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles (Category 4)

There's an official Tour de France map of Stage 3. (There's also a map of the first part of Stage 3 on the Grand Départ 2016 website - the part which is in the Manche, where the Grand Départ is taking place - and an unofficial Openstreetmap of Stage 3.)

This is the official stage profile for Stage 3:

Profile of Stage 3, Tour de France 2016

Stage 3 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the Stage 3 timings (based on the medium estimated average speed of 41kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Granville 1145
0 Départ réel  beyond la Maison Brulée 1155
12 Beauchamps 1212
22.5 Villedieu-les-Poêles 1227
25.5 Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles (Category 4) 1232
40 Brécey 1253
59.5 Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët 1322
72.5 Louvigné-du-Désert 1341
87.5 Fougères 1403
117 Vitré 1446
128 Argentré-du-Plessis 1502
160.5 Renazé 1549
171 Bouillé-Ménard (sprint) 1605
180 Segré 1618
204 Saint-Clément-de-la-Place 1653
218 Avrillé 1714
223.5 Finish at Angers 1722

See the full timings for Stage 3 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 43, 41, and 39kmh.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: the start at Granville

Granville

Granville, Stephane Martin, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 3 starts in Granville, a town at the far northern end of the Baie du Mont Saint-Michel. The riders set off from the port in Granville, and go along bd des Amiraux Granvillais, rue du Saint-Gaud, rond-point d'Hacqueville, rue Jeanne Jugan, avenue des Vendéens, rue de Bretagne, rond-point des Anciens Combattants, bd du Québec, avenue des Matignon, and route de Villedieu. The race leaves Granville on the route de Villedieu/D924. See the map on Granville's Tour de France site.

The timings at Granville are: 0945 the publicity caravan sets off, 1145 the riders depart.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Granville to Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

Villedieu-les-Poêles

Villedieu-les-Poêles, La Mairie et le Cuivre, by Frédérique Voisin-Demery, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 3 heads east out of Granville on the D924. It passes through Beauchamps (the village where the Anglo-Norman Beauchamp dynasty originated; members of the family became Counts of Warwick and Worcester.) It goes by the Zoo & Botanical Gardens at Champrepus

Next, the race goes through Villedieu-les-Poêles, a town of 3,686 people on the river Sienne. 

Glockenspiel, Villedieu-les-Poêles

Glockenspiel, Villedieu-les-Poêles, by Elrond, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

(The name Villedieu comes from the town's origins as a commanderie of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, from 1130. The other part (poêles) refers to pans: the town is known for making copper utensils, pots and pans, and church bells. The inhabitants are sometimes called 'les Sourdins' - an insinuation that they may be deaf, from repeatedly hitting copper items with hammers. Villedieu-les-Poêles was spared the Allied bombardment which damaged many of the other towns near the D-Day landing beaches. Villedieu-les-Poêles is in the bocage Normand).

The race comes into Villedieu on the D924, and leaves on the D975/avenue du Maréchal Leclerc/route d'Avranches. 1.5km after Villedieu, the day's only categorised climb starts.

Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles (Category 4)

The climb of the Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles starts just after the town at an altitude of about 125m, and reaches 192m at the top, giving a height gain of 67m. The distance is 1.5km, which means an average gradient of 4.4%.

During the climb, the riders turn left on the D33/rue du Beausoleil; they then turn right on the D999/rue des Etangs towards Chérencé-le-Héron. The route continues south on the D999 to Brécey, then crosses the river Sée, and passes the C17th Chateau du Logis de Vassy.

Chateau de Logis de Vassy

Chateau du Logis de Vassy, by Xfigpower, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After passing through the hamlet of Montigny, Stage 3 arrives at Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët, near the confluence of the rivers Sélune and Airon. 

Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët, by XXCM, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët to Vitré

Fougères

Fougères, by Tim Schofield, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

When Stage 3 leaves the Saint-Hilaire, it takes the D977/D177 to les Loges-Marchis. It then leaves the département of la Manche, and enters the Ile-et-Vilaine. Shortly after, it reaches Louvigné-du-Désert. 

