Le Mans, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire
The medieval old town of Le Mans sits on a hill above the new town and is known as the Cité Plantagenet, since in 1129 Geoffrey Plantagenet married Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England who gave birth to Henry II. It’s a great place to wander with cobbled streets, wonderful architecture, ancient churches and half-timbered buildings
The annual light show Le Mans is a spectacular sight and a great way to enjoy an evening in the town throughout the summer months. Known as the Nuit des Chimères, this free event starts at around 9.30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and is a must see for all visitors to Le Mans. Details: nuitdeschimeres.com
The new town has great shops, bars and restaurants, an interesting museum and botanical gardens which are great to relax in.
Le Mans 24 Hour Race
For one weekend in June, Le Mans goes racing car crazy as the world famous Le Mans 24 Hour Race takes place.
The Le Mans 24 Hour Race is the oldest active endurance sports car race in the world - it began in 1923. The race is a test of stamina, wits and guts and an understanding of a car’s capabilities being run for that amount of time. The drivers speed around the track, public roads that are closed whilst the race is on.
Racing fans love this unusual and exciting race and flock to the town to watch it live. But, if you’re not a racing car fan, best to avoid Le Mans in the middle of June! Details: June 17 and 18 2017
What to see in the area
The department of Sarthe is not as touristic as its neighbours in the Loire Valley, despite its glorious countryside, profusion of chateaux and delicious wine. There’s lots to see and do, but here are three absolute must-sees:
Chateau de Lude: This grand and ancient castle is extraordinary in many ways, not least because it’s still lived in. The Queen Mum used to love staying here with the Count and Countess and it’s not hard to see why. The grounds and castle are fabulous but best of all, if you’re lucky, the Countess’s chef will be working in the ancient kitchens and will offer you a bowl of soup or other deliciousness! Details: LeLude.com
La Fleche: The lovely town has a fabulous street market, terrific cafés and restaurants and is a short drive from the famous zoo. Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to the Patisserie Guillemard (24 Grande Rue) – the cakes are seriously sensational.
The wine route of Le Loir (not la Loire, it’s neighbour): Chestnut and oak trees, forests and grand castles, the river Loir, tiny villages and a sea of vineyards - welcome to the Valley du Loir. You’ll find a meandering wine route where unique and delicious wines such as Jasnières and the peppery tasting Côteaux du Loir are produced. Stop for a tasting to discover some of the finest unknown wines from France, Fresnau wines in Marçon are particularly good.
French Connections has a great choice of accommodation including in Sarthe and the surrounding area.