What You Need To Know
Le Mans is a city in France, on the Sarthe River. Traditionally the capital of the province of Maine, it is now the capital of the Sarthe department and the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Le Mans. Le Mans is a part of the Pays de la Loire region.
Its inhabitants are called Manceaux and Mancelles. Since 1923, the city has hosted the internationally famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance sports car race.
The birthplace of the Plantagenet dynasty, the City of Art and History of Le Mans, the former capital of Maine, has retained a prestigious built heritage from its eventful past. Proof of this is provided by its historical quarter, the Plantagenet city, a harmonious ensemble of nine hectares and a listed protected area, defended by an imposing Roman wall from the end of the 3rd century. The Cathedral of St. Julian, half-Romanesque and half-Gothic; the former palace of the Counts of Maine, where Henry II Plantagenet was born; the paved side streets lined with countless timber-framed houses and Renaissance mansions make it an ideal set for swashbuckling films! Old Le Mans, with its fabulous décor, was in fact used as a set for many historical films, like Cyrano de Bergerac and Le Bossu. It is also an ideal setting for lovers of old buildings, who can travel along its picturesque streets admiring the superb façades to their hearts’ content. Houses of particular interest include Queen Berengeria’s House, the Two Friends’ House and Adam and Eve’s House, all three adorned with sculpted details.
Area: 52.81 km²
Population: 142,626 (2010)
- The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not accepted.
Le Mans’s climate is classified as warm and temperate. The rainfall in Le Mans is significant, with precipitation even during the driest month.
During the months June, July, August and September you will experience pleasant weather with a nice average temperature. On average, the warmest month is July, the coolest month is January. November is the wettest month. This month should be avoided if you don’t like too much rain, april is the driest month.
French has been the official language of France since 1992, but has been the country’s administrative language for legal documents and laws since 1539.
As the official language, French is the primary form of communication used by government and the education system. Additionally, the law dictates that all legal contracts and commercial advertising must be available in French, although other languages are also permitted with a French translation. This language is also one of the official languages of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations, and the European Union.
Health and security
- The French health care system is one of universal health care largely financed by government national health insurance. In its 2000 assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provided the “close to best overall health care” in the world. In 2011, France spent 11.6% of GDP on health care, or US$4,086 per capita, a figure much higher than the average spent by countries in Europe but less than in the US. Approximately 77% of health expenditures are covered by government funded agencies.Most general physicians are in private practice but draw their income from the public insurance funds. These funds, unlike their German counterparts, have never gained self-management responsibility. Instead, the government has taken responsibility for the financial and operational management of health insurance (by setting premium levels related to income and determining the prices of goods and services refunded). The French government generally refunds patients 70% of most health care costs, and 100% in case of costly or long-term ailments. Supplemental coverage may be bought from private insurers, most of them nonprofit, mutual insurers. Until 2000, coverage was restricted to those who contributed to social security (generally, workers or retirees), excluding some poor segments of the population; the government of Lionel Jospin put into place universal health coverage and extended the coverage to all those legally resident in France. Only about 3.7% of hospital treatment costs are reimbursed through private insurance, but a much higher share of the cost of spectacles and prostheses (21.9%), drugs (18.6%) and dental care (35.9%) (figures from the year 2000). There are public hospitals, non-profit independent hospitals (which are linked to the public system), as well as private for-profit hospitals.
- Not only is Le Mans a safe place to walk around it’s also lovely, especially the Old Town. In fact the Old Town is possibly the most lovely of the wee Old Towns in all France for it is almost perfectly preserved & there is a real sense of being thrown back in time while wandering the cobbled lanes. It’s also relatively undiscovered for some reason so you are relatively unhampered by fellow visitors, even in the height of summer. Small but almost perfectly formed; that is the Plantagenet city.
- As with anywhere in the world it is about taking simple steps to make sure you are not a victim of crime. Don’t wear expensive jewellery. Be discreet with smart phones and ipads and certainly don’t leave anything of value on display in your hire car. Avoid unlit streets, take care when in crowds, pickpockets operate everywhere in the world.
- Lots of countries have a bustling 24/7 mentality where shops and services are always open for the convenience of their customers. This is not necessarily the case in France, especially in smaller towns. They take their breaks and work/life balance seriously. Many French shops close from 12:00 to 2:00 for a leisurely, civilized lunch lull – profits be damned. Some banks, post offices, museums and other places of business do too. Most things are closed on Sundays, and there are 10 Public Holidays that also shut down commercial activity. Lots of businesses take a few weeks off in July or August for their annual summer holiday, and frequent strikes can disrupt certain services. Popular tourist areas may stay open, and restaurants are more accommodating, but you should always double-check the opening hours and closing days before heading out for a shopping spree or errand run.
- Strolling through a local fruit and vegetable market is one of the many simple pleasures awaiting you in France. Everything is so fresh, so appealing, so artfully displayed, perusing and purchasing produce can be a highlight of your trip. However, be forewarned that poking, prodding or picking up the goods is a big non-non here. There’s an unspoken hands-off policy at a French marché . Let the vendor pick up the produce for you, and just point if you want to select a specific item.
- Le Mans is proud of its link to the House of Plantagenêt, which ruled England for more than 300 years, and in 2003 adopted the name for its old quarter.
Roughly following the outline of the Gallo-Roman walls, the Cité Plantagenêt has many streets of romantic old houses with timber frames, and renaissance palaces with elegantly carved walls.
Get a guide from the tourist office and take as long as you can to make sure you don’t miss any surprises.
Also try to time your trip to Le Mans for one of the city’s heritage days when many of these privately-owned mansions open their doors to the public for a free peek around.
- Walking through the old town, the cathedral kind of creeps up on you once you turn onto Place du Cardinal Grente, and is less adorned than many in northern France but no less magnificent.
The most striking thing to see on the outside is the sequence of flying buttresses that encircle the apse, best admired from Place des Huguenots.
There’s also an odd curiosity on the building’s southwest corner: A stone age menhir was placed here in the 1770s and many centuries of weathering have given it strange layered contours.
In the interior are models showing the evolution of this building, which dates from the year 500 and took its present form in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Check out the romanesque capitals in the nave and the profusion of original stained glass windows .