Sardines from Monsieur Bordin in St Martin de Ré market
Picnic with island lemonade
The island music school
This bike’s travelled the length and breadth of the island
The vines are harvested in September
A 10 minute walk from our house
The wilder north coast
Oysters at La Cible
Adieu our dream island
Summer may be over in many places but the sun is still shining on the Ile de Ré.
Despite Covid our holiday home in St Martin de Ré has been rather busy. In part because so many French people have wanted to stay on one of the country’s favourite islands. Now the schools are back the house is quiet again so if you fancy an autumn break, check availability here.
Ryanair are still flying from Stansted to La Rochelle. It’s a short taxi ride from there to our home. You won’t need a car, as there are cycle routes everywhere and plenty of bike rental shops.
You can even get to the Ile de Ré by train. Take the Eurostar to Paris then hop on the Metro to Gare Montparnasse and the TGV to La Rochelle. The island bus connects with the Paris train from just outside the station.
In Britain the talk is of fines for people who go on holiday abroad before the end of June but in France people are still going on holiday. We had two bookings last month during the vacances de hiver and someone else is planning an April visit.
Our agency has stepped up efforts to keep the property safe for renters. The house is thoroughly cleaned between rentals and a local laundry provides bed linen and towels that are left securely wrapped for you.
We don’t yet know when people from the UK will be able to travel legