Chapter Editor: lynxd67
Just in case you’ve had no time to prepare properly for Le Mans, don’t worry. It’s no problem to arrive with just your brain and a valid credit card.
All the supermarkets mentioned here have cash machines so they are a good place to get enough readies to keep you going at the circuit, which is a notoriously difficult place to get cash. Some of them have petrol stations on their premises and are also a good place to top up on fuel as they are undoubtedly the cheapest places for petrol. All petrol stations accept foreign plastic now, so don't worry, even out of hours, and you will find that many supermarkets are changing to plastic only with no booth any more. Carrefour Market at Mulsanne changed recently. In most of the large supermarkets in France now, when you use plastic, you will be offered the option to pay for your goods in either “Livres Sterling” or Euros. It may be better to opt to pay in Sterling as you won’t be charged by your bank for the exchange. On the other hand, based on the enthusiasm of retailers to select the Sterling option without your permission it may be more to the advantage of their card processor. If you are planning to take wine back to the UK with you, it is best to stock up early as some supermarkets run out of the most popular brands (such as JP Chenet) by the Monday after the race. These branded wines are nothing like as popular amongst the locals as they are with the Brits, so they don’t carry such large stocks as you may find at their counterparts at the channel ports. If you haven’t got enough room in your car, you can ask at the “Acceuil” (Help) desk, if they would be willing to reserve some for you (“Je peux le reserver?”).
Buying cold Beer: Just be aware that due to extremely high turnover some supermarkets will run out of beer and ice at some point during race week, this has happened regularly in the past, some comments about this:
Another thing to be aware of is that French supermarkets don’t give out carrier bags, so it’s a good idea to take some shopping bags or boxes with you.
Vegetarian food is virtually unknown in France, but soya (or soja as it is there) is readily available, so really it is up to you to your ingenuity to cook for yourselves. You can usually find out the ingredients on items as many are multi-language. However some are not - learn French!
You can find pre-packed Salads in Auchan and Carrefour and probably LeClerc and Champion as well. These can be pretty good - with cheese and egg options. Also there are usually other pre-pack salad ingredients that you can make a meal of. Of course there is French bread. You can just fill up on a baguette and cream cheese. It has been reported that Super U does have a specialist food section that has Soya Milk.
Portable BBQs are plentiful in the supermarkets - if you can find anything to cook. If you are bringing your stuff with you, be aware how hot it can be at that time of year. Without a fridge, food might NOT last, even with portable car-fridges.
Monday to Saturday is the norm; details for the shops mentioned below are given there. Do not count on open supermarkets on Sunday, some comments: Sunday opening is rare, and it is only the smaller ones that you'll find serving on a Sunday morning and then only up until noon. Monce en Belin, Ruaudin, Savignon l'Eveque are three places where you'll get the basics. Note that departure day this year (Monday after the race) is a public holiday. The big supermarkets will probably be open but don't rely on much beyond that. Stock up for your return earlier in the week if possible.
If you're driving in on Monday, check out Mamers for a great street market (cheese man likes to practice his English so will set you up with the best smelly stuff to put in your tent to keep the thieves out – and he’ll let you sample it first) It is a good place for a short stop and is just about 40 mins north of the great City of Le Mans and a good alternative route if you come off the motorway at Alençon. Also, Bonnetable has a market Tuesdays. The biggest problem with both of these is that they interrupt the serious business of scrutineering. The usual big street markets in Le Mans (Jacobins) tend to get interrupted by something else that's going on there…
Other market days in the Sarthe are: Mondays: La Ferté Bernard, Mamers. Tuesdays : Beaumont, Bonnétable, Bouloire, Ecommoy, Loué. Wednesdays: Ballon, Le Grand Lucé, Sillé le Guillaume. Thursdays: Conlie, Le Lude, Marolles le Braults, La Suze sur Sarthe, Tuffé. Fridays: Malicorne, Pontvallaie, Vibraye. Saturdays (well, if you're around the previous weekend): Allonnes, Brulon, Fresnay sur Sarthe and Montfort le Gésnois.
If you are looking for something with a real local flavour, try the famous “Rillettes du Mans” – available in most supermarkets but best bought from a butcher in the town or one of the local villages. This dish, which is a kind of cross between paté and potted pork, can be a little off-putting to look at as it tends to be preserved by a thick layer of fat – but don’t worry, just scrape this off and enjoy the delicious stuff underneath!
If you’re looking for something to take back with you to appease families and partners back home, Rillettes are also often sold in nice decorated pots which make a lovely present for carnivores. Other things worth looking out for are “Confit de Canard” (preserved duck legs, in tins), cheese of course (try Liverot, Chaumes and Munster if you’re into truly smelly delights) and Saumur for the drinkers, a great-value sparkling wine from the Loire Valley.
