Tag Archives: hidden treasures

A pretty good week in Angry Town

You haven’t heard much from me this week. Is it because
(a) the internet has been even more infuriating than usual,
(b) I’ve actually been doing stuff,
(c) I found Season 1 of The L Word in the bargain bin at the video store, tried to make it a productive exercise by watching it in French, but couldn’t stand the dubbing, so I gave up on the French part and just let my addition spiral out of control, or
(d) all of the above.

Last Saturday, Abby and I went to the Angers Tattoo Show. “Angry Town Tattoo Show?!” you ask, perplexed by what seems to be an oxymoron. We were rather surprised ourselves. But indeed, there was a big convention of tattoo artists right outside this un-inked town. Booth after booth of tattoo artists at work, people walking around with bandages on their freshest ink, and a delightful parade of subcultures we didn’t even know existed in France, all set to the constant buzz of tattoo pens.

Abby's face pretty accurately sums up our excitement.

On Monday, I stumbled upon this concert in the big square.

Piano dans la place

The banner says “United in diversity.” My first thought was, “Really? In Europe, a white guy playing piano counts as diverse?” The occasion was legit, though. A speaker explained that May 9 would have been the 200th birthday of Franz Lizt, who purportedly visited and loved Angers.

As my attempt to watch The L Word dubbed in French suggests, I’ve been making an effort to watch more TV and movies unsubtitled while I have the chance. Tuesday night, I watched a thoroughly delightful film called Le Petit Nicolas, based upon a beloved series of books. An English-subtitled version exists, though sadly, it has yet to be released in the U.S. After you watch this trailer, you will want to join me when I sit in Hollywood with a sign until they release it in the Land of the Free.

On Wednesday, a colleague invited me to see a film called Tomboy. I adored it, and I hope it gets released in the U.S. and if it doesn’t, I may have to personally procure pirated Region 1 copies to share it with the queer theory and film theory professors I had at Macalester who would gobble it up and immediately add it to their syllabus. You should watch this trailer even if you don’t speak French. The premise, just to help you out, is that a kid who’s new to the neighborhood introduces himself as Mikael and proceeds to have a delightful summer. The twist at the end of the trailer is when the mom asks, “You told everyone you’re a boy? Why did you do that?”

On Thursday, my now constant partner in crime Abby and I attended one of Angry Town’s best events yet: a night of electronic music and video games! They set up arcade games and consoles in a classy theater, and the place filled up with that rare elusive species of Angry Town ‘ipsterz.

Is it me, or does the forum of the theater look like a red version of the room in The Matrix with the drawers?

The bartenders dressed to match the theme of the night.

Last night, Abby gave me a new ‘do for a night out on the town.

Ta-do!

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Loire by car

After a mostly boring week, I lucked out yesterday.  Two of my friends invited me along for an adventure in—get this—a car!

We headed upriver alongside the picturesque Loire to the even more picturesque town of Saumur.

First stop: the castle of Saumur, clearly strategically located for a fantastic view of scenery and invaders.

After admiring the view from the castle, we wandered around Saumur’s market, where we stopped to look at these crates full of live ducklings, hens, and rabbits.

The vendor handed Barbara a just-laid, still warm-from-the-ovary egg, thereby condemning us to carry around a delicate egg all day.

Outside of Saumur, we stopped to picnic in a lovely little park that turned out to be full of magical wonders.

It looks simple enough from here, but look closer.

Magical Wonder #1: a squirrel you can ride! (Also, please admire my new sandals.)

Magical Wonder #2: this marvelous unlabeled sculpture. I was briefly annoyed that I couldn't sit on it (too wobbly), but I'm a sucker for bike art, so I decided I liked it even if I can't ride it. And, no joke, mere seconds after I said, "Methinks Marcel Duchamp was here,"

I turned around and saw this wheel. Marchel Duchamp was definitely here. (Or, you know, someone else who a thing for wheels on posts.)

