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Paris may be the City of Lights, but it could be argued that the town of Angoulême is the city of lighting, shade and color. Every year for the past 40 years, this small French town has been home to the International Festival of Cartoons, one of the more animated events in France. Travelers can head to the festival at the beginning, or else visit the town's comprehensive cartoon museum any time of year.
Showcasing the industry
Angoulême was the heart of the French paper industry in the 17th century, a prime position to carry into a role as the center of French comic strip production and a European capital of the entire industry. The pinnacle of this cartoon capital is the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image, a museum with expansive collections, workshops, a cinema and a cartoon library.
The history of French and American comics are on permanent display, with strips, boards and drawings being selected from the museum's 8,000 originals. The exhibit traces the many traditions of comics in the western world, showcasing some of the great authors and characters to take up a pen. After taking in the masterworks, visitors can get a sense of the creative process by visiting the workshop, where manuscripts, preliminary sketches and early drafts from every step of the cartooning process are on display. Inspired visitors can then head to the library and comics cafe to peruse an extensive collection of comics over coffee.
That's all folks
The highlight of the year is the Festival of Cartoons, a four-day event that features exhibitions, events and films centered around the comic industry. The flagship exhibition for the 41st festival is the work of French comics artist Jacques Tardi, which focuses time and again on the grave psychological and political impact of World War I. There are a dozen exhibitions in all, including a look at the iconic independent publisher Misma Editions on its 10-year anniversary. The Mickey Journal also receives a retrospective for its 80th birthday. Yet another exhibition is the collaborative effort of 20 Korean authors to approach the issue of women abducted by the Japanese army.
There are other events as well to showcase cartoons. One multi-media event features real-time sketching projected on a movie screen, drawn to the music of a full orchestra. The festival will host some of the cartoons that have recently come to life on the silver screen.
Look down in wonder at Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral from your glass-walled pod on the London Eye, then gaze out over the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The scent of rich pine forests lingers in the breeze as the 13th-century ruins of Turaida Castle are revealed before your eyes in the lush Gauja River valley in a medieval sanctuary untouched by the march of time.
The aroma of dark roasted Viennese coffee hangs thick in the air as you tread the cobblestone laneways and bask in the elegant architecture, atmospheric cafes and refined restaurants in one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.
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