What does this part of France have to offer?
Big open countryside, clean fresh air, forests, woods and a big big sky. The climate tends to be like southern England only a bit more extreme - hotter and sunnier in summer and colder in winter. The population density is very low and the roads are empty. There is no crime to speak of, no vandalism and no graffiti. The people are polite and friendly. Young men in their cars pull up to let old ladies cross the road and the nearest thing to a "rave" is the many family-oriented summer and autumn events in the villages and towns, where all are welcome. Two hours is the norm for lunch, which costs about 12€ in one of the many restaurants. You might as well have lunch because most of the shops close between 12 and 2 anyway! Unspoilt is probably the best description, maybe like England was a few decades ago but with better food. It's an easy and pleasant journey from the channel ports and once here it is equally easy and unstressful to get to some of the most famous and desirable places in northwest and western France.
Environs - what's to do?
In the immediate vicinity there are plenty of ancient public chemins (footpaths) to explore. There are forests and lakes nearby and of course many charming towns and villages. Châteaux and ancient buildings dating from médiéval times are everywhere.
The country roads are quiet and traffic free and ideal for walking or cycling. Mont Rochard (7 km), our local "mountain" is heavily wooded, offering beautiful walks and Le Bois du Tay (10 km) is another forested area not far away.
The nearest bar/restaurant, general store and boulangerie are in Izé, 3 km away with more facilities and local supermarkets in Bais, 7 km. Most are open on Sundays but please check times locally. Courcite, 8km in the other direction, has an excellent boulangierie. Villaines-la-Juhel, 13 km, is the nearest town of any size and has a wide variety of shops, bars and restaurants (including a pizzeria) and a large supermarket which sells practically everything. Petrol and diesel here are the cheapest around and the pumps are available 24/7 (but you'll need a French bank card for out-of-hours service). There's a weekly market in Villaines every Monday morning and there's nothing more pleasant than sitting in the sunshine outside La Gouline and watching the world go by (with an aperitif of course!) Evron (16 km ) has a large market every Thursday morning and has even more bars, restaurants, shops and supermarkets. If you fancy a change from French food there is a good Cambodian/Chinese restaurant (usually open Sundays and holidays!) and there's a cinema.
The town of Mayenne is well worth a visit and the restored château an absolute must... maybe lunch on a boat on the river? (photo unknown). If you like old French towns you will love Sainte-Suzanne, Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei and many more.
Alençon, 45 minutes away, is a reasonable sized and sophisticated town. Apart from the architecture, especially in the old town there is a big market behind the cathedral on Thursday mornings and a smaller one on Saturday mornings. There are many boutique shops and restaurants ranging from modest prices to gourmet fare. A particular favourite of ours is the Rive Droite (photo Zairon).
Laval, an hour away, is the capital of La Mayenne and the largest town on the river. It is well worth a visit with many historic sights to see, good restaurants and shops (photo Daniel Jolivet).
The one place not to miss is the fortified old Plantagenet cité of Le Mans. The beautiful flying-buttress cathedral (photo Eprt) and medieval houses in their cobbled streets are impressive at any time but especially so in the evenings of July & August when they are illuminated in the most magical display of light, colour and sound. The fortification wall is Roman (photo Le Mans) and is the one of the best preserved examples in Europe. So see 1600 years of architecture come alive! The spectacle is free but if you want to dine in the old town you are advised to book.
Le Château de la Motte Husson, Dick and Angel Strawbridge's lovely event venue featured in Escape to the Château, is an easy-going 30 minutes drive away and is a popular destination for some of our guests, attending events or joining in the working-garden days. Everyone who goes loves it! (photo Pymouss)
Jublains was the ancient Roman capital of the area and is a must for anyone interested in Roman history. There are the archaeological remains of the fortress, an excellent museum, Roman amphitheatre (still used), the temple and Roman baths under the church.
Le Mont Saint-Michel is two hours away but spectacular and everyone should visit once. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so but be aware it can get very crowded and extremely hot in high summer so choose your visit times with this in mind.
And of course there is the world famous Le Mans racetrack. Unless there are events you can drive round a lot of the track as it's on public roads and really get the feeling you are in a race.... but be careful. it's very easy to get carried away and realise you are doing well over the speed limit (map Will Pittenger).