At the heart of the rolling Loire country with its fabulous chateaux, the historic city of Le Mans is a place of medieval churches, cobbled streets and half timbered houses.
Full of charm, Le Mans has wowed many film directors over the years. Numerous period films have been shot here including Cyrano de Bergerac, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers. You'll find the surrounding area is is a natural haven, with the Arche de la Nature just ten minutes from the city centre. This "arch of nature" is a vast and beautiful basin of greenery, crisscrossed with paths leading variously to the Prairie Farm, the House of Water and the Forest. If you're visiting with the family, the kids will surely love exploring here. Even Steve McQueen was charmed by it, and in fact made a film here with Paul Newman.
However Le Mans is not just a picturesque medieval town: it is perhaps best known for its motorsports connection. On its two racing tracks the city two world famous motorsports races, the Le Mans 24 Hour Race and the Le Mans 24 Hour Motorbike Race which tests the stamina of all the top brand vehicles (Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, etc) and their drivers. You can learn all about the history of this race which is the oldest sports car endurance race in the world at the Museum of the 24 Hour Race. There is also a vintage race and car rally: thousands of car enthusiasts flock to admire the vintage vehicles.
The city of Le Mans is the historic home of the Plantagenet family, and it was in the Cathedral of Saint-Julien in Le Mans that Geoffrey V of Anjou married Matilda, heir to the kingdom of England, and they produced Henry II of England. Thus, the Plantagenets ruled as the English royal family; fifteen of them reigned as kings of England until the line died out in 1499.
Whilst in Le Mans, try the local speciality, Rillettes, a kind of soft paté which was originally made from pork but now also can be made with goose, duck chicken, game, rabbit or fish. The meat is slow-cooked in fat until it forms a smooth texture and is eaten with toast.
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