Well you are probably wondering where I stayed while visiting the Loire this summer. It was a very nice bed and breakfast called Domaine des Gauliers which overlooks vast fields of grapes and the small village of Chavagnes. The property consists of a lovely manor house and two old farm buildings that have been recently converted to fully functioning holiday cottages with kitchens, bedrooms and living space. The owners were very kind and even invited us up to the manor house one evening for aperitifs and foie gras. It was quite entertaining. Visiting châteaux in the region is easy since Les Gauliers isn’t far from Angers or Saumur. After visiting the Abbaye de Fontevraud, I spent the next day in the pleasant city of Angers, the former capital of Anjou. Walking through the streets of the old town is like visiting an open-air museum with many 16th century buildings and half-timbered houses. Perhaps the most popular spot in the city is the fortress which was built by Saint-Louis between 1228 and 1238 and is a fine specimen of feudal architecture in dark schist alternating with courses of white stone. It is located on a rocky promontory overlooking the river Maine and has been occupied by man since the Neolithic period. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Dukes of Anjou Louis I, Louis II and King René, enlightened princes and art lovers, developed a dazzling court life at the château. At the end of the 16th century, at the height of the Wars of Religion, on the orders of Henry III, the governor of the fortress, Donadieu de Puycharic, had the roofs of the towers and the ramparts levelled. It subsequently became a simple security enclosure and was frequently used as a prison. From the top of the hightest tower, Tour du Moulin, on the north corner, there are interesting views over the town, the cathedral towers and St-Aubin, the banks of the Maine and the gardens laid out at the foot of the castle (these beautiful gardens used to be the castle moats). Within the castle precincts are the towers on the curtain wall, the chapel and the Royal apartments, residents of the dukes of Anjou in the 15th century. The château even has its own vineyards with vines grown the traditional way using slate stakes which absorb sunlight keeping the grapes warm at night and free from mildew. Along the ramparts of the east side are charming medieval gardens laid out with lavender, marguerites and hollyhocks as well as various species that were known in the Middle Ages as medicinal plants, aromatic herbs and flowers reproduced on the Apocalypse Tapestry. This legendary tapestry is housed in a gallery especially designed in 1954 on the site of former buildings to ensure maximum preservation conditions. Apart from the Bayeux tapestry, it is the oldest to survive to the modern era. The tapestry is still an exceptionally large piece of cloth work, measuring about 100 meters long and 4.50 meters high. It was commissioned in 1375 by Louis I, Duke of Anjou and brother of King Charles V, and was probably completed in 1382. It was subsequently hung in the courtyard of the bishop’s palace in Arles to celebrate the marriage of Louis II of Anjou to Yolande of Aragon in 1400. Donated to Angers Cathdedral by Good King René, it was often displayed during religious festivities up to the late 18th century when it fell into oblivion. Though it has deteriorated over time, most of it has survived and was restored by cathedral canons between 1843 and 1870. The tapestry consists of six sections of equal size, each featuring a main character seated under a canopy looking on as scenes from the Book of Revelation are depicted on alternating red and blue backgrounds. It is truly a stunning piece of work and not to be missed. After visiting the castle, I took a walking tour of the city and crossed the Ponte de Verdun into the right bank of the city called la Doutre. Of all the bridges that span the river Maine, this one is the oldest in existence since the third quarter of the 6th century. It was reconstructed in early 19th century and was named in honor of Nicolas-Joseph Beaurepaire, a French army officer who died in 1792 in Verdun (not during the battle in 1916 as some people assume). From the other side of the river there are exceptional views of the old quarter, the château and the impressive towers of the cathédrale Saint-Maurice. This is a beautiful building called the hôtel des Pénitentes and was built in 1490 for the Benedictine monks of Saint Nicolas. Nearby is the Place du Tertre-Saint-Laurent and its memorial which shows the former location of the pauper cemetery. It is also the place where the procession of the Blessed Sacrament began in the 13th century and continued up until the 1960s. Beside the memorial is the 12th century Grenier Saint-Jean which is now used as an exhibition hall. Not far from there is the old Hôpital Saint-Jean, a hospital founded in 1174 and provided care for the poor until 1854. The large room is hung with Jean-Lurcat’s modern tapestry called Chant du Monde. After trying to visit several places that were closed for lunch, I made my way back to the old town and up the grand staircase which leads to the cathédrale Saint-Maurice, a fine 12th and 13th century building surmounted by three towers, the central tower having been added in the 16th century. Above the third story level are eight niches containing roughly carved bearded figures in military uniforms, St-Maurice and his companions. Inside the walls are hung with Aubusson tapestries and everything is dimly lit by 13th century stained glass windows. One of the most impressive half-timbered buildings in Angers is the Maison d’Adam. This 16th century house has posts decorated with numerous carved figures. It owes its name to the apple tree which appears to hold up the corner turret and which was flanked by statues of Adam and Eve until the Revolution. This is the Logis Barrault which is now the Fine Arts Museum. Beside it is the courtyard of the former All Saints Abbey which now serves as a sculpture museum. This is the belfry (12th century) of the former St-Aubin monastery, a wealthy Benedictine abbey founded in the 6th century. The tower takes its name from St-Aubin, Bishop of Angers who was buried here.