443km (275 miles) SW of Paris; 116km (72 miles) NE of Bordeaux

The old town of Angoulême hugs a hilltop between the Charente and Aguienne rivers. You can visit it on the same day you visit Cognac or take your time and do both separately. The town has been a center for the French paper industry since the 17th century, a tradition that carries on today in the five remaining paper mills. These days, Angoulême (pop. 43,000) is probably best known for something that gets printed on that paper: comics. Authors, artists, and fans come from all over the world to attend the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée, one of the largest comic book/graphic novel gatherings on earth. The festival takes over the town for three days in January, when the latest books are presented, prizes awarded, and contracts signed. For more information, contact the festival (www.bdangouleme.com; tel. 05-45-97-86-50) or the tourist office. If you miss the festival, you can still explore this graphic world at the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de I’Image (CNBDI).