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sarthe days out

Located in the Loire region in north-west France, the Sarthe
department is often overlooked for the Loire Valley slightly further south. However,
the region is home to a variety of attractions which can be enjoyed by all
ages, and offers an authentic slice of France away from the international
tourist crowds. Here’s five tried and tested days out for you to choose from if
you’re planning a stay in one of our Loire villas.

Zoo de La Flèche

This excellent zoo is located just outside of the large town
of La Flèche, south-west of Le Mans, and is split into different zones which
are home to a fascinating variety of animals. Among the highlights are the
giraffes, lions, tigers, bears and elephants, while the several different
species of monkey are also great fun to watch. The zoo is quite large, so allow
plenty of time to walk around, though there are several places to stop and
enjoy a snack or drink should you need to recharge your batteries. 

Visit a chateau

Chateaux are ubiquitous with the Loire region, though the
crowds often tend to flock to the ones further south in the Loire Valley. In
the Sarthe department, however, there are a few hidden gems, such as the
Chateau de Montmirail. To explore the chateau fully and see the inside, you’ll
need to take the tour, which is given in French only, though you’ll still be
able to see there are two sides to this grand building. One part has medieval
origins, consisting of grand halls made from stone, and dark dungeons where
prisoners were kept. The other is a lavish illustration of upper class life
between the 15th and 18th centuries, showcasing polished
wooden furniture and beautiful portrait paintings.


Soak up the sun at an inland beach

The Sarthe department is quite far from the coast, so you’ll
find instead several lakes have cropped up in the area, many accompanied by
their own small sandy beach. If you fancy a swim, the water is also quite warm
compared to the sea! Many also have plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy both
on and around the lake, such as kayaking, pedalo boats, mini golf and play
areas for children. Lakes are often labelled as a “plan d’eau” on the map,
while those with more leisure activities on offer may instead be marked as a
“base de loisir”. 

Explore the historic Cité Plantagenêt in Le Mans

Just over the bridge from the main centre of Le Mans is the
old town, also known as the Cité Plantagenêt. Here you’ll find a maze of
cobbled streets, medieval buildings and small artisan stores selling their
handmade crafts, making for a striking contrast to the more modern city centre.
Make sure you don’t miss the Cathedrale de St Julien, which dominates the
skyline – the vast size and grandeur of it needs to be appreciated from both
the inside and outside.

Musée de 24 Heures du Mans

Located on the outer edge of Le Mans is a petrolhead’s
paradise, the Musée de 24 Heures du Mans. Dedicated to the legendary 24-hour
race which has been held almost every year in the city since 1923, you’ll find
an interesting selection of cars, bikes and other vehicles spanning over 120
years of motoring history. The exhibitions also go behind the scenes of the
race, examining the teams who support the event, changes in driver safety
across the decades and the people who helped to write the race’s history books.

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