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Alençon - ever been? What to do?

Hello all,
In less than 2 weeks I am going to find myself in the city of Alençon for 2 days and 1 night. While my partner is off at work, I will be exploring. Has anyone been before? Any recommendations you can share? I know a simple Google search will pull up wonders, but I trust many of your guys' travel judgement. :)

Le Mans I already know pretty well.

Posted by
5647 posts

I do not know Alençon, but I wholeheartedly suggest a day trip to nearby Le Mans, by train. The late-medieval city center is wonderfully well-preserved, and still relatively off the tourist radar.

Posted by
1831 posts

In case horses are of interest you can visit "Haras national du Pin", once the Royal stud farm of Louis XIV. There is a museum and an outdoor show I saw a few years back but was a bit disappointing. Nevertheless I think larger events can be interesting, but didn't take place when I was there. Heard later that the museum is worth visiting, it’s located some 40km north of Alençon.

https://www.haras-national-du-pin.com/en/

Posted by
1274 posts

Merci everyone. Actually I already know Le Mans pretty well. I would go rather oftern when I studied in Tours, France because it was an easy train trip.

Posted by
5647 posts

If you have access to a car for the day, you could tour the so-called Alpes Mancelles around Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, I have not been but it looks like some very pretty, hilly countryside.
Carrouges, to the NW, also looks to have an interesting chateau - no idea if buses are available.

Posted by
42 posts

The OT in Alençon is in a fine old building, La maison d'Ozé, and has a small heritage orchard next door. The stretch of the river nearby is pleasant and walkable. The center of town has some great old buildings. There's the lace museum and the childhood home of St Therese (both recommended to us but we've never been). The post office facade is classic PTT. The Halle au Ble was called the hoop skirt when it was built (it's round). I can heartily recommend the boulangerie/patisserie across from it. First Saturday of every month on the pavements surrounding the Halle au Blé there is a flea market. Supposedly the stained glass in the basilica is among the finest in Europe, and on a sunny day it may well be but I guess we've been unlucky in our timing. Would you be interested in the departemental archives? It looks like there are markets on Tues, Thurs, Sat, and Sun mornings. I think there's a capoeira club in Alençon. I've read that the Chateau des Ducs is open but can't confirm it. There's supposedly a new park there named for Simone Veil.

Here's a list of parks:
https://www.alencon.fr/mes-sortiesmon-temps-libre/tourisme-et-patrimoine/parcs-et-jardins/

We've been to Alençon on a Saturday when the streets and shops were full and lively, and also on a Monday when the shopping part of downtown was lifeless and slightly depressing.

If you can get to Carrouges, it's worth the trip. It's an all-brick chateau around a courtyard, surrounded by a moat, with a brick gatehouse. Next door is the HQ of the Parc Naturel Regional de Normandie-Maine.

I've seen you posting about Nogent le Rotrou and that interests me because that's our favorite Saturday market when we're in the Perche. I'd love to hear more from you about Nogent.

Enjoy your trip to Alençon.

Posted by
42 posts

As if that reply wasn't long enough, I've remembered that there are Greeters in Alençon, if they're reactivated since covid.

Posted by
1274 posts

Merci mille fois, Crumbs! Yes, I lived in Nogent-le-Rotrou back in 2008-2009. I actually will be going back for a little visit next week, too. Le Perche is such a lovely region and the Saturday market is totally worth it---but park away from the centre ville. Some great regional products. Nogent is a small town, but it is as quaint as can be with the perched chateau and quaint centre ville. I miss it every day.

Posted by
1274 posts

Back from my trip! I must say that Alençon was a thrill. It has a very impressive Basilica Notre-Dame, the lace/Beaux-arts museum was enjoyable and I ate at an amazing restaurant called Le Petit Vatel that was my best meal during by week in France. Really top notch, amazing service. We stayed at the Hotel des Ducs which was a lovely family-owned hotel, Very French. Very clean and a delicious breakfast. Le Perche is really a region of France that I think is overlooked.

Posted by
42 posts

Glad you liked Alencon and had an excellent meal. I see that Au Petit Vatel is a Michelin Bib Gourmand. We should give it a try.

Alexander, to my disappointment, the Perche has been discovered and rediscovered. Parisians have always liked this area, but with the pandemic more of them realized it was a quick escape out of Paris. They came, they fell in love, they bought property. They're referring to the Perche now as the 21st arrondissement of Paris. Sigh.