>Angouleme, France January 21-30, 2012
I was on my way to France for the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee in Angouleme. This was my 5th or 6th trip to France in the past ten years, but only my 4th to Angouleme. It is the largest comics or bande dessinee festival in France with attendance topping well over 200,000 people. The entire city played host, with exhibitors and exhibition venues throughout Angouleme. The most common bande dessinee are full color, 48-60 pages, hardcover, and priced at 15-20 euros. It is highly regarded as an art form, and national newspapers would have daily reports of the festivals. My Usagi Yojimbo is published in the smaller, manga size. France is the only country to publish it in this format. It is black and white, and very affordably priced between 3 to 4 euros. Book 22 had been published the previous week, and all previous books are in print. Editions Paquet plans to publish three more volumes this year.
I metro-ed and took the Flyaway bus to LAX on Saturday. It would be my first time flying to Shiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I was not familiar at all with this airport, and only had an hour to make my connection. It usually takes 60-90 minutes to make any kind of connection at Frankfurt, so I was a bit worried about the time. However, the KLM flight came in 40 minutes early and Shiphol is not asbig as I had feared. I made it to my gate in about 30 minutes, even though the connecting terminal was at the far end of the airport. Even better was that they have free wifi, so I was able to e-mail Sharon that I had arrived. I passed a couple of stores with displays of wooden shoes, but resisted the urge to buy a pair.
I caught another KLM flight to Bordeaux, France, about a 90 minute flight. Pol who lives in Bordeaux and works for Editions Paquet met me at the airport, and we taxied into the city. It was Sunday, and we spent the time looking over the city center and having lunch. I had froie gras for starter, and a filet for my main course. Petite fours was dessert. The entire city center of Bordeaux is a Heritage Site, and is well preserved and beautiful. Dinner was jamon serrano, which I really like, and duck confit with fries. The duck was very tender, with a deliciously crispy skin. I did not realize how much I had missed good French cooking until I returned to France.
Pol in Bordeaux
my filet--seared outside, and very rare inside
jamon serrano salad
The Ibis Hotel was not far from the train station, so Pol met and walked me to the station Monday morning. I was taking the high speed TGV to Pau, at the foot of the Pyrenees, for a signing. Victor met me in at the station and drove me to the Hotel Central. His store, Bachi Bouzouk is having an exhibition of my art. He also commissioned a special piece to use as a print. We walked to lunch, where I had a local hunter's stew with duck, vegetables, pork, beef, and white beans. Post signing, a group of us walked to La Brochetterie, a restaurant near Pau Castle. I had escargot flameed in pastis for starter, a great grilled duck magret, and creme brulee.
duck froie gras
bachi-bouzouk exhibit/signing area
escargot, sweeter rather than garlic-y
grilled duck magret
what better way to end a meal than with creme brulee?
Tuesday morning, and I was on my way to Toulouse. I saw a beautiful cathedral from the train, and realized I would be passing right through Lourdes. If I had planned better, I would have loved to have spent a day where Bernadette had the holy vision and whose waters are renown for their curative powers. Hopefully, next time. I had a signing at the Album store in Toulouse. Album is a chain of stores throughout the country. I stayed at the Hotel Le Capitole right in the beautiful city center. All the hotels, with the exception of Hotel Central in Pau, provided free wi-fi, so I was able to keep in touch with Sharon. It was about lunch time, but I was not very hungry. Still we went out for coffee and a delicious black and red currant tart. I was shown the sights of the city center, and ended at a hobby shop. My lunch buddy, Mike Kazaleh, collects Match box-type cars, and whenever I travel overseas I look to buy one or two to add to his collection. I found a couple of nice European models. Dinner that night was duck froie gras with fig jam and toast points for entree, then a nice cassoulet with duck for main course. I was too full for dessert, even though the creme brulee was tempting. You might notice that I have been eating a lot of duck. This entire region is know for its duck, and I like to eat local.
black/red currant tart for elevenses
duck froie gras with fig jam, and cubed gelatin
Pol met me at the train station in Bordeaux on Wednesday, and we trammed and walked to the BD Fugue bookstore. It was a group signing with three of us from Paquet. Before the signing, though, the owner took us to lunch at a seafood restaurant. I started with prawns with mayonnaise, then mussels cooked on a flat iron. I had not had mussels this way, and it was delicious.
prawns with mayonnaise
flat iron mussels
Post signing, we were driven the 90 minutes to Angouleme. We met the rest of the Paquet crew, including Pierre Paquet, at a restaurant in the city. I had a pate salad with pickles, a wonderful slow roasted lamb and tarte tatin. I was staying at a bed and breakfast run by a wonderful couple, Philippe and Annie. This was my first time staying in the city, rather than a hotel 20 minutes away. It was a lot more convenient, and a lot more restful. Nicolas from Paquet and Sten, a Paquet artist, was staying in the same place. Philippe and Annie invited us to have some cognac with them. That night was my best night's sleep since arriving in France. Maybe cognac is the secret to curing my jet lag.
