Le Mans

Just voted and recognised as the 2nd best place to retire in France due to it's amazing beauty, gardens, open public spaces and there being so much to do in, and around it!

 

The home of the 24hrs racing!

From the Moto (Motorcycle Grand Prix), the Lorry, the Classic (every 2 years), even cycle and regular, 24hrs du Mans, the circuit is just 30 minutes from our door!

Add to that the AMAZING Bugatti Museum and the incredible old city itself (with UK royal links) and it really needs a couple of days.

 

The 24 Heures du Mans is the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France. It is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and has been called the "Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency". The event represents one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport; other events being the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

The race is organised by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and is held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, which contains a mix of closed public roadways and dedicated sections of racing track, in which racing teams must balance the demands of speed with the cars' ability to run for 24 hours while remaining free of crippling mechanical failure. The brutality of this race can be readily understood by comparing the list of teams who set off from the start line against the roster of cars that survive for the full duration. Of the 60 cars which qualified for the 2017 race, only 49 cars ran the full duration successfully.

Since 2012, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2017, it was the third round of the season.

Over the years, Le Mans influenced events have sprung up all around the globe, popularising the 24-hour format at places like Daytona, Nürburgring, Spa-Francorchamps, and Bathurst. The American Le Mans Series and Europe's Le Mans Series of multi-event sports car championships were spun off from 24 Hours of Le Mans regulations. Other races include the Le Mans Classic, a race for historic Le Mans race cars from years' past held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, a motorcycle version of the race which is held on the shortened Bugatti version of the same circuit, a kart race (24 Heures Karting), a truck race (24 Heures Camions), and a parody race 24 Hours of LeMons.

Le Mans city itself, birthplace of Henry II is not to be missed. An afternoon's walk around the compact Vieux Mans – its well-kept cobbled streets and beautiful 15th-century timbered houses looking as if they were built yesterday – and I can see why this was the setting for the 1990 film Cyrano de Bergerac. But the history of Le Mans goes back further than the 17th-century heyday of this French dramatist.

When I visited the city's newly renovated museum, the Carré Plantagenet, I was stunned to see just how rich the area is in archaeological history. Not only are there artefacts from the 50BC Roman settlement, first-century religious sculptures and Plantagenet-era enamels, there's also a photo of a dolmen, thousands of years old, that sits in a field in a nearby village.

Despite Le Mans being the same size as Lyon, it has only a sixth the number of inhabitants, thanks to the amount of land given over to green spaces. As well as the charming Jardin des Plantes (4 rue de Sinault), there are smaller parks dotted around the city. The Parc de Tessé, a small, classically French garden, with an extraordinary modern sculpture in the middle of it – essentially a giant hourglass – it takes six months for the sand to sift through and is endlessly fascinating to watch.

For those with an interest in matters horticultural as well as cultural, in early October, Le Mans holds an open garden event. The Entre Cours et Jardins festival allows access to 20 or so of the most beautifully designed French gardens I've ever seen. Elsewhere, in nearby Saint Biez-en-Belin, is Le Petit Bordeaux, a private garden with nearly 4,000 species of plants, flowers and trees. Open from March to November, it's well worth the short drive out of Le Mans.

Back in the city, there's plenty to entertain indoors, too. The Abbaye de l'Epau, for example, is not only the home to the tomb of Queen Berengaria, wife of Richard the Lionheart, but also regularly hosts classical concerts and is the venue for much of the Europa Jazz festival.

Location