Robbie Robbins Sees France! (Part 1)
I just got back from my latest trip to France. I was up 25 hours straight, got back to San Diego at midnight and got a solid 6 hours of sleep. Well, 5 ½, since my dog wouldn’t let me close my eyes until she got 30 minutes of pets. So forgive me if this sounds a bit out of sorts.
I spent most of my time in France at the Angouleme International Comics Festival (www.bdangouleme.com). It was my first trip there and I hope to go back again. The festival is spread throughout this very old town. Some stone markings found there have been dated to the 4th century and the wall protecting the town was built in the 1200’s. The stone wall still stands today and it’s the first thing you see as you enter the city limits. This town has unusually wide streets, compared to other cities like Paris, Bordeaux, and neighboring Cognac. Our local Angoumoisins car driver informed us that since Angouleme was founded on trade, the streets were created extra wide to haul materials, farm goods, and paper to and from boats on the canal.
You have to walk through the town’s streets to get from one convention tent to another. Every museum had been taken over with some comic related exhibition. I was lucky to be done with “work” Saturday afternoon and was able to see the Wally Wood, Yoshiharu Tsuge, and Nicole Clavelux shows. All unique in their own way, but all spectacular. I also visited a museum dedicated to PAPER. I found it to be amazing, but I assume most would find it TEARABLE… (jetlag humor setting in)!
I was attending the festival to possibly find one or two European books to translate and publish in the US. I had meetings pretty stacked on Thursday and Friday, so I was sure to find at least one book to make my trip worthwhile. My first meeting I found NINE books I’d love to publish. Whew, trip successful! Now I could coast through the rest of the meetings. By my 3rd meeting I was up to 22 books, by Friday lunch it was 34, and by Saturday afternoon there were 53 books I’d like Clover to publish in the US. Now the real work starts, siphoning through and picking the few that we can put on our schedule. Sorry, Ted, Elaine, and Nate… this is going to be a TEAM effort!
On any trip I take, work or pleasure, I look forward to doing something special that relates to the location I am visiting. Staying in Cognac, I tried for the first time…. Cognac. Then I tried it for a second time, a third, a fourth… let’s just say I like Cognac. I tried an Angouleme taco. It turns out this is meat shaved off a shawarma and placed in a thin pita with some tomatoes on top. I think we call it a gyro in San Diego.
The most authentic local activity I did in Angouleme was getting caught in the middle of a real French Protest. Chanting mobs were converging from all directions onto a small center street I was attempting to walk down. Protestors were beating drums, waving signs and yelling as police ushered everyone in one direction. It was a very intense scene. I wasn't aware as to what they were saying or protesting, but I broke-off down an empty street as fast as I could. Walking with a friend, we ended up in an alley and were startled to see 50 cops in full riot gear with large plastic shields waiting to disperse the crowds. We decided not to go that direction. Passing the alley we were stopped by local police with machine guns three separate times asking to search our bags. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved there were so many cops or worried that there were so many cops. As we directed ourselves on a walkway heading uphill the police moved their vans in to block all vehicular traffic. The road leading into town was empty. Then a single motorcycle cop with sirens blazing came streaking down the barren road, turned right and disappeared around a curve. A few seconds later two more motorcycle cops came out of the distance with a motorcade of three black SUVs followed by four more policemen on motorcycles. They all disappeared around the same curve. The vans relinquished their position and traffic was on the move again.
I later learned that it was the President of France, Emmanuel Macron in the caravan. The mob had gathered to protest the police violence against Yellow Vest protestors.
I could write more and more about Angouleme, but I will let you go until next week where I moved on to Paris!
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