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Side trip from Chartres suggestions?

Hello everybody,

I'm booked on the Loire/South of France tour started June 12th. My original plan had been to arrive in Chartres on the 11th and then do a day trip to Le Mans (partly because I've heard it's an interesting place and partly because I'm a big Plantagenet history dork). However, I now realize that Le Mans 2022 is that same weekend, which makes the trip less appealing and, unfortunately, due to my work schedule, I can't fly to France any earlier.

Any suggestions for alternatives? I don't want to rent a car for just a day (and I'll be struggling with jet lag anyway), so an easy bus or train ride would be ideal. I'm sure I'd be able to entertain myself in Chartres, but I really struggle with jet lag, especially in the summer, and I've learned that having a pre-determined plan and putting some distance between myself and my hotel room is the wisest course of action. ;)


Edited to add: I did think of Versailles, and it's a possibility. But I imagine it'll also be mobbed and, well.....

Posted by
161 posts

The only cool thing about the Palace of Versailles is the garden. The interior of the palace itself is just gold, gold, and more gold.

Posted by
16754 posts

Maybe Chateau de Rambouillet, about half way to Versailles. A little less grand than Versailles, but nice.

Posted by
3810 posts

Rambouillet or Maintenon are good options!
I may be wrong, but I would not necessarily rule out Le Mans, though: if the race is on during the day, the crowd will be at the racetrack rather than in town, and local trains from Chartres to Le Mans don't need reservations anyway.

Posted by
4455 posts

I agree about still going to Le Mans. If you’re interested in the Plantagenet history, I rode the train to Le Mans, and you just take the tram from the train station over to the Plantagenet area - very easy. I got off near the cathedral (my B&B was behind the cathedral). Be sure to walk all of the way down the stairs after roaming the area, so you see the amazing designs of the old wall - spectacular photo opportunity! When I was there for a night, I just stayed in that area the whole time.

I would also recommend Angers for their fortress, but I think with jet lag, it’s hard to be on a train for a couple of hours.

Posted by
4455 posts

Okay, I pulled up my trip report from 2019. Here’s the details for Le Mans. To make it easier for you since this is the day you land in France, I would definitely just stay overnight in Le Mans and meet your RS tour in Chartres the next late afternoon. Then you aren’t trying to take a train back to Chartres when you decide you’ve had enough for your first day.

LE MANS: When I am planning trips, I do a lot of searching around vicinities of towns I want to see. Once I saw that Le Mans had both a well-preserved medieval section of town and Roman walls with intricate designs, I was willing to do another 1-night stop to explore and photograph Le Mans. And, wow, Le Mans did not disappoint! I wandered every lane through the Plantagenet historical section and down to the Roman wall. The ancient wall around Le Mans is one of the most complete remaining Gallo-Roman city walls. This area was also popular in the evening for people to come eat at the restaurants.

For Le Mans, I stayed at La Demeure de Laclais B&B and reserved their lavender-colored room. This big room has three sets of windows looking out at the cathedral! I was going to have the best viewing for their evening Light Show since my B&B room looked right at the cathedral.

This B&B also makes their own jams, and I tried several on my breakfast croissant and bread. How do they make it taste SO good? I would gladly purchase several jars if it was available at home. The apricot jam had a rich flavor with a hint of sweet Fall spices.

Posted by
1665 posts

Just a few thoughts:

Château de Maintenon is really cute and worth a visit, the one of Rambouillet is to my opinion lesser charming but has a nice history even till today. But the tour already includes several châteaux, so I would think will it not be too much adding another one (or two).

The historic centre of Le Mans is stunning and will add to my opinion more to the tour that will follow. Hard to say how busy it will be during the race weekend, as already noticed the crowds will be at the racetrack far away from town. To know more you can always contact your hotel, hopefully they can help you with this.

Paris remains an option and also easy to reach from Chartres. The train stops not only in Maintenon and Rambouillet but Versailles too, so you can even decide underway where to go.

Posted by
1116 posts

Chartres is fabulous. Make sure to have a meal at Café Bleu next to the cathédrale or if you want some amazing haute cuisine, try le Moulin de Ponceau. The Musée des Beaux-arts is also beautiful, the stained glass museum worth checking out, and Picassiette is a charming place.

Posted by
3810 posts

I really, strongly second the recommendations for Café Bleu and Moulin de Ponceau; I ate at both when I went to Chartres for the weekend in February and they were amazing. As a bonus, they take online bookings, which is convenient.

Posted by
274 posts

Thank you, everybody, for your replies! I am excited that Le Mans may not be off the table after all, though a quick look at hotels indicates I'd definitely have to stay somewhere else. Still, food for thought. I'm also pondering flying on the 9th instead of the 10th. That'll cause major headaches at home, but the extra day will be a good buffer for jet lag ahead of the tour, and potentially open up more pre-tour Plantagenet-time-traveling possibilities, and might be worth it in the long run. Fingers crossed!

Thanks again!

Posted by
3810 posts

Oh yeah don't even think about staying in Le Mans during the race. It is impossible at such short notice. But a day trip from Chartres is totally feasible.

Posted by
278 posts

I am on the tour that departs a week after yours, so I will be reading all this advice with interest. Enjoy your tour!

Posted by
925 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
You don't say how long you will be in Chartres. There is a lot to see in the city. The cathedral which should be visited at least two different times of the day as the light changes the interior. There are two other old churches stretching to the south. One of which shows off the classical interior painting/decoration of churches.

Don't miss the farmers market. A walk near the stream. The light show at night. Nice simple restaurants. Musée des Beaux-Arts. The funky Maison Picassiette. And the stained glass centre.

It is really a nice little place. Enjoy it instead of putting miles on your car.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
28 posts

I will be driving by Le Mans during the race week and figured I should stay far away. If the historic area is not particularly crowded then I would love to see it. Are the crowds really only bad near the track?

Posted by
332 posts

how about Rennes? It has a sizeable student presence (at least it did pre-Covid), pedestrian-only streets, beautiful parks including the Thabor gardens, small but interesting museums, and half-timbered houses galore. It's about 90 minutes from Paris on the TGV, then you'd double-back to Chartres for the start of the tour. Nantes looks to be a similar distance but have never been there.

We took the Loire tour a few years ago and really enjoyed it. But a few things I wish we knew in advance. Just about the entire town of Chartres is shut down on Monday. You'll have the afternoon free after a tour of the Cathedral. You can walk around the pedestrian only area and look at the windows but just about every shop was closed, even many restaurants. I wish we had planned a short trip out of town via train for that time. Also think it's a good idea to plan something the Sarlat market day, which is an entire free day. It is a great market but even walking slowly and looking at everything (in France look but don't touch!) we still had most of the day left. In retrospect I wish we had either planned for a train trip out of town or to rent a car to visit another one of the prehistoric caves in the area. I've since read in the forum other people approached the guide who was able to arrange for a few people that were interested to rent a car to see another cave.

Posted by
524 posts

I arrived for this tour beginning in Chartres a day early.
It was wonderful to have the remains of my arrival day and 3/4 of the first full day,
I walked and walked, eating outdoors at cafes, and many sights to see and do.

Chartes is a lovely small place to be appreciated in both daylight and evening.
With the tour I recall having the end of a day and evening for free time. So I’m happy I had
extra time to discover Chartes.

As much as LeMans has its appeal, I think you’d be just as content having
extra time in Chartes as it has its own special charm and appeal for you to discover.