13 May 2011

Wine and meat in Le Mans

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with in Le Mans with my friend Emilie and her husband Marc. Emilie is a friend from high school. Funny thing about our friendship... the first time we actually hung out was when she picked me up at the train station! I always thought she seemed like a really fun, outgoing girl, so I was excited to have the amazing opportunity to get to know her in Europe. I had such an amazing weekend with them both and look forward to seeing them the next time they're back stateside! On the topic of meeting people from home, she introduced me to some English assistants still in Le Mans... two of which happen to be from the Seattle area (and I even share multiple mutual friends with one of them) - small world! 

I loved walking around Vieux Mans (also called La Cité Plantagenêt). It really put Vieux Lille to shame... The Cathédrale Saint-Julien was built between the 11th and 15th centuries, which explains it's diversity in architectural styles. It's one of the largest cathedrals in France. No matter how many churches and castles I see, they will never cease to amaze me. There are also a ton of Renaissance mansions and half-timber fronted houses that really show the history of the town. Why couldn't I be here instead?
Cathédrale Saint-Julien 

Can you tell that it's one of the largest in France? 
Me and Emilie

I love the centuries old half-timbered houses! They were all over the place!  
Umm, how quaint is this? 
The carved men at the bottom of the window frame are holding the columns up! 
Le Pilier Rouge
Renaissance mansions (15th-16th Century) that are now private homes. How do I get a room there?
After exploring the old town (which they literally live right next to!), we ran a few errands before heading to our afternoon activity. One of those errands was to go to la boucherie, which I'll admit I have stared through the windows of but haven't actually bought anything from (in France). You'll see in a minute some of what we picked up. One of my favorite experiences so far was the dégustation we went to Saturday afternoon. The département of Sarthe (within the Pays-de-la-Loire region), of which Le Mans is a part, is home to two delicious appellations of wine: Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir. Seventeen wineries were present at the event, which was held at the base of the cathedral. Tasting delicious wine and speaking to the winemakers in French was a great experience! Did I mention that this was my first wine tasting? I picked up a lot though I've got a lot to learn but this I know... the Jasnières Demi-Sec by Jean-Marie Renvoisé is my new favorite wine! (The 2003 we had on Friday night was probably the best wine I've ever had and in the photo below, Jean-Marie is behind me in the button-up.) 

We were told that the Coteaux du Loir was more for a developed palette but I really liked it and my taste for red wine is very recent. 
We didn't stop by all the wineries since Marc knew which ones were worth avoiding (he studied wine and also worked in the industry) but they were all very generous with their pours. And they were sampling about 3-4 variations each. A solid meal was certainly in order after our afternoon of wine. Let's just say this was a weekend of wine and meat... tons of meat! The specialty of Le Mans is rillettes, a salty pork pâté that you spread on bread, which started off our meal. Hmmm, it's okay. After a delicious salad, we had some yummy herbed sausages and blood sausage! I was so excited to have it again! Marc suggested eating it with dijon mustard and baguette - de-lish! For dessert we made homemade Moelleux au Chocolat, like chocolate lava cakes. So easy and so delicious! If dinner wasn't enough meat, for lunch on Sunday we also had lamb kabobs and boudin blanc (boudin noir is better). Okay, we had more wine, too... that Marc's dad made! (Sidenote: Dad, you should start making wine instead of beer.)
Watch out! I know how to stab sausages and Marc makes a mean mojito!

Grill Master Emilie! 
Eating the rillettes... I wouldn't buy a tub of it for myself but I'd eat it again.  
Verivorst! Boudin noir! It's not weird that I know how to say "blood sausage" in three languages, is it?
Moelleux au Chocolat in a human-sized oven!  
On Sunday, Le Mans has their large flowers, antique, and food market. It felt a lot less intense than the market in Wazemmes. Everywhere I looked, I thought of my mom - especially since it was Mother's Day. Since I wasn't there to spend it with her, I wanted her to feel like I wasn't so far away. So I took a TON of pictures of the gorgeous flowers and sent them to her. My brother might have one upped me with real flowers but at least mine won't die! If I haven't mentioned it on here, I have the best mom ever! Luckily for her, Ian and I are pretty good about routinely making sure she and everyone else know it too. 

Pretty, huh? (No, I'm not talking about my hair!)
I'm thinking that's enough for today. Oh yeah, I GET HOME TWO MONTHS FROM TODAY! 

Une boucherie- butcher's shop
Une dégustation - tasting
Les rillettes - "potted meat" or salty meat spread
Un boudin blanc- white pudding (sausage only filled with pork meat, whole eggs, and milk)
Un boudin noir - blood sausage or black pudding


  1. Just wanted to drop you a note to say thanks for your wonderful blog. My husband, toddler and I are going to Le Mans this weekend, thanks entirely to your photos! Merci.

  2. I hope you have fun in Le Mans! It's a wonderful place and I'm so touched that my blog post encouraged your trip!