Fancy a quick trip to Le Mans?
Let’s start with the fact, that the city is very old. It was known amongst its Roman conquerors as Civitas Cenomanorum and bears a visible token of its Roman past on it’s city walls, that date back to 280 AD and are one of the most beautiful examples of civic protection in France. The beautiful geometrical patterns embedded in the stonework of the wall point to the fact, that the wall was more of a prestige construction than a hurried necessity.
Fact is, that it’s still beautiful and powerful to behold, even though it doesn’t span the entire and immaculately preserved and restored Old Town, the Cite Plantagenet. For the two months of July and August, the walls and other historical buildings become alive in the evening with a magical light show called La Nuit des Chimeres, that tells the history of this old town.
So, what to do while you’re waiting for the light show to start, or while your other half is enjoying a gasoline fuelled adrenaline kick on the Le Mans circuit or if you’re simply just in the mood for a quick city race. Here’s our
2-4 hour guide to Le Mans
Park your car at the Quai Louis Blanc. It’s free and just a short walk up the stairs to the old town. Enjoy the view of the old city walls at ground level and the view of Le Mans while you ascend the many stairs. On top, you are finally in the old town, the Cite Plantagenet, with great views to both the younger parts of Le Mans and to the medieval houses on this ancient hill. Follow the cobble streets punctuated by stairways and bordered by half-timbered and stone houses to Place Saint-Pierre to enjoy a lunch.
Formule de Midi is an excellent and cheap way to an unforgettable lunch. Forget the “Fixed menus” you may know from tourist areas, where the expression equates to an overcooked steak with fries and ice cream for dessert. Here, a Formule de Midi is prepared with pride and passion. It’s what all the other Frenchmen are having for lunch, so that vouches for the quality. And the value for money.
After some fuel for the body, let’s fill up with impressions for the soul too. Stroll around this tranquil place, where time seems to stand still. Even though cars are allowed into the old town of Cite Plantagenet, they drive slowly and silently. Probably because they know where to go to drive fast. But still, an ancient place like this needs time and tranquillity to be discovered properly. When you’ve had enough of cobble stoned streets, head for the imposing cathedral. You shouldn’t be able to miss it. It’s only one of the biggest cathedrals in France.
The Cathédrale St-Julien du Mans is a whopping 5.000 m2. It was built over a period of five centuries (between the 11th and the 15th century), which means that it has a variety of styles: the 12th century Romanesque nave, the 13th century Gothic choir, the 14th century transcept and the beautiful stained glass windows from several centuries. It’s a marvel. Both from the outside and inside, where even the unscholared eyes can detect the different architectural styles.
From the church and old town, go down towards the new Le Mans. Keep to your right and you’ll find the museum Carré Plantagenet, which tells the story of Le Mans from its prehistoric beginning to Roman settlement, Royal past and mark on history. It’s a great way to get some background information and depth for your experiences.
Depending on how much time you’ve got left and how much time you spent on the dessert for lunch, spend the last of your 2-4 hour tour of Le Mans in the shops in either new or old town and top it of with a Cafe au Lait in one of the many cafés. And if you don’t think 2-4 hours is enough to enjoy this historic city, well just make it a 2×4 hour Le Mans instead!