Walking to Bilbao – second stop : Le Mans, France

January 24, 2008

Back in November I decided to start counting my exercise time towards a goal. I am currently walking for exercise I chose to measure in miles. Since I’m very interested in the Basque country, and we have a weekend planned there in February, I chose Bilbao Spain as my destination. So I’m walking to Bilbao.

Bilbao is 462 miles from Paris (my home). Some of you suggested I makes some stops along the way, which I found to be a big improvement to my original plan.

Sometime over the weekend, with all the walking around we did in Amsterdam, I passed over the threshold for my next stop. My current mileage is at 132, but I’ve selected my second stop to be Le Mans, France, which is 114 miles from home in Paris. Walking around a new city for 2 days will really rack up the miles!

Le Mans - old town center

I chose Le Mans as my next stop because I’ve actually been there, unlike most of the other cities approximately 110 miles from Paris. It’s on the outer reaches of the Loire Valley.

I had a friend who got married here a few years back, so I got to wander around the town and church for a few hours that day. The old town center was really charming, with old buildings where the wood beam construction, ‘colombage’ is showing.

colombages

Le Mans is most famous for the 24 hour car race held here every year. Car racing doesn’t interest me in the least, but my friends actually got married the same day as the race in 2005, and we needed to book train tickets far in advance to be able to come.

What about the food? The city is famous for it’s Rillettes. Rillettes is a kind of pork spread that is made with seasoned pork cooked in a whole lot of lard (pork fat) and then chilled. They usually spread it on bread. At the wedding there were huge bowls of it, and everyone said it was fabulous. Here at home our local butcher won the national rillettes competition a few years ago, and we often buy it as an appetizer when we have guests over. The concept of it grosses me out completely — as you look at rillettes you see the white lard among strings of pork and it makes me squeamish to even see it, let alone smell or taste it. Yeah, that white stuff is lard.

rillettes du Mans

Despite the creativity in using “all of the pig but the oink” which the French love to do, Le Mans is really a nice city.

I also found that there is a type of apple from Le Mans, called “Reinette du Mans”. I must admit that I’ve never seen these apples sold in the market near my house, and from what I read online (in French) they don’t seem worth going out of my way for them, but it’s nice to know there’s a local food I’d like much better than Rillettes!

Apple reinette du Mans

Click here for a site offering a virtual tour.

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