Have you ever heard of Le Mans? – or perhaps “the Cité Plantagenet?”

To most people, including myself, Le Mans doesn’t mean a thing apart from the 24 hour racing spectacle once a year. But let me tell you something! Le Mans is much, much more than a race! It is also a fantastic city, with a beautiful old town, which is well worth a visit

It was a lovely, sunny day in Le Mans – and we were ready to go to the market!

Every day the countryside comes to Le Mans to sell their products! The most popular of the markets is the Jacobins market at the foot of the beautiful cathedral Saint-Julien. Here you can buy local products from the region (whereas the Sablons market offers products from all over the world)

What I love about this market is, that it is “real”! It is not particularly beautiful, but you get very, very good products for a jaw-dropping low price! 

Tasty and colourful fruits and vegetables!


French cheese (If only one could bring some of these home – but it might be a smelly affair!)

Pork products and of course rillettes

No food without wine!

One of the popular guys on the market! His family have been selling their waffles here since 1857!

Bonus-info: As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Le Mans is the place to come for charcuterie, poultry and game. Its origins are distant, but its reputation is much more recent. The pork butchers of Le Mans took advantage of rail transport in the middle of the 19th century to give Parisians a taste of rillettes. I can only say, that I understand, why the Parisians fell in love! The Le Mans rillettes do spoil your tastebuds – especially accompanied with a glass of Jasnièrs or Coteaux du Loir wine! (You can get good rillettes many places in Le Mans. Most delicatessen have their own homemade version. Its all a matter of preference)

Time for lunch! We ate at La Ciboulette – a restaurant that is known for its love for local produce. 

Clara was not in the best mood, but the other guests at the restaurant were really nice and just smiled,  when she was being naughty (which made me a bit more comfortable)

Warm, homemade bread in a basket served with cold French butter

Le Mans rillettes, walnuts and onion jam. This starter is highly recommendable!

Delicious red sea bream fillet with potato emulsion

Juicy chicken fillet stuffed with fresh herbs

Cod fish with potatoes (you have to forgive the poor translation. It sounds better in French!). Frenchie was very pleased with his dish. Bonus-info: This is a really great restaurant for vegetarians! 

My favourite was this… Oh, I can still taste it, when I think about it! An absolutely stunning chocolate mousse with raspberry cream

Le faux hachis parmentier with fruits for Frenchie! Isn’t it beautiful?

We stayed at the restaurant for quite a long time. I enjoyed every minute, but if you are in a hurry and more into sightseeing, I recommend, that you save the big appetite for dinner and spend more hours enjoying the old town

Fragments of The Plantagenet City…

The Plantagenet City is quite extraordinary! It covers twenty hectares and is protected by Roman and medieval walls

Here, you will find Renaissance hotels and cobbled streets full of charm. As you can imagine, many films have been made in these beautiful surroundings: “Cyrano de Bergerac”, “On Guard” and “Le Masque de Fer”. The inner Plantagenet City is also home to more than a hundred timber-framed houses. Most of them date back to the 15th and 16th century

La maison du Pilier-Rouge (a tourist office)! Over the last couple of years many houses have gradually luckily recovered their bright medieval blue, green or red colours!

Nine of the houses are still decorated with a corner pillar, “The Pilier-Rouge”, “The Pilier-aux-Clefs”… (see photo) Back in the days, these pillars were used to help people finding their way around in the city due to the lack of street names and numbers

Do you see the teddy-bear in the window?

The teddy-bear belonged to this little girl, who was present at the very famous photo by Robert Doisneau from 1962! The teddy is still here – isn’t this a lovely reminder? I love this story!

Standing outside Saint Julien’s Cathedral

The Cathedral of Le Mans was built between the 11th and 15th century. These five centuries clearly shows a diversity of different styles – the most significant being Romanesque and Gothic! (It is also worth mentioning, that the cathedral is one of the largest in France measuring 134 meter and covering an area of 5000m2)

Yes… It really is an impressive piece of work

Saint Julien´s Cathedral possesses stained glass windows, tapestries and objects of medieval goldsmith work that constitute a collection as important as that of Chartres and Bourges. The window of the Ascension is the oldest stained glass window still in place in a religious building

You can read more about Saint Julien´s Cathedral here 

Since prehistoric times, the small hill in The Plantagenet City has been considered as sacred! A menhir was erected here between 4000 and 5000 BC.  Our tour-guide told us, that if a woman touches the 7000 year old stone attached to the cathedral , she will become pregnant! I am not sure, that Frenchie thought it was the best idea, but I simply had to try…. Who knows?