Church of St-Martin, Louvigé-du-Désert

St-Martin church, Louvigné-du-Désert

(Louvigné-du-Désert is a town of 3,435 people, which falls within the region of Brittany. The town's name means 'place of wolves'; the désert was added in the C13th, and signifies an absence of forests. The economy here was traditionally based on the exploitation of the local granite, and there are still working quarries. Local farming produces cereals, milk, and meat. Louvigné-du-Désert is twinned with Burnham-on-Sea).

Shortly after Louvigné, the race passes the C17th Chateau de Monthorin

The riders continue on the D177 to Landéan, then they go through the Forest of Fougères.

Cordon of druids in the Forêt de Fougères

Cordon of the Druids in the Forêt de Fougères, by Pymouss, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

(The Forest of Fougères has some prehistoric monuments, such as the Cordon of the Druids (aligned stones), and the pierre courcoulée (a dolmen). These are evidence that the forest was inhabited in the Neolithic era (5000 to 2000BC). The forest is used for walking, mountain biking, and swimming and kayaking in the Etang de Chênedet).

After the forest, they arrive at the town of Fougères.

Fougères, from the church tower

Fougères, seen from the tower of the Saint-Léonard church

The race continues on the D179 out of Fougères, past the suburb of Javené and through Billé (no ticket required) and Combourtillé (where the Valorex factory produces linseed oil). The next villages on the route are Saint-Christophe-des-Bois and Taillis. The riders cross the river Cantache, and continue to Vitré

Vitré, chateau

Chateau de Vitré, by Hylke Visser, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

In Vitré, they cross the river Vilaine, pass close to the impressive Chateau de Vitré, and sweep by the Eglise St-Martin. They'll also go past the Jardin du Parc (which has a statue of Madame de Sévigné, who had a residence at the nearby Chateau des Rochers, and wrote about Vitré and the Breton Parliament in some of her Letters.)

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Vitré to Angers

Eglise de la Madeleine, Segré

Eglise de la Madeleine, Segré, by Marc Cousin, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 3 of the 2016 Tour leaves Vitré on the D88, and soon passes the Chateau des Rochers-Sévigné. This is a manor house, which belonged to the Breton aristocratic de Sévigné family. (Some of the chateau is open to visit; there's also a golf club and restaurant on the site. Madame de Sévigné wrote famous Letters, some of them when she was staying here).

Madame de Sévigné

Madame de Sévigné gravure portrait, by Léo Mabmacien, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

After crossing the N157, the race arrives at Argentré-du-Plessis. 

Chateau du Plessis

Chateau du Plessis, Argentré-du-Plessis, by GO69, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

(Argentré-du-Plessis is a town on a stream called le Hill. For many centuries, the du Plessis family owned almost all the land here, and lived in the Chateau du Plessis (built in the C15th, and rebuilt in the C19th). There are a number of étangs (ponds) in the commune, including the Etang du Moulin aux Moines. A green route for walkers, cyclists, and horse riders runs between Vitré and Moutiers, passing through Argentré-du-Plessis).

Leaving Argentré, the race takes the D88, which is dead straight, and heads almost due south. The next village on the route is Gennes-sur-Seiche (birthplace of the Abbé Chaupitre, priest and homeopath, who made Gouttes de l'Abbé Chaupitre homeopathic remedies). When the riders leave Gennes, they're on the D127 to Cuillé, Gastines, Laubrières (the name deriving from l'aubrière, meaning place planted with trees or shrubs), and Ballots.

Jacky Durand

Jacky Durand (2006), by Slawek, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

There's a special reason why the race is passing through Ballots, according to Ouest France. It's as a nod to cyclist Jacky Durand, who was born in Ballots, and who was known for attacks and long breakaways. He failed a doping test in 1996, when nandrolone was detected in his system. Following an enquiry into doping by the French Senate, EPO was found in a urine sample he gave during the 1998 Tour de France; he then admitted he had doped during his career. (Ballots is a village on the edge of the Forêt de Craon. The land was given by the Lord of the Manor of Craon to six canons of the chapter of St-Nicolas around 1070, and they founded the village).

