I travel to a lot of different cities for my job, but now that I am married to C, I don't often take the time to check out the new ones - getting home after a week away has become more of a priority. But a few weeks ago, I found myself with a non-refundable train ticket and a few hours to spare, so instead of heading to the station to wait, I parked the car and decided to walk around Le Mans, a city I had been through many times but never visited.
The only thing I really knew about Le Mans is that they had the famous 24 heures du Mans
, the annual 24 hour car race circuit held every June. So it was a surprise to discover that the city had a fantastically-preserved old town, called the Cité Plantagenêt
and/or le Vieux Mans
I would have loved to have had this as my bedroom as a child. If you look closely, you'll see a teddy bear waving hello, so I must not be the only one to feel this way:
One of the things I really loved about the city was how things just seemed to be built on top of the other. This picture shows several old doors that have long been filled in, plus a blue door that leads to who knows where.
There were also all kinds of homes with fabulous doors:
I don't know about you, but I would be quite happy to live at either Number 18 or 20 on this street:
And then there was this door and it's crooked entrance:
Gérard Depardieu filmed Cyrano de Bergerac here, and these little gun holes reminded me of that, and of the ancient history of the city, which goes back all the way to Roman times.
The other thing that struck me about the city was the incredible detail in so many of the buildings:
I've seen a lot of timbered cities in my day, but none have ever had the detail of those in old Le Mans:
These people obviously took great pride in their homes and there was a really interesting mix of building materials that I haven't seen elsewhere:
Another really typical feather where these little figurines that graced the doors of many homes:
Lastly, there were several homes with turrets and the like, which is always fun:
There is also a pretty imposing cathedral:
Detail of the cathedral door:
Lastly, I left the city with a smile on my face thanks to these city employees, who whooped and hollered as I walked by and yelled out that I was "charmante".
I'm not sure if there's enough to do to spend a whole day in Le Mans, but at only an hour from Paris, it'd be a great place to stop for lunch or dinner on your way in or out of town!
Labels: Small-town France, Travel