Make a stopover in the heart of the Rivers of Western France to explore the rich heritage and symbolic places of the Sarthe, Mayenne, and Anjou regions.
The "Cité Plantagenêt"
Discover the historic centre of Le Mans which dominates the valley of the river Sarthe. With its little lanes lined with half-timbered houses, it’s cathedral which is home to the world’s oldest stained-glass window and its impressive gallo-roman wall, the old Le Mans is regularly used as film location. It is also lit up every summer during the Nuit des Chimères light festival.
Malicorne and its pottery workshops
Awarded the label of Ville & Métiers d’art (“Town & Arts & Crafts”), Malicorne-sur-Sarthe is a leading French centre of art faience. Known for its openwork faience, the town follows the rhythm of its craftspeople. Don’t miss out on the two art faience workshops, the Museum of Faience and Ceramics as well as the countless studio-boutiques of Malicorne.
Solesmes and its abbey
Founded in the early 1000s on a rocky outcrop, the Abbey of Solesmes dominates the course of the river Sarthe. As an important site for Gregorian chant, Saint-Pierre-de-Solesmes is home to a community of Benedictine monks, whose chant you will be able to listen to during religious services. The abbey church is also home to two exceptional groups of sculptures: the statues known as the “Saints of Solesmes”.
The animal sanctuary "L’Arche"
Château-Gontier-sur-Mayenne is home to a sanctuary for wild animals. On shady terrain covering 14 hectares you will be able to see thousands of animals from 120 species, such as brown bears, parrots, foxes, baboons, tigers, and buffalos, to name a few. The animal sanctuary “L’Arche” also organises educational workshops for children.
With its fortified walls, its circular keep, and its 34m (112ft) tall watchtower, the old castle of Laval dominates the Mayenne river. It also serves as home to a place that is one of a kind: the “Manas”, the Museum of Naïve and Outsider Art. Its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions pay wonderful homage to the painter Henri Rousseau (known as “Le Douanier”, the customs officer), who was born in 1844 in Laval. Don’t forget to also explore the historic centre of Laval, a town of art and history.
Dock in Mayenne, starting point of the towpath
The PK0 on the Mayenne is the starting point of the towpath and of the navigable Mayenne river, a section that is much loved by cycling tourists on the long-distance cycling path Vélo Francette. The dock at Mayenne, with its bar and its deckchairs on the riverbank offers the best views of the feudal castle and the basilica of Notre-Dame-des-Miracles.
Stop over for some nature and culture in Angers
Declared a city of art and history, the capital of the Anjou region stands out with its impressive fortress boasting 17 towers, which is home to the vast “Apocalypse” tapestry. Next to Angers Castle, you will discover the quarter of “La Doutre” on the other side of the river Maine.
Just outside Angers, Terra Botanica is a remarkable theme park dedicated to the plant world with over 500,000 plants. On fair-weather days, an excursion to the island of Saint-Aubin offers an unusual getaway in the heart of the lower valleys of the Anjou region.
Chenillé-Changé, a charming village in the Anjou region
Nestled on the green shores of the river Mayenne, the picturesque, flower-lined village is home to a listed church and an ancient flourmill still in operation. The port of Chenillé-Changé is also the departure base for cruises by pleasure boat or licence-free cabin cruiser.
The departmental park of "L’Isle Briand"
Bordered by the rivers Mayenne and Oudon, this large, wooded park of 180 hectares in size surrounds the “French Horse and Riding Institute”, a castle dating from the 18th century, and a hippodrome. A space which invites you to relax and enjoy yourself, the park on the “Isle Briand” has a playground that is ideal for family outings.