pate with pickles
delicious, falling-off-the-bone lamb
typical cartoonists dinner
Nicolas and I walked down the hill to the Nouveau Monde pavilion less than a mile away. This was the largest venue, and the hall for the major publishers. There were events held at more than 21 venues throughout the city from the Art Spiegelman exhibit at the Musee de la Bande Dessinee to the Expo Taiwan at the Hotel DeVille to the exhibit of African BD at a cathedral. What surprised me was the underground shopping mall at the Champ de Mars. The last time I was here, it was a big hole in the ground. Editions Paquet had two booths at the festival, one for sales, and one where artists signed and drew in books. Besides my friends from Paquet, I saw many other friends--Adam from Poland, Thierry an editor at Delcourt, Duncan from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Bill Morrison who I see almost monthly in Los Angeles, and Pau from Mallorca whose new book is nominated as a festival selection. The first day of the festival was quite busy. Judging by the number of names on my list, I signed and drew in about 125 books. Whenever I personalize a book, I always ask they write their names. Some names are new to me and even familiar names might have different spellings. "Matthew" in the US becomes "Matthieu" in France. When I sign a book in Europe I do a full figure drawing in ink. Many other artists do beautiful watercolors. However, they may only do one or two an hour. People are content to wait to get a drawing from their favorite artists. I bought a watercolor set and did some paintings for my own enjoyment, and wound up selling a couple.
view from my room
Editions Paquet sales booth
the festival opens
SCAD's David Duncan
the streets of Angouleme
at the Paquet signing booth
scallop salad at the museum dinner
I had planned to have lunch with David Duncan and one of his students from SCAD on Friday. SCAD has a campus in Lacoste, France, and Duncan was teaching an eight week course on sequential art. His class was spending a few days in Angouleme, then would continue on to Paris. We lunched at a Japanese restaurant. I had a pretty good chirashi zushi, but the rice was not sticky enough. When I walked into the main venue, I noticed a lot of press there taking photos of an older woman in red a few feet away from me. Naturally, I took pictures of her myself. I later found that she was a candidate for the presidency of France. That night was another Paquet event at the museum, but only drinks and h'orderves.
there were lots of school groups at the festival
the future president of France?
my new watercolor set, and my coffee
Pau, my friend from Mallorca
with French auteur Aurelia Aurita
lunch on the hill
Saturday, I walked to the farmers' market at the train station, bought a sandwich, and ate it on a wall at the top of the hill with a grand view of the city. That night, we dined at Chez Paul, one of the finest eateries in the city. I had oysters for entrees, then duck confit, and finished with an extremely long creme brulee.
long creme brulee
I checked out Sunday morning, and walked down the hill to our venue. I was really in the mood for pasta carbonara for lunch. In Europe, they serve it the traditional way with a raw egg yolk. I walked around town for about an hour, but could not find a restaurant that had it on their menu. I settled on a veal galette (a kind of French burrito) from a small diner. I had it to go, and again ate it on the top of the hill.
philippe and annie
pau signing for fans
galette on the hill
bag of fries
end of the festival
People were saying good-bye throughout the day. Pierre and a small group were flying out of Bordeaux that night, so I caught a ride with them. I stayed in a small hotel near the airport. I really wanted my last dinner in France to be special, and noticed a very nice hotel across the street. However, upon checking in, I learned that hotel had closed down, and there were no restaurants in the area. I could order a pizza, though. After more than a week of froie gras, duck, and other wonderful meals, pizza just did not sound appetizing. I stayed in, and ate the bread I was bringing home and a bag of madeilines from the vending machine.
I had a 6 AM KLM flight to Amsterdam on Monday, and had asked the hotel receptionist what time I should leave for the airport. She suggested 5:30 would be fine.However, I had a taxi call for 4:30. Bordeaux has two terminals--one for Air France and one for everyone else. The taxi driver assured me that Terminal A is what I wanted. It even had my flight listed on their board. However, I later realized I was at the wrong terminal. It was KLM, all right, but operated by Air France, something my itinerary did not mention. I flew in on KLM, and thought I would be flying out the same. By the time I made it to the Air France desk, my gate was already closed. I had to re-book a flight through Paris, paying a penalty of $425. The frustrating thing was that after I went through security and past my original gate, the plane was still there and would remain there for the next half hour as the plane's wings were de-iced. Anyway, the new flight turned out to be much more comfortable for me. I had an aisle seat all the way through, as opposed to interior seating and, though it was a full flight, I had an empty seat neat to me. I did not do any work at all on the flight, instead watched three foreign movies--a Korean (Quick), Japanese (Princess Toyotomi), and French (The Jaguar).
I bought home some neat things from France--Bordeaux from Bordeaux, cognac, the latest album by Olivier Vatine, Cixi de Troy #3, plus the oversize black and white artbook of the same volume. This muscle-bound Marge is the weirdest thing I got, though. Small plastic figures based on BD are very popular in France and Belgium. They have all the favorites--Smurfs, Tin Tin, Asterix, but The Simpsons are incredibly popular. If it had ever been in a Simpsons episode, they have a figure of it. Over the years, I've collected a few such as Clobber Girl Lisa, Muumuu Homer, Butt-mooning Bart, etc. This Marge, however, takes the cake.