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The Le Mans 24-hour event is one of the most famous dates on the global racing calendar and thousands of fans flock to it from the UK each year. But while many exciting sporting events like this draw a big crowd, usually getting there is just about, well, getting there, Le Mans has developed a tradition all of its own. If life is about about the journey rather than the destination, then this is one race that captures the essence of both.
Where to Start
The northern city of Le Mans itself isn’t that much of a drive from the UK, which makes it a much more achievable road trip than, say, the Monaco Grand Prix and this has no doubt added to its growing popularity over the years, after all, the race itself is the endurance test, not the journey to get there.
It’s incredibly easy to get to France by our ferries to Paris via Calais and you’ll likely be amongst other racing fans, making for a great atmosphere and that’s just the start. From Calais there’s a few routes available, including a diversion to the city of Paris, if you want to see the delightful sights of the French capital and have the extra time to spare on your trip.
However, the simplest and quickest route to Le Mans is via Rouen, the capital of Normandy. One of the first potential stops is Boulogne-Sur-Mer, a major fishing port with a fortified old town and Nausicaá, a huge aquarium.
What to See
There’s lots to see in Rouen, so it’s well worth a stop, especially to see the Cathedral, which has the famous Tour de Buerre, a tower financed by the sale of butter during Lent. There’s also Rouen Castle, numerous museums and galleries not to mention the beautiful botanical garden Jardin des Plantes de Rouen.
Alencon is another potential stop on the route between Rouen and Le Mans and while it is less well-known, there’s still some impressive sights to see, like the La Halle aux Blé and the formidable Château des Ducs.
The last stop before you get into Le Mans, is the village of Saint-Saturnin, where the Classic British Welcome takes place each year, with 1000 classic cars on display – along with exhibitions, stalls, live music and a cinema – as part of a festival welcoming British visitors for the race. It’s the perfect introduction to a weekend of cars, as well as the ideal ending to one of the best road trips you’ll ever take.
So, there you have it, a complete guide to driving to Le Mans and what to see along the way.
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