Weekend Escape to Le Mans: A Gateway to France's Loire Valley

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 11, 2024 16:30 PMNews
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Boy jumping on body of water. Source: unsplash

Le Mans, a city steeped in automotive history due to its iconic 24-hour race, also serves as a perfect base for exploring the picturesque Loire Valley. From its historic old town to adventurous excursions in the surrounding countryside, here’s how to make the most of a weekend in this charming French city.

Day 1: Exploring Le Mans and Malicorne

Morning: Begin your adventure in Malicorne-sur-Sarthe, a quaint town known for its rich tradition in ceramics. Visit the Malicorne Museum of Earthenware and Ceramics housed in a former pottery factory to learn about this craft and even try your hand at pottery-making. Before heading back, explore local artisan shops and enjoy lunch at Salon Arthé, a unique café filled with art and creativity.

Afternoon: Return to Le Mans and delve into its celebrated motor racing heritage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum. Here, you can explore over 140 race cars and learn about the endurance race's storied past. For a more immersive experience, take a guided tour of the Circuit de la Sarthe, where the annual race takes place.

Evening: As dusk falls, join a guided tour of Le Mans' old town with local expert Nathalie Jupin. Discover historical treasures such as the town hall and the stunning Cathedral of Saint Julian, famous for its beautiful stained glass. Conclude your evening with a delightful dinner at Bistrot des Gourmets, renowned for its local cuisine.

Day 2: Adventure in the Mancelles Alpes and Abbey Visits

Morning: Drive to the Mancelles Alpes, a picturesque area offering a plethora of outdoor activities. Start with a canoe trip on the River Sarthe, offering peaceful waters and scenic views. For a bit more excitement, try tree climbing at Parc Aventures du Gasseau, featuring an obstacle course high in the oak trees.

Lunch: Enjoy a meal at La Maison du Gasseau. Set in a charming chateau, this restaurant offers dishes made from organic, local produce, providing a true taste of the region.

Afternoon: On your way back to Le Mans, stop at the historic L’Épau Abbey. Founded by a queen and rich with history, the abbey offers insights into monastic life with its well-preserved architecture and serene surroundings. Nearby, the Arch of Nature reserve makes for a perfect leisurely walk to reflect on the day’s experiences.

Evening: Back in Le Mans, dine at Brasserie Madeleine where seafood dishes are a specialty. After dinner, don’t miss La Nuit des Chimères, a free light show that illuminates the city’s architecture with enchanting images. Finish your night with a relaxing drink at the riverside Guingette des Tanneries.

Where to Stay:

  • La Maison du Gasseau: Offers a picturesque setting and comfortable rooms in the heart of the Mancelles Alpes.
  • Domaine de L’Epau: Stay in eco-friendly lodges near L’Épau Abbey, blending modern comfort with natural beauty.
  • Chateau Montmirail: Experience historical elegance in a castle that offers luxurious accommodations and breathtaking views.

Culinary Delights:

  • Rillettes: Don't leave without trying Le Mans' signature dish, a delectable pork spread that pairs perfectly with local bread.
  • Chenin Blanc: Sample this local white wine, perfect for reflecting the region's vineyard heritage.
  • Sablé biscuits: These delightful shortbread cookies make for a sweet souvenir or a tasty treat during your explorations.

Beyond Le Mans:

If time allows, extend your trip to include Loches, a royal city with an impressive chateau and a rich history. Alternatively, explore more of the Loire Valley’s renowned chateaux and vineyards, each offering its own unique slice of French culture and history.

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