The race route takes the D150 out of Ballots, crossing the Usure near l'Etang de la Rincerie, and passing through the village of la Selle-Craonnaise. (The first part of the village's name comes from the Latin cella, meaning hermitage or small monastery). The race crosses la Voie Verte Laval-Renazé, goes through the little village of la Crue, then turns right on the N171 to Renazé (associated with slate mining since the C15th).

Marc Madiot

Marc Madiot, by www.instants-cyclistes.fr, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 3 goes through Renazé because it's the home town of the Madiot brothers - Marc Madiot and Yvon Madiot. Marc Madiot was a professional cyclist from 1985 to 1994, and in 1997, he created the La Francaise des Jeux team. He admitted using amphetamines during his career. As a team manager, he told investigators of the Festina affair, 'I didn't want to know if my riders were taking EPO or not; the important thing was that they didn't get caught.' Yvon Madiot was also a professional cyclist, and is Directeur Sportif at FDJ. Renazé has a renovated velodrome named after the Madiot brothers.

Stage 3 takes the D110 out of Renazé. As set out in Le Courrier de l'Ouest, the next village on the route is Bouillé-Ménard (a farming and slate-mining village on the little river Araize). It's where the day's intermediate sprint takes place. 

Profile of sprint on Stage 3, Tour de France 2016, Bouillé-Ménard

Profile of the intermediate sprint on Stage 3 at Bouillé-Ménard, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Nyoiseau (the shortest French town name to include all the vowels) is the next village on the route, then Segré.

Pont Victor Hugo, Segré

Victor Hugo bridge over the Oudon, Segré, by Glabb, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After Segré, there's Marans (which features in the novels of Hervé Bazin), Vern d'Anjou, La Pouëze (meaning land cleared of forest, or possibly 'place where beans are grown'; it's another village where there's a tradition of slate-mining), Saint-Clément-de-la-Place, Saint-Jean-des-Marais, La Meignanne, and Avrillé.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: the finish at Angers

Angers, river Maine & chateau

Angers, by Phil Long, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The finish of Stage 3 of the Tour de France 2016 is at Angers. The finish line will be at the Town Hall (Mairie d'Angers), by the Jardin du Mail. 

Hotel de Ville, Angers

Hotel de Ville, Angers FR 49, by Jean-Louis Zimmermann, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

According to le Courrier de l'Ouest, the exact route coming into Angers will be La Meignanne, D122 route de la Meignanne, Avrillé Champ des Martyrs, avenue René-Gasnier, rue Saint-Lazare, place Bichon, boulevard Daviers, pont de la Haute Chaine, boulevard Carnot, and boulevard Foch. The route is also given on Angers' Tour de France page, and they have a PDF map of the the last part of the route of Stage 3, from Saint-Clément-de-la-Place.

There's a near right-angle bend about 300m before the finish line.

Map of the finish of Stage 3, Tour de France 2016, in Angers

© OpenStreetMap contibutors

This long, flat stage is likely to finish in a bunch sprint in Angers. It could be one for Marcel Kittel or André Greipel.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Geraint Thomas's view

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas in the 2014 Tour de France

Geraint Thomas spoke to the BBC's Peter Scrivener about the 2016 Tour de France, and gave his view on each stage - the nature of the stage, and who might win.

It's not always a very good guide - apart from the stages that Thomas and Sky have reccy'ed, he doesn't seem to know all that much about the race, and I think he's got the likely winners wrong on many of the days. He probably hasn't had a chance to look at the Tour stages in depth, because he's been too busy training and racing. I imagine that the phone call with Scrivener was an obligation, but the least important thing Thomas had to do that day, or came after a brutal training session.

That said, it might turn out that Thomas's comments show deep insight, and he becomes known for the application of the Socratic method to bicycle racing. He is a professional bike racer, Commonwealth gold medallist, winner of this year's Paris-Nice and Volta ao Algarve, and a fair bit more besides, whereas I'm just some numpty tapping away at a computer keyboard, thinking I know better.

