Le Mans History & Famous People
Le Mans was the stage for struggles in the eleventh century between the powerful Counts of Anjou and the Dukes of Normandy, ultimately defining the future of England.
When the Normans gained control it was William the Conqueror who successfully invaded England. Henry II, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the first of the 'House of Plantagenet' to rule England & the first to use the title "King of England" (as opposed to "King of the English").
Henry II was born & had a family Palace in Le Mans (now the town hall). Henry II is buried at Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon, along with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Queen of France), & probably the most famous of his sons, Richard I better know as Richard-the-Lion-Heart. His widow Queen Berengaria is herself buried at Abbey of L'Epau, at Le Mans itself.
An enchanting area dotted with vineyards, chateaux, glorious gardens & historic towns
Our region of the Pays-de-la-Loire, locally known as the 'Loir Valley' named after the local tributory river flowing down to the river 'Loire', is a deaply significant part of France. An epi-centre from the Plantagenet era enduring to the French Renaissance, it possessess a remarkable heritage. A seasonal sanctuary over the centuries, modern visitors are rediscovering the allure of this gently rolling countryside of vineyards & sunflowers, with a history that is so dense you can touch it on every surface.
|The rivers casually meander through lush scenic countryside on an altogether peaceful & intimate routes past vineyards, chateaux, forests, hidden fortresses and pretty villages. From Roman times visitors have flocked to the region to enjoy a little R and R (the numerous archaeological excavations near Le Lude prove this) and the french aristocracy continued the tradition choosing it for the backdrop to their holiday season - and luckily for us leaving behind their magnificent estates. The countryside is rich in historical gems and natural beauty, historic cities and elegant old towns are strung along the river banks, pretty cobbled streets, tree lined avenues and lively pavement cafés.|
|The towns of the Loir Valley conserve their architectural and cultural significance, baring witness to their long history and significance in the construction & heydays of France and England. They bore witness to magical eras of William the Conquerer, the Plantagenet Kings & Queens, Sun God Kings, Joan of Arc, battles & wars. Here in the 'Garden of France' you will be greeted by long stretches of river, sunny slopes with fertile vineyards and green valleys - a true flavour of 'old France', whose qualities alone makes it a worthy destination, but under it's relaxing surface lies a fascinating (and sometimes bloody) history.||Download the PDF
Guide to the 'Loir Valley'
The old town of Le Mans - the Plantagenet City - took its name from the English Plantagenet dynasty, whose founder, the future Henry II, was born in Le Mans. Many traces of this royal period can still be found here in the stones dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. There are nine hectares of medieval cobbled streets still very much in existance, and still used as shops & homes. A maze of half-timbered houses and Renaissance hotels are enclosed by a ring of beautiful Roman walls with the magnificent gothic Cathedral St Julien towering above it.
This truly magnificent backdrop is regulary used as a film set for epics such as Gérard Depardieu's Cyrano de Bergerac, Moliere & The Man in the Iron Mask. Walk freely in the ancient streets, visiting the shops & restaurants.
The remnants of the Roman wall in the old town are amazing and there are Roman baths by the river (also an excavation of a roman theatre & forum near Le Lude). These walls are highlighted every summer evening (July and August) in a massive free light show that tells the history of the town. Due to this yearly event, Le Mans has become know as the City of Lights, as vast moving images are projected against the catherdral & ancient buildings - Know as 'Les Nuits de Chimeres'.
The city is currently celebrated for its connection with motorsports. It has been host to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race since 1923 and is the oldest race in the world. There are actually two separate racing tracks at Le Mans, though they share certain portions. The permanent Bugatti Circuit, home to the Moto French Grand Prix and other racing events throughout the year. The longer and more famous Circuit de la Sarthe is composed partly of race track and partly public roads, which are closed to the public when the track is in use to complete the 24hr circuit annually in June. Le Mans 24hr Classic occurrs biannually in July, and a host of other events keeps Le Mans lively! Also playing host annually to the 24Hour Motorbike race going since 1978. The ractrack has it's very own 'museum of speed'.
Le Mans was liberated by the U.S. Divisions on 8 August 1944 after the Normandy Landings, engineers of the Ninth Air Force began construction of a combat Advanced Landing Ground outside of the town. Declared operational on 3 September, the airfield was designated as "A-35", it was used by several American fighter and transport units until late November 1944. The Airport is situated immediately next to the Race Track and is still open for light aircraft & helicopter use.
|Good day trips from Le Mans include excursions to Angers, Château du Loir, La Flèche, Saumur and Tours, all of which have something special to offer, ranging from museums and historic chateaux, to beautiful countryside, woodland trails and public parks. Several excellent links to locate sights & activities can be found below:|
|Le Mans Tourist Guide
Loir Valley Website
UNESCO World Heritage
|Vineyards & Wine / Tasting
Chateaux Guide 1 / Chateaux Guide 2
Local Lake, beach & swimming
Le Mans Illuminations
A few km's to the south of us are the lovely villages and towns situated along the banks of the River Loir; La Chartre-sur-Loir for example. Wine tasting, brocantes and vide-greniers (car boots) most weeks. Only 12km away are the lakes at Marcon, with a sand beach, slide & lifeguard, great swimming & water sports, plus a small park for the kids.
A jewel of a French forest, the national forest of Bercé produces wood of very high quality, particularly oak used at the age of 200 years. Exceptionally, some 350 year-old oaks have been conserved.The oak produced in this forest is so precious that they are actually shipped to California to make oak wine barrells to give the wine a more authentic taste.
The forest of Bercé is an ideal place for walking, horse-riding, cycling and mountain biking (315 km of waymarked itineraries). A dappled network of trails punctuated by picnic areas. There is lovely interpretation trail at the 'Chene Boppe' at St Pierre de Lorouer, with a lovely nature trail excellent for kids, which walks you round some of the oldest & tallest trees in Europe just minutes away.
Access the forest from St Vincent de Lorouer, St Pierre de Lorouer, Le Grand-Lucé, Jupilles & Pruillé-L’Eguillé. And even hire a donkey to accompany you for the day!