Your mum or a favourite aunty might also appreciate some Alençon lace. Also, try Malicorne, the centre of the Sarthe’s pottery industry. And of course, there are always loads of shops at the circuit for petrolheads.
For those wanting a day out away from Le Mans, there is also an excellent shop at the Manoir de Courboyer, the headquarters of the Perche National Park which sells a large range of local and regional products. It also boasts a nice restaurant, good walking, and a typical local manor house to look around.
For UK visitors: Cigarettes are slightly cheaper in France but don’t forget, you cannot buy these in supermarkets (or their surrounding malls). They should be purchased at a Tabac (often attached to a bar) - these are distinguished by their famous red lozenge sign with white writing. After a huge increase in tax in recent years, the government has recently seen fit to reduce the price slightly and they’re still cheaper than the UK. For english brands such as Bensons or Superkings the best chance you'll have will be at the tabac opposite the tills in Carrefour. It's one of the bggest in La Sarthe.
App. 2 miles away from the race track, large supermarket and lots of shops nearby, from toothbrush to tent you can get everything you need. There’s also a gas station nearby.
How to get there:
By car from the Maison Blanche side of the track: Follow the road up towards the main entrance (track on right hand side). At lights outside main entrance, go straight ahead going under the dual carriageway. About 200 yds after bridge turn first right into Avenue du Panorama. Continue to end and turn right at T junction and then at the roundabout drive all the way round and come back up on the other side of the tram track. Follow road up “Avenue George Durand” and Carrefour and the Centre Commercial Sud is on the righthand side.
By car from the Houx Annexe side: Head towards Tertre Rouge corner. Just before you go under the bridge where the track joins the N138 (Mulsanne Straight), turn right up the slip road (this is just past the entrance to the Tetre rouge viewing area). At the top (N138) turn left and follow road up “Avenue George Durand” and Carrefour and the Centre Commercial Sud is on the right. This way is not available during track times so it keep it easy use the Maison Blance route.
By public transport: Use the new tram, see the chapter “Transport in Le Mans” in this guide for details.
Large French supermarket chain, also good for cheap garden furniture and pool and camping equipment, app 10 km away from the circuit.
Large French supermarket chain, app 8 km away from the circuit. It is to be found by heading into town from Arnage on the dual carriageway through the industrial area. at the end of the dual carriageway, with a big tower in front of you, turn left towards Allonnes. The supermarket is to be found on your right after crossing a bridge
Address & opening hours: Centre commercial Rive Sud - Boulevard Pierre Lefaucheux, F-72230 Arnage, Phone: +33-(0)2 43 21 22 23, Monday-Thursday & Saturday: 9:00 am – 7:30 pm, Friday: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Large supermarket with a nice coffee shop/restaurant and a good loo
Draught beer equipment (cooling and system) can be hired here. According to reports from CA members they have more than 200 sorts of beer for sale. Someone spoke to them in August 2005 “… appears around €93 for a 30l barrel and all the kit”. It’s next to the big LeClerc Superstore, and another 100 m further up you’ll find a Brico Depot warehouse with stuff you might need for your campsite (wire, lights…). Iaasume here we are talking about the shop a bit further on than the Leclerc supermarket. After crossing the bridge do not go into Leclerc but carry straight on to the next traffic lights, then turn right. The shop is called V & B (vin et bieres) and is on the next corner on the left. The beer selection is truly amazing.
Supermarket, one CA member wrote: “We tend to use the Auchan on the other side of town as its a meeting place en route, and we buy samples of wine which if we like we stock up on.… with simple carparks and no magical mystery tour to get in or out”
Address & opening hours: Zone d'activités Auchan Nord, Route Nationale 138, La Chapelle Saint Aubin, F-72650 La Chapelle Saint Aubin Phone : +33-(0)2 43 77 08 08, Fax: +33-(0)2 43 87 05 55, Monday-Saturday: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Bicycles, sports gear and camping gear. This is on the west side of N138, app 12 km away from the circuit.
Bicycles, sports gear and camping gear, app 3 km away from the circuit on the N138.
Big supermarket. Take the N23, it’s app. 8 km away from the circuit and relatively easy to get to from camp sites like Maison Blanche and Expo.
Address & Opening hours: L'Arlequin, ZAC Hunaudieres, F-72230 Ruaudin, Phone: +33-(0)2 43 28 29 15, Fax : +33-(0)2 43 87 62 98, E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org, Website : www.arlequin-lemans.fr, Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 am– 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Address: Didier Faugas, 10 Place de la Republique, Phone: +33-(0)2 43 24 28 12
Highly recommended by a CA member: “We've spent half the national debt with Faugas and he's done a couple of repairs for us and is extremely reasonable. Not to mention very knowledgeable to boot.”
This shopping centre, half way down the Mulsanne Straight, opened in 2009 and includes everything from Opticians to electrical goods and two restaurants. It is to be extended in 2011/12 to include a new Auchan supermarket and a lot more restaurants and shops.