Ilê-de-Ré – a French pearl on the Atlantic

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The Harbour in Saint-Martin-de-Ré

The Harbour in Saint-Martin-de-Ré

 

How did I end up in Ilê-de-Ré?

Well… things went wrong in Nottingham (England) and I ended up lost in Paris!
Such a nice place to be lost in! I’ve been there for 3 weeks, while looking for another destination.
I wanted to take the chance to stay around and get other perspectives of France… Paris is great but France is much more than the capital. There are lovely places involved by nature, rural charm, green plains, mountains, or the seaside. I found one when I met Ilê-de-Ré – a completely unknown place to me. That’s always the idea isn’t it? To discover new places!

Ilê-de-Ré is a small “island” connected to La Rochelle through the biggest bridge in France. Arriving by boat is also possible. Regarding seaside, it’s probably one of the most touristic areas in France. People from large cities, like Paris, run away from the grey and cold weather, to escape the stress and routine, to spend weekends or holidays there. People from all around can be found there as well.
I had no idea about this pleasant place, it just happened!

First impressions

Beginning in April – I just left Paris to move to Saint-Martin-de-Ré (500 km away) – one of the 10 communes* of Ilê-de-Ré (in English Isle of Rhé), in the southwest of France. With only 30 km long and 5 km wide, it’s a pretty small “island”, but pretty stunning indeed!
Pleasant and ready to receive visitors from everywhere, offering a great harmony between places, sea, tiny but lovely beaches, salt mines, plenty of green areas, and a great connection to travel around the communes. A perfect link with the Nature is made. Stunning sights, all over the way, wherever you’re going!
*Commune: the smallest French territorial division for administrative purposes

The best of Ilê-de-Ré

  1. Small: Short distance between everywhere
  2. Touristic: Some historical points worth the visit, exhibitions sometimes, festivals, etc… Ease to find the tourism office, to get a city map, the island map that includes the bicycle and pedestrian routes.
  3. Bicycle and Pedestrian Routes: there is a set of bike and pedestrian paths all around the “island”. Going through the middle of the green fields until the seaside, arriving right until the sand of the most beautiful beaches. Either you want to enjoy a calm walk or an adventure! Easy and safe bike tours with awesome views!
  4. Camping Parks: so many of these! Good as an accommodation option, great for the ones who riding a caravan or just want to take a tent. Staying closest to the best spots!
  5. Suitable for Everybody: very safe and friendly if you have kids, dogs or other companies. Romantic destination if the idea is an “escape-for-two”. Relaxing to just hang-out alone or with friends.
  6. Nature: Seaside, Wetland… Great variety of ecosystems found here: salt mines, green areas in the inside, the sea in the coast. Diversity of fauna and flora, great for photography lovers!
  7. Water Sports: If you like water sports, you can find good spots to do a little of everything. From paddle to windsurf and surf.

 

Around the Isle

Restaurants – Versatility, Views, Vegan

Restaurants overlooking the sea: the beach is a couple of meters from you, where kids can play while you enjoy a glass of wine and wait for your food. Some examples: La Cible in Saint-Martin and Aux frères de la côte in Ars-en-Ré.
Your dog can go inside as well, and be offered a bowl of water, in almost every restaurant and café. I find a nice approach!

Vegan: I managed to eat very tasty and (100%) vegetarian food in places which had not even this option in their “menu”. Simply asking for a just-vegetables dish (or mushrooms), cooked in olive oil.
I went to Il Gabbiano – an Italian restaurant in La Flotte – I had a great vegetarian pizza (without cheese)! Good service, fast and nice.
In general they use fresh ingredients, and much creativity, making from sweet potato or other vegetable a tasty puree, very well-presented dishes… And in all places people were helpful and friendly when receiving requests slightly off menu.

La Martinière: I’ve been told this is the best ice-cream parlour in France and one of the best in Europe. It can be found in Ile-de-Ré (Saint-Martin, La Flotte, maybe others…). I don’t know if is the best or not, but indeed the sorbet is really good!!

 

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

I lived there for 2 months (April and May) and it’s the place I know better.
What’s there? The beautiful harbour, Touristic Office, Police station, Hospital, Post Office, Children’s park, Camping, shopping places and hypermarkets, beach and of course, plenty of restaurants, cafés, and tourists!

What I enjoy more:

  • No doubt bike tours to other villages are great! Also riding a bike around, everywhere, even when streets in the centre are so full of people, it’s so much Fun!
  • Going until a quiet place, sitting and enjoying the sunset. This is a MUST!
  • Wandering by bike, at dinner time, is particularly special. Many streets are empty, and it’s possible to appreciate better the lovely houses, the tiny streets…
  • Enjoying cup of coffee or tea while appreciating the harbour – my front house view. Boats coming inside when the tide is getting empty, boats going out when the tide is high (gate open)

some photos in different places in Saint Martin

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Getting around

To move inside the island, as I just mention, is great to take the chance of doing it by bike! There are so many places where you can rent a bike!! Also possible by car, by bus, sure…

To arrive to Ile-de-Ré: there is a bus “Les Mouetes” going to and from La Rochelle several times a day and stopping in each village of Ile-de-Ré; you can drive your car from La Rochelle (there you have an airport, a train station with train and TGV connection with other cities).
You can share a car, carpooling, or as they call in France Covoiturage, from La Rochelle or other place; you can also arrive by boat (Inter-Iles), which stops in Saint-Martin-de-Ré marine port, also between islands.

I left La Rochelle for the last time, by TGV to Paris (3rd time this year). It was a good experience.

 

in My Travel Journal

“TGV. France. Paris – La Rochelle. 3 hours and 11 minutes. Then? The arrival. The island. The sea. The boats in the harbour. The serenity. The sunset. Wandering on the streets or looking the sunset above the ocean, still some tourists, not even a little lost in this little Paradise”

“The sky is a deep blue. The sun is warm, not that kind of extremely hot, but that warm that touch your skin. The floor is a green carpet, so green, filled with white and yellow flowers. Numerous. On the horizon the blue sea, so blue… It’s beautiful”

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

 

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