Anyway, this is what Thomas says about Stage 3:

'It's going to be the same as stage one. Expect a breakaway to go away, be controlled by the peloton and reeled in around 10-15km from the finish with a bunch sprint finish in Angers. This is a mentally tough day, where a strong team is useful. At Team Sky we will try to keep Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard fresh for the final 50km because they are good at fighting for position. They will shelter Chris Froome from any wind on the coast and if there is a technical run-in, with roundabouts or sharp turns, guide him to the finish. Losing 10 seconds on a stage like this may not sound like a lot but do it a few times and that's a minute gone and could be the difference between winning and losing the overall race.'

I suggest the comment about coastal winds isn't relevant. Yes, the day starts in Granville, but that's the only place Geraint is likely to need a bucket and spade. He clearly hasn't looked at the run-in, and doesn't know whether it's technical - which is fair enough, no doubt someone from the team will go through it with the riders the night before.

It shows how celebrity trumps everything else in modern society. The BBC have published Thomas's views on something he hasn't had time to look at. They could have talked to someone who actually knows about the subject, but they didn't, because they know that they need a famous name, or people won't read their article. There's an element of hypocrisy to me then recycling the BBC piece here.

Thomas is also asked about the 'one to watch':

'André Greipel. The Gorilla has won 10 Tour stages and took the German national title last weekend, and his Lotto-Soudal team have built a squad around him.'

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: comments

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Stage 4, Tour de France 2016: Saumur to Limoges

Saumur

Stage 4 from Saumur to Limoges is the longest of the 2016 Tour de France, at 232km. It goes through the départements of Maine-et-Loire, Vienne, and Haute Vienne, taking in lots of towns and villages of rural France. It's likely to finish with a sprint in front of the Town Hall in Limoges. Read about Stage 4, Tour de France 2016.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Granville & the Iles Chausey

Granville

Granville, Stephane Martin, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Granville is a town of 13,000 people. It marks the northern end of the Baie du Mont Saint-Michel. The river at the northern boundary of the town is Le Boscq. On the west of the town, looking out to sea, is the Pointe du Roc.

Granville was founded by a vassal of William the Conqueror. From the 1600s, it was a town of corsaires - vessels from Granville attacked the merchant ships of enemy states, with the authorisation of the king, to steal their cargoes. The town was occupied by the Germans during World War II, but Maurice Marland was notable for his organisation of the resistance. It was liberated without combat by General Patton, whose army arrived from Coutance on 31st July 1944, and continued towards Avranches. Granville was re-occupied for several hours on 9th March 1945 by German soldiers who had left Jersey.

The Musée Christian Dior is in the childhood home of the designer. There's also a museum of old Granville, a modern art museum, and art-deco style casino.

The port of Granville is used by commercial, fishing, and passenger vessels, including boats to the Channel Islands and the Iles Chausey.

Iles Chausey

Low tide on Ile de Chausey, Erik Cleves Kristensen, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The Iles Chausey are made up of a total of 52 granite islands at high tide, and more than 365 at low tide. They are 17km from Granville. On Grande-Ile, there are houses and a permanent population of around 30 (more in summer than in winter), but no cars. 

Historically, the granite of these islands was quarried, and the stone extracted was of excellent quality. It was used to build the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. The islands have also been used as a base for smuggling contraband. Now, they are a destination for fishing and tourist excursions. Around 200,000 tourists per year stay on Grande-Ile.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: bocage Normand

Road through bocage Normand

Chemin du Bocage, by Bocage Normand Tourisme, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Bocage describes a type of countryside found in Normandy (and, for example, in Devon in England) with mixed woodland and pasture, and hedges on the field boundaries. The hedges in Normandy are as much as 2,000 years old, and have thick, tangled roots. The hedges have come to grow on earth banks as much as 10ft thick, and the country lanes are sunken between the hedge banks. 

After the Normandy landings, the bocage made it difficult for the Allied tanks to advance, and provided good terrain for the German defenders to use to their advantage. Attempting to advance through the bocage was known as the 'war of the hedgerows' or la bataille des haies - see after the landings, below.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

Church at Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

Church at Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët, by TCY, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët is a village of 3,971 people.

