Exploring Le Mans, a fantastic French city with awesome Roman walls dating from the 3rd Century
We visited the French city of Le Mans for the first time back in August. We knew very little about it, having only ever heard about it in connection with the famous 24 hour car race. However, we were amazed - what a city !
Le Mans is interesting because you can find construction across all the ages there, from its stunning 1700 year old Roman walls, to its beautiful medieval city centre, and onto the modern city of Le Mans. It really does span the ages.
Its not actually a place we had planned to visit while in France, however, the owner of our accommodation recommended it, and so we went. Being a lover of all things Roman, it was the amazing Roman walls that attracted me, and I could not believe how intact they were. Here you can see them, with the stunning Le Mans cathedral in the background.
In Roman days this was the city of Vindinium, and it was surrounded by these stunning walls. And it has to be pointed out that these are not your standard town walls, these are about as big as they got in the Roman world, with full scale defensive towers. These towers would have held catapults and the like to hold of attackers, and allegedly they held of the barbarians and the Vikings here !
I found it incredible to see these towers, having only ever seen them in reconstructive drawings before. These happen to be some of the best preserved Roman walls left (as can be seen), and I think its amazing that people are living in them. Can you imagine that - still in use after 1700 years ! And the patterns in the lower layers are quite incredible !
Le Mans is also famous for its beautiful medieval town centre, which lies within the Roman walls. It is called the Cite Plantagenet, because Geoffrey Plantagenet, from Le Mans, did some pretty impressive marrying, to Matilda (who was only the widow of a German Emperor, and the grand daughter of William the Conqueror). Their son Henry became the King of England (Henry Plantagenet), starting quite the dynasty ! The people of Le Mans are still very proud of their famous son and hence named the medieval town centre after him and their links to the Kings of England !
The medieval centre was pretty epic. There were tons of buildings in the medieval style, and we just wandered the streets in amazement. We do have buildings like this in England, but they are few and far between. Places like Worcester have a few of them around, but in Le Mans there are street upon street just full of them.
We really loved seeing them, and were happy just to explore the streets checking them all out.
It was lovely to see the craftsmanship from all those years ago.
And in true French style, there was lovely cafes to explore - it felt very quaint and peaceful (it really was quite quiet).
The other big draw in Le Mans was the cathedral. It is a total beauty, and massive to boot. It also has the most amazing buttressing I've ever seen on any building ! I did cover the cathedral in more detail in another post.
Next to the cathedral was this stunning fountain, which I found quite impressive !
Thats a closer view showing its lovely mermaid. I would add that Le Mans is nowhere near the sea, but hey ho - thats ok !
And talking of water, the pic above shows one of the best ideas I've seen in a city during summer time. These steel posts spray out fine cold water mist constantly. The day we were there it was about 30 degrees, so we walked through these multiple times just to cool down. We loved them !
There were also some other beautiful buildings around like the Chappelle de La Visitation above which was on the corner of the Place de La Republique.
And the one above, the Church of Saint-Benoit, which was just on the edge of the Cite Plantagenet.
There was so much to see here, with the Roman Walls, the cathedral and the medieval town all close together. The pic above shows one of the medieval buildings integrated into the top of the walls !
Again you can see the beautiful marriage of medieval on the left, with the Roman walls at the top right - quite amazing.
I have to say that Le Mans really was one of the finds of our vacation, we all loved it and were amazed at what it had to offer. I'd happily go back. And in addition to all there was to see, it also felt like quite a happening place too - with lovely restaurants and the like, particularly around la Place de la Republique.
I'd recommend it highly - it was so well worth visiting !
Oh - and it also had a giant snail !