We were surrounded by incredible troglodytes. I had never seen anything like them. What, praytell, are troglodytes?

Why, just kajillion-year-old caves people managed to carve homes into so they could ferment wine, cultivate mushrooms, and, in more recent years, hawk tourist art.

Easily the most impressive cave dwelling I've ever seen.

Our final destination of the day was an abbey that turned out to be even more interesting than I had expected.  I have quite a lot to say about it, though, so I’ll save that part for tomorrow. Stay tuned for Classy Broads in History!

Of bikes and bonnets

Caitlin and I just returned from a magical adventure.

The Loire Valley is littered with castles, yet in our seven months here, we had visited only one castle each (the closest one) and hadn’t even laid eyes on the Loire River. For the sake of stories and photo albums, we decided to rectify that situation by biking to the nearby village of Ponts-de-Cé. When we got there, we were devastated to discover that the Loire had disappeared. “How will they make wine?!” we cried in disbelief.

Scenic overlook of the Low-ire.

False alarm! A few meters farther, we got a real view of the Loire, which does indeed contain water.

This is the real Loire.

After snacking on bread and apples in the park, we had over an hour to twiddle our thumbs until the castle museum opened. Ponts-de-Cé itself was fairly nondescript, but Caitlin had a great idea. “This would be more fun if we pretend it’s another country,” she said. So we did.

Like France, Ponts-de-Cé was still in Easter Sunday mode—that is, closed—so our only possible option for entertainment was a tabac that sold wine for —not kidding—1€10/glass. A country where wine is as cheap as water? Yes, please.

After a glass or three, we headed to the most ridiculous(ly wonderful) museum in the world.

From outside, Pont-de-Cé’s castle doesn’t look like much. It has neither moat nor ramparts, and kind of looks chopped in half. Because theirs lacks the grandeur of so many castles so very close by, I think the good people of Ponts-de-Cé knew they needed an edge. So once upon a time, someone said, “Hey I know! Let’s fill our B-list castle with bonnets!”

Inside, therefore, now lies the Musée des coiffes et des traditions—no joke, a museum full of hundreds of white lace bonnets.

France has a thing for putting glorious creepy mannequins in museums. This one was no exception.

Room1, in which our bike trek to this foreign land was rewarded with creepy mannequins in funny hats.

Room 2, in which there are bonnets, bonnets, everywhere, yet not a one to wear.

The Ponts-de-Cése (the way I pronounce their nationality in my head, just by the way, sounds like “pond disease”) taught me an important lesson on my role as a woman. Most of the bonnets featured some motif (flowers, leaves, bells) in a set of seven, to symbolize the Seven Virtues of Women.

Work, constancy, fidelity, courage, beauty, patience, and purity. I've got courage and beauty down, so maybe it's time to focus on my constancy if I want to be the perfect woman...

Throughout the museum, we pretended we were shopping for my wedding veil.

We chose this one.

Room 3, in which there were even more creepy mannequins. I'm sure they come to life when we're not looking.

It got even better. Mindful of its castle setting, the bonnet museum invites you up the tower. On the way up the winding stairs, you pass the ominously-labeled “Room of Discipline.”

I didn't feel like reading the explanation provided, because it was more fun to guess discipline involved being made into a wig.

The “Room of Women’s Security” housed an impressive collection of dolls and some unlabeled pottery. Most of the dolls came from France, but also elsewhere in Europe, and just for fun, Guatemala.

The dolls were also wearing bonnets.

What I loved about the museum, other than its obvious ridiculous factor, is that I’ve always loved old-fashioned clothes. My mother will gladly regale you with tales of the Laura Ingalls Wilder costumes she made me for Halloween. Seriously, it’s fascinating.

I mean, can you imagine dressing your toddler in this get-up and then having to clean it after they poop?

To visit a whole museum of old-fashioned accessories—set in an ancient castle, no less? What a day!