A SUMMER FINALE
ON BEAUTIFUL ILE DE RÉ...
It is hard to believe that we are already in October! The leaves are turning and for the last few days we have been blessed with beautiful crisp early starts, turning to warm autumnal sunshine. I adore this time of year and the changes it holds, which makes letting go of summer that little bit easier.
What a lovely summer it has been though! Although a little slow to start, the last few weeks have seen the most beautiful weather here in England, and time spent in the garden with a record number of meals outside, has made it extra special.
As a finale to our summer, Mr. W organised an anniversary surprise trip to the beautiful Ile de Ré off the coast of La Rochelle in western France, in the Charente-Maritime department. I have been longing to visit here for years, so a little three night trip was the best present ever.
With a flight time of just one hour, La Rochelle is so easily reachable, and with a short taxi drive over the bridge to Ile de Ré we were there in no time at all. We stayed at the delightful Hotel L'Ocean which is in Le Bois-Plage-en-Re, a lovely seaside village close to the capital port of Saint Martin. A friendly small hotel with a pool and courtyard gardens and superb cosy restaurant, it turned out to be a perfect choice.
Ile de Ré is only 13km by 5km and although cars are allowed on the island, they are certainly not necessary and transport of choice for most visitors is the bicycle! Miles of flat cycle tracks between villages, through beautiful farmland, vineyards, salt marshes and along coastline, is the only way to travel around and to appreciate this gorgeous place.
How lucky we were with the weather...
Ile de Ré lived up to its reputation completely....unspoilt, friendly and stylish and although attracting many tourists especially in July and August, it had no hint of any tacky commercialism. Early and late summer are the perfect times to visit, and with similar temperatures to the Cote d'Azure and a record level of annual sunshine the weather is pretty reliable. Beautiful shops and restaurants and local produce for sale. The island is renowned for its open stretches of salt marshes and oyster beds.
Saint-Martin-de-Ré the capital, is a beautiful fortified town and port dating back to the 1600's. More bustling than the other villages, it has many lovely restaurants and shops and historical sites.
If like me, you have a 'thing' for shutters you would love the beautiful houses with their tasteful colour pallet of green, blue, grey and cream shutters....like a visual 'Farrow and Ball' colour chart!
Peaceful little back streets, with the last of the wild hollyhocks which grow in profusion around the island.
Another favourite place was 'La Flotte', described as one of the prettiest villages in France, where they had the loveliest of markets in the old medieval square.
Who doesn't love a French market? Ile de Ré's were amongst the best I have ever seen. Held in every village daily with a wonderful array of fresh produce, beautiful baskets and quality clothing and accessories....it is not often you see cashmere sweaters for sale in a market!
Then there are the beaches....miles of pristine, clean sandy stretches, particularly on the south of the island. At this time of year there was hardly a soul there, and leaving our bikes parked by the dunes, we enjoyed gorgeous long walks in the sunshine daily.
All that cycling, walking and shopping in markets certainly works up a hunger, and we were spoilt with the most delicious seafood imaginable.
Along the coastal cycle path heading out of Saint Martin, are three simple beach shack restaurants which all serve the freshest oysters, crevettes and clams...luxurious in its simplicity and quality, with views out over the Atlantic. Our absolute favourite lunch spot!
It is hard to choose a favourite from the ten or so main villages, but La Couarde sur Mer had a particular charm. Small cafes and boutiques based around a pretty church in the centre and its own stretch of beautiful beach. Just a twenty minute cycle ride from our hotel in Le Bois Plage en Re....which we made in super speedy time coming back from supper one night in the pitch dark on our bikes through the vineyards! (a little out of my comfort zone?!)
Every turn was a feast for the eyes...doors, shutters, flowers, and houses new and old were so beautifully cared for. A lot of understated style amongst the nature.
Four days of sunshine, fresh air, visual beauty and peace was such a tonic, and felt like a much longer holiday....leaving us refreshed and relaxed....if not a little saddle sore!
Ile de Ré we love you, and shall most definitely return...
Wishing you all a very happy week!
PS. Have you visited this beautiful little island? I would love to hear!