Périgueux and Angoulême (3/10-3/11)
After a long day of exploring sights of the Dordogne, we headed to Perigueux, the capital of the region, and my home for 3 months in early 2001. It was strange to be there for the first time in 12 years, and memories flooded back as we passed by familiar streets and neighborhoods. I lived only a few blocks from the large Cathédrale St-Front in the medieval part of the city, which overlooks the Isle river. I walked or biked along the river everyday back then. The rain was stop-and-go that afternoon/evening, which made for some nice clouds, and even a rainbow. I'll never forget how hungry I was as Lindsay, my folks, and I tried to find an open restaurant on a Sunday evening. We found a take-out pizza place that managed to be more delicious than most gourmet pizza places in America. We scarfed it and headed back to the hotel, which was between the river and the cathedral. That night, Lindsay and I enjoyed a long late night walk through the old town. We admired the beautiful old buildings, I reminisced about old memories from Périgueux, and we talked about the mysteries of the universe and life and love and happiness. Definitely a good night. In the morning we explored some of the old sights of Périgueux, which is actually a very old city, first inhabited by the Gallic people several centuries BC. It later became a very important Roman city called Vesunna, at which time it had a temple and amphitheatre. This tower (La tour de Vésone), represents the remainder of the innermost sanctum of a Roman temple built in the 1st or 2nd century. The ruins of a once-grand 1st century Roman amphitheatre are in a nearby neighborhood. It was completely destroyed sometime in the middle ages. What was once the arena's interior has been transformed into a public garden and children's playground. Strange to think that on the same ground where men used to fight to the death in combat or battle bears and lions, children now swing and slide on the playground. Le Château Barrière is what remains of a 12th century castle built to protect the city. It was destroyed by the Protestant huguenots in the 16th century during the religious wars. There's not much left. After that, we headed north to Angoulême. Angoulême was the first city I was assigned to in France, back in late 2000. Being there brought back vivid memories of self-doubt and utter confusion. During the 3 months I lived there, I barely spoke any French and rarely knew what was going on. Given the novelty of being in a new country, in addition to the loneliness and isolation I felt at the time, I have very strong and vivid memories of the town and its landmarks, as bland as they might be by French standards. It was strange to be there again with my family. I remember so well walking these streets, wondering how I would respond if someone tried to talk to me.
Angoulême has a long and interesting history, from the Visigoths to its conquering by Clovis and the Franks in 507, to its battles with the Vikings/Normans, being held as part of Britain in the Hundred Years War, and eventually its participation in the 16th century Wars of Religion in which it changed hands several times between the Catholics and Protestants. The Cathédrale St-Pierre is a beautiful Romanesque cathedral built in the 11th century. I used to walk by it most every day during the brief period in which I lived in Angoulême. I remember going to midnight mass in this cathedral on Christmas in 2000. Lindsay, my mom and I walked around about half of the plateau of the old ville while my dad rested his legs. Unfortunately it started raining on us about half way through, so I didn't get too many pictures. My mom and dad dropped Lindsay and I off at the rail station in Angoulême where we caught a TGV (high speed train) to Paris. We were grateful for the fun we had with my folks, and looking forward to a fun time in Paris.
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