Thursday, July 26, 2012

Île de Ré

The long, narrow Île de Ré extends 30 km (19 miles) into the Atlantic and is France's 4th largest island, after Corsica, Belle-Île and Oléron.  Also known as the white island, Île de Ré is a long stretch of chalky cliffs and dunes with a rich bird life.  It is linked to the mainland at La Rochelle by an elegantly curved 3-km long (2-mile) bridge, the toll being 16 euros per car.

The south side is a succession of long beaches; the north, sheltered from direct ocean winds, provides safe berths for yachts in several small ports.  We toured the entire island, stopping at Le Bois Plage en Ré for lunch and a rest at Les Gollandières (Best Western), reaching the tip of the island at Les Portes en Ré, then stopping at Saint Martin de Ré, a popular resort town, for dinner and to sleep. 

Les Gollandières

Afternoon nap by the pool at Le Bois Plage en Ré

The church steeple in the background is actually in Ars en Ré, but the photo was taken from La Patache near Les Portes en Ré.  This Island is very narrow in some parts and has a curved tip shaped like the head of a seahorse, hence why you see the ocean between two points of land.

Île de Ré is a pretty and much-loved island, and warranted a picturesque coverage in last month's Châtelaine (French version), and a recent article in Condé Nast.  It seems to be popular with celebrities and bigwigs because of the privacy they retain while gamboling about.  We found the island very, very hot, (it was 36 the day we toured) and filled with so many cyclists that we could barely move.  There are more than 100 km (60 miles) of official bicycle (vélo) tracks to explore.  In summer it is touristy and pricey.

We stopped at Les Portes en Ré at the far end of the Island for a look-see and for a refreshment to quench our thirst and rest from the sun.  Can you see the blue sky?  Unrelenting in its clarity, with not even a wisp of cloud to be seen.

Time for a Perrier and an Orangina

A small wine store

From one end of the island to the other, the houses are all white, with only the shutters varying in colour.  It looks very white washed.

This is about as typical as it gets: a white house, colourful shutters, and a bike leaning on the wall.  This is the main transportation on the island.

Saint Martin de Ré is sometimes referred to as the capital of the Island.  Its economy is strong and although it doesn't boast the largest population, it does display past eloquence.  On July 7, 2008, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, joining the likes of the Great Wall of China and Versailles.

The ruins above the town are from an old Abbey.

Entrance to the port

Busy marina

This second-hand store has made clever use of an old tricycle, in a town where cycling is predominant.

Well outside walls

All part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

First there were 3 little donkeys...


then along came three more...

... until it was a crowd, all vying for a gulp of water from the trough!

These donkeys were not wearing pants, a local tradition in years past to protect their legs when they worked in the salt marshes.  Lots of postcards still portray the donkeys with these pants.

There are plenty of seafood restaurants serving locally grown oysters.  At dinner, I ordered a spring roll with shrimp, followed by a scallop dish au gratin.  Note that the spring roll is served on slate, my new placemat!

The view of Saint Martin de Ré, taken from our hotel bedroom window at La Jetée.

Emélie was wondering if there really were pointy breads like she saw on a picture, so this is to prove that they're definitely served for breakfast at La Jetée.

We are happy to have seen this island, but doubt we would ever return.  It's just not for us since we don't care for beaches, heat, cycling or crowds, combined with elevated prices on food and souvenirs.  But if you enjoy cycling and love to bask on the beach, this may well be your idea of paradise!

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