Great places to stay (and eat) while riding La Sarthe a Velo
During my two weeks of cycling in France, I spent four days riding some of the new cycle routes in La Sarthe department. This is the region that is home to Le Mans and my trip concluded with participation in the 24 hour Le Mans Velo Sportive.
La Sarthe a Velo routes include the V44 and the route along the Loir (no “e”) valley. This is a beautiful place to cycle especially if you prefer your cycle trips to be on mostly flat and often quiet or traffic free routes.
I will be writing more about the routes but I also wanted to mention all the great places that I stayed and ate during my solo cycle tour.
Staying in Le Mans
Le Charleston Hôtel
This is a lovely small hotel that is well located for the station, the centre and the old town of Le Mans. There is a locked and code entry garage for storing bikes and the en-suite rooms are an okay size and clean.
There’s free wifi in some of the rooms and also in the main seating and dining areas. The inner-outside seating area catches tons of sun and is ideal for dying washed cycle kit in the evening.
The continental breakfast is plentiful and there’s a fair bit of choice. The staff are lovely, welcoming and very helpful.
If you don’t have your own bike you can borrow one of the hotel bikes for free.
Le Charleston, 20 rue Gastelier 72000 Le Mans.
I enjoyed a traditional Menu Sarthois, which includes a regional “Rillettes” pate. I came to realise that almost every restaurant likes to serve this traditional dish but the starter at La Chamade was the best of the trip.
See Chamade, Le Mans.
Staying in Solesmes
Day one of my cycle trip on the V44 took me from Le Mans west to Sable-sur-Sarthe. On the way I rode through Solesmes, which was where I returned to for my night’s stay. Solesmes is home to a beautiful abbey and is close to the wonderful Jardin Mosaique.
La Maison de Charlotte was a perfect place to enjoy a peaceful overnight. Owned by a family with three young children the beautifully renovated house has one B&B guest room with adjoining bathroom. It is delightfully clean and very nicely decorated. This section of the house has its own door entrance so it feels as though you have your own mini apartment.
The owners were very friendly and we managed to converse with my limited French and his (much better) English. Breakfast is taken a the family table and included good coffee and Continental style breads and croissant etc. The free wifi was also very good.
I ate at the restaurant in the Grand Hotel in Solesmes. This wasn’t entirely my cup of tea although the food and wine were good. The guests were more “well dressed french” than cyclists in shorts and t-shirt (that was me) so I didn’t feel too comfortable. I can’t fault the food however so it was more my problems of limited wardrobe for evening wear than the restaurant’s fault.
Staying in Le Lude
Le Lude is a stunning town and boasts a delightful chateau. I cycled from Solesmes to La Lude on V44 again. Just a short ride along the road from the chateau is 5 Grande Rue Bed&Breakfast. This is what’s known as a chambres d’hotes, which is basically someone’s home in which there are guest rooms. Quite often the owners will also cook for you if you want them to. It’s like a gust house of B&B in Britain, except there is more chance of enjoying a meal at the establishment.
I felt immediately at home when I arrived thanks to the British owners, Susan and Simon. My bike was whisked away to a safe place before I was shown to my beautiful room with en-suite shower room. The house has been stunningly renovated by the couple and has many quirky pieces of furniture, display items and other furnishings. I wandered about peering at all sorts of interesting things, including Simon’s motorsports memorabilia.
There were two British couples staying at 5 Grande Rue on the same night and we enjoyed dining together at the outdoor table. Susan is an accomplished cook and I loved the evening of chat, food and wine. It was great to have company on my solo cycling tour.
The free wifi was also excellent and the breakfast was superb.
Staying in Le Grande Luce
Another ride, this time along the River Loir (not Loire, which is some 5okms south) took me to Le Grande Luce. I recommend the Loir route as one of France’s best kept cycling gems. I stayed and ate at La Roiserie, another welcoming chambres d’hotes.
The establishment has its own swimming pool and I ate with the owners, Gilbert and Martine, in the evening, while I enjoyed breakfast on my own the next morning. The room, with toilet and shower room, was simply outfitted and comfortable. I enjoyed the company of the owners and was thankful that Gilbert spoke fairly good English. (I must improve my french because it’s shamefully poor.)
I enjoyed working in the garden on my mini laptop and making use of the wifi.
Back in Le Mans
For a range of ideas for holidaying in the Sarthe area visit www.tourisme-en-sarthe.com