Sarthe Holiday Travel Guide
La Sarthe, situated between the Paris basin and the Atlantic coast, is something of a hybrid.
To the north, its countryside offers a foretaste of Normandy landscapes while to the east the valley of the Perche plunges into the Paris basin.
The Loire Valley to the south opens out into Touraine and Anjou and there is already a glimpse of Brittany in the granite of the Coëvrons Hills.
No fewer than 200 important monuments dot Sarthe’s landscape, from Le Mans' Gallo-Roman fortified walls (the best preserved in France) to Solesmes Abbey, world-famous for its Gregorian chants.
Every year, all eyes are on the Le Mans racetrack to watch super-cars thundering by during the city's world-famous 24 Hour race.
Annexed to Anjou in 1126, Sarthe was claimed as an Anglo-Norman possession until it became part of France in 1154 under Philippe-Auguste. The Department suffered terribly during the Hundred Years' War and the Protestant uprising; the county only knew a period of peace after the take-over of Le Mans in 1589. Sarthe was also a continuous battleground for Royalists/Republicans conflicts during the Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century.
The Le Mans 24 Hours race first began in 1923 and has thrived every year since. The city was also the birthplace of a completely new form of industry - it was there that Louis Renault built his first workshop in 1936.
The higher quality of local clay has made ceramic arts a tradition in Malicorne since the twelfth century. Jean Loyseau set up the city's first tin-glazed earthenware workshop in 1747 at the Plat d'Etain hotel, and even today the Malicorne "faïence" produces fine, hand-painted earthenware using traditional methods.
Sarthe is the birthplace of the renowned rillettes du Mans (a fluffy pork pate), and it is also home to the Loué chicken and some of the country's best breeds of poultry. Fresh, light Jasnière wines and the Loir Coteaux are choice bottles to accompany a meal.