The name Saint-Hilaire comes from Hilary of Poitiers, a C4th theologian, and the name Harcouët from Viscount Harscoitus, the first Lord of the Manor here in the C12th. 

A fortress was built in the time of William the Conqueror, which became a residential chateau in the C18th. In the early C19th, stones from the chateau were used to build the two-towered church of St-Hilaire-du-Harcouët. 

This was the third town in France to receive an electricity supply, in 1889. Much of the town centre was destroyed by a bombardment on 14th June 1944, and rebuilt after the war).

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Fougères

Fougères

Fougères, by Tim Schofield, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Fougères is named after the plants: ferns are fougères in French. It is on the river Nançon. Fougères is twinned with Ashford in Kent.

Fougères was at a Roman crossroads, but the town itself dates back to the Middle Ages: the chateau is first mentioned in documents in the late 900s. At that time, the chateau was wooden. It was destroyed by Henry II of England in 1166, but rebuilt in stone by Raoul II, Baron of Fougères. One tower of the present-day chateau dates back to this time, la Tour de Haye.

Fougères is on the edge of Brittany, and over the centuries, it has been caught up in many battles between the Dukes of Brittany, the Dukes of Normandy, and the Kings of France. Brittany lost its independence and became part of France in 1532. 

During the French Revolution, Fougères was fought over by the Royalist Chouans of Brittany, and the Revolutionaries.

On 8th June 1944, Fougères suffered an Allied bombardment, which killed 300 people, and destroyed much of the town.

Working tin was important to the local economy in the 1500s, as was the production of glassware. Gradually, crafts were replaced by industry, with the establishment of shoe manufacturers, as well as glassware factories. Today, glass manufacture continues, alongside food processing, furniture-making, and electronics, computing, and robotics.

A small school opened in 2013 which teaches children in Breton.

Fougeres, view of the town from the chateau

Fougères, by Tim Schofield, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Vitré

Vitré, chateau

Chateau de Vitré, by Hylke Visser, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Vitré is a town of 17,463 people, on the Vilaine river, in Brittany, to the east of the city of Rennes. The name comes from Gallo-Roman times, and means 'the farm of a person called Victorius'.

The site has been occupied since Neolithic times, and the Menhir de la Pierre Blanche at nearby Pocé-les-Bois is evidence of this. An Iron Age settlement 2km east of Vitré has been excavated.

Vitré was on the Roman road from Rennes to Le Mans, and it's likely that a Gallo-Roman town existed here at that time. From 1008, it was the seat of the Barons of Vitré, and they built a wooden castle. The first stone castle, on the site of the current chateau, was built in 1047. It was enlarged in the 1200s, and town walls were put up.

Vitré was involved in international textile trade from 1472, producing hemp and linen, and became a wealthy commercial and trading town.

The barony of Vitré came to end with the French Revolution, and the town was in favour of the Republic, with Revolutionary soldiers based there.

From the 1950s, Vitré developed, the population increased, and there was building on the periphery of the town. Industrial zones were created, with businesses in the areas of food processing, textiles, chemicals, and shoes. A local company makes boots for the French army. Today, some people also work in call centres, and the financial and service sectors. The autoroute to Rennes is close by, making Vitré a practical option for commuters. There's a striking railway station. (I mean the building stands out, not that the employees are refusing to work).

Vitré railway station

Vitré station, by Amstrong White, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

To help town centre businesses, and reduce the number of cars, the buses in Vitré are free.

The Chateau de Vitré is open to visit. The Vitré tourist office website offers a 0.50€ map, and laments, 'With this map in your pocket, you will miss any interesting places of Vitré'. Probably you have to take it out of your pocket to avoid that disappointing result.

Vitré is twinned with Lymington in the UK, and Helmstedt in Germany.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Segré

Eglise de la Madeleine, Segré

Eglise de la Madeleine, Segré, by Marc Cousin, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Segré is a town at the confluence of the Verzée and the Oudon. The two rivers give rise to the saying, 'Segré, ville de renom, deux rivières et deux monts, deux églises et deux ponts, autant de belles filles que de maisons.' This translates as, 'Segré, famous town, two rivers and two hills, two churches and two bridges, as many pretty girls as houses.'

The name Segré could come from castellum secretum, meaning an isolated fortification, or it could mean 'place belonging to a [Gallo-Roman] person called Securus'. Another theory is that it refers to a place that is sure or secure.

The first fortification was built here in the 900s. In 1191, Richard the Lionheart confiscated Segré from the local lord, to give to his wife Bérengère of Navarre. In 1589, Segré was taken on behalf of the French King Henri III, and the chateau dismantled.

The town was burnt by the retreating German army on 5th & 6th June 1944.

Traditionally, slate mining and iron extraction were the main industries here. Today, commerce and service industries are the biggest part of the economy.

There's a castle on the edge of Segré, le Chateau de la Lorie.

Stage 3, Tour de France 2016: Angers

Angers, river Loire & chateau

Angers, by Phil Long, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Angers is a city of 147,305 people in the Loire valley: on the northern edge of Angers the confluence of the Mayenne and Sarthe creates the river Maine, which flows through Angers; a short distance south of Angers, the Maine flows into the Loire. Angers is the former capital of Anjou. 

History of Angers

Chateau d'Angers

Chateau d'Angers, Angers, by Mario Sanchez Prada, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Angers existed before the Romans, and during Roman occupation, it was called Juliomagus Andecavorum (the market of Julius Caesar, in the area where the Gallic Andecavi tribe lived). The name Andecavorum developed into Angiers by the C12th, and later to Angers.

There were Germanic invasions in 275 and 276, which made the local people fortify a high area of their settlement. Angers was briefly held by Vikings in the 870s.

From the 900s to the 1200s, Angers was ruled by the Fulk family, who were Counts of Anjou. Fulk Nerra (the Black) was so-called because of his dark complexion, and his character - ambitious, predatory, covetous, brutal, and criminally violent. 

Henry Plantagenet became Count of Anjou in the C12th, where he spent most of his time, as well as Duke of Normandy and King of England. He married Eleanor of Aquitaine, which sowed the seeds of the One Hundred Years War.

The rulers of Anjou were promoted from counts to dukes, and the last of the Dukes of Anjou was Good King René (King of Sicily), and Count of Provence. He surrendered Anjou to Louis XI, the French king, in 1474.

In the 1800s, many old quarters of Angers were knocked down, and the city wall was demolished in 1850. Angers expanded, and the Parisian model was adopted, with wide boulevards and avenues. Angers lost its nickname 'the Black City', which was earned by the extensive use of local slate for the rooves of buildings.

Angers was occupied by the Nazis in June 1940, and liberated by General Patton on 10th August 1944.

Angers today

Cathédrale St-Maurice, Angers

Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, Angers 0868, by Moto Itinerari, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Today, the old town of Angers is dominated by the Chateau d'Angers. Nearby are the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, and the half-timbered Maison d'Adam. Also significant is the Tour St-Aubin, which dates from 1170, and was the bell tower of an Abbey which closed during the French Revolution.

Maison d'Adam, Angers

Maison d'Adam, Angers, by dizzymissytrolly, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The new town is centred on Saint-Serge, which has buildings of the state University of Angers. (The University of Angers was founded as a school in 1080, and became a University in the 1350s; the other University in Angers is the Catholic University of the West). There's also a big University Hospital. 

Angers' economy

Angers' economy is based on production of wine, liqueurs (including Cointreau), Scania trucks, and computers. Angers is the largest horticultural centre in Europe, and the leading producer of hydrangeas. Many banks and insurance companies have offices here, and there's a big convention centre. 

Culture in Angers

Inside the the chateau, a famous tapestry is displayed, the Apocalypse Tapestry. There's a Fine Arts Museum and a Natural History Museum, and Angers has a Grand Theatre. The Anjou Festival takes place in July, with drama, music, dancing, poetry, and art.

Angers - quais, cathedral, and chateau

Angers - Quais, cathédrale, et chateau, by Olivier Issaly, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Angers is twinned with Wigan. When they organise exchange visits, who gets the better deal, the Angevins or the pie-eaters?

GranvilleMaison d'Adam, AngersQuai, Cathedral, & Chateau, Angers

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