This was our chambre d´hotes for the night! Such a lovely hidden gem – and as French as it gets!

Bonus-info: A gîte is a specific type of holiday accommodation – basically a holiday home available for rent. These are usually fully furnished and equipped for self-catering

I was again pleased to discover, how much space we had for all of our things! And I love that there was a kitchen and a refrigerator! These things are quite important, when you have a baby!

Upstairs we were spoiled with two bedrooms! This meant, that Clara didn’t have to sleep in her travel cot (which she really didn’t anyway), but got to sleep with her mummy, while daddy took the other bed! Let me just say… We had a really good nights sleep! 

After a big lunch, we decided to go out and find a Creperie for a quick dinner – and then home to bed

This place was very down-to-earth and cosy – and the service was fast and efficient!

Cosy times with baby Clara (she was very interested in my Kir Royale!)

I chose a galette with jambon cru, walnuts and goatscheese! It was super delicious

– But I got a bit jealous, when I saw Frenchie’s mushroom, ham, cheese and egg galette, so we shared both! (He is so sweet, when it comes to sharing! ) Psstt… L’explorateur also serves very, very tasty dessert crepes if you have a sweet tooth! 

After a good nights sleep, it was really lovely waking up to this…. No wonder, I gained a couple of kilos in this tour! The food was just too good!

On our last day in Le Mans, we visited The Abbaye de la Piété-Dieu de l´Épau founded by English Queen Bérengere in 1229 in the outskirts of the city

The abbey was unfortunately suppressed in the French Revolution and the surviving buildings came close to destruction on several occasions. Luckily their preservation was finally assured in 1958 by the General Council of the Sarthe department

Queen Bérengere made it clear, that she wanted to be buried in her beloved Abbey. Doubt however remains over the exact location of her burial. Although the recumbent statue and tomb are here today, the exact whereabouts of her burial is unknown. We were told by our tour guide that Queen Elizabeth was once here on a visit – and decided, that she wanted Queen Bérengere back home to England. Fortunately she decided not to do anything about this idea – and the wife of Richard the Lionheart could rest in peace

Bonus-info: The Abbey is one of the last Cistercian foundations in France. As you can see on the architectural stripping, there wasn’t much to look at within these walls! The reason was, that this place was meant to favour meditation and elevation of the spirit

– We did however find a few signs of colourful creativity made by the monks living here…

When we were here, there was a lot going on! The reason is, that the abbey is very popular for cultural functions (in particular for classical music events, conferences and exhibitions) I can only imagine, that it must be an extraordinary experience listening to the tones of classical music in the old refectory

These are leftovers from the most recent exhibition! The theme was “City-life”

It was almost time to go back home to London – but before that, the lovely Patricia from Paye de Mans took us to “The Le Mans 24 Hours winners’ prints” 

Here you can see the hands and footprints moulded and reproduced on bronze plaques which are then fixed in the Saint-Nicolas district. More than 20 plates reminds us of the drivers’ achievements! The monument behind me bears and outline of the racetrack as well as a tyre symbolising the dial of a clock stopped at then start and finish time of the 24 Hours.

Being Danish I can only be very proud of “Mr. Le Mans” himself – Danish racing driver Tom Kristensen. He holds the record of nine wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans! Well done, Tom!

Since 1923 The 24 Hours of Le Mans has gone from being a French motor race to becoming an international sporting legend. In 90 years, more than 3900 cars, representing the biggest brands: Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Bentley and many more have competed on this mythical track

This was the last chapter of our trip to Vallée du Loir and Le Mans. We were here for 5 days and I feel, that I have a very good impression of this (for me) “newly” discovered area of France. It is a wonderful place to bring a baby – and not too far away, if you live in London. Don’t be afraid of the language! It is a long time ago, since the French people only spoke their own language! Most people here speak a bit of English – and even though I brought Frenchie, I am sure, that I could have managed fine without him (not that I want to!)

Louise X

We were guests of: