Towns of Pays de la Loire
The region of Pays de la Loire has a rich heritage dating back to the rise of the Roman Empire and, as such, has a number of fascinating towns and cities waiting to be discovered. Whether on foot or by bicycle, as part of a group or individually, uncovering the charms of the towns of Pays de la Loire means discovering regions of great character and fascination.
Striking architecture decorates the historic centre of Angers, a town renowned for its delightful cobbled streets and a magnificent château that stands dominant over the Maine River. This fascinating structure, which was founded in the ninth century and developed to its current form in the 13th, famously houses the Apocalypse Tapestry – the oldest French tapestry in existence.
In addition to the mighty fortress, Angers offers a host of sights to discover. The Beaux-Artes Museum features works by some of the most popular artists in French history, while the Musée du Genie offers a number of exhibitions devoted to the advancements in military engineering.
One of the more renowned towns of Pays de la Loire is Le Mans, the setting for the world-famous 24-Hour Race that has taken place here annually since 1923. Of course, such an enduring event as this has led that the town – which was founded by the Romans back in the first century BC – to devote many of its major attractions to the race. The museum, in particular, provides a fascinating insight into the history of the event, with a number of vintage models on display.
There is, however, much more to Le Mans than the events on the track. The Old City features architecture from the reign of English monarchs back in the 12th century, while the St Julien Cathedral is a breathtaking structure of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The town of Saumur may not be the most famous destination in France, but it possesses a history that few can rival. It was here that the French cavalry set up home in the 18th century, with magnificent training facilities established to house the officers and school cadets. It was this early relationship with equestrian activity that established Saumur as a fascinating place to visit, and its role in later years ensured the town went down in history for its bravery.
During Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War, it was the officer cadets of Saumur, under the leadership of Colonel Michon, that would stood up to the advancing German troops in what is regarded as one of the first acts of French Resistance during the conflict. Forming a defensive stand along the banks of the Loire River, the cadets held off the troops for two days during a conflict that entered the annals as one of the most compelling tales of courage during the early days of the war.