Le Mans on the river Sarthe is a
city that links the north of France (Normandy) with the Loire
Valley. Its location just over 70km northwest of Tours makes it
ideally placed to act as a conduit between the north and the
region's capital. It also has excellent transport links with the
Anjou capital Angers.
Traditionally the capital of the province of
Maine, it is now the
prefecture (capital) of the
department of Sarthe.
Its a city that demands your attention (if only
for a short time) with its immense cathedral, St Julian, striking
you full-on and leaving you looking on in awe! Externally this
rivals any other cathedral in France though inside is less
Les Mans's location has meant it has been
pivotal in the wars and conflicts of the area throughout
history with everyone from the Romans to William the
Conqueror having recognised its strategic position.
The Romans have left their mark in the form of
impressive city walls that encircle what is in our opinion one of
the best preserved 'Old Towns' in France. You are spoilt with dining
choices and its fun just to walk these streets at night.
Les Mans is of course best known for its connection with motor sports
and you are reminded of this throughout the city. There
are actually two separate racing tracks at Le Mans, though they
share certain track sections. The smaller is the Bugatti Circuit (named after Ettore
Bugattie, founder of the car company bearing his name), a relatively
short permanent circuit which is used for racing throughout the
year. The more famous and longer Circuit de la Sarthe is made up
partly of public roads, which
are closed when the track is in use for racing (obviously). It has been host to the famous
24 Hour Le Mans sports car race since 1923.Boutiques and shops are
set up during the race selling merchandise and promoting products
for cars. The "Le Mans start" takes its name from the way racers
lined up away from their cars and ran across the street
and jumped into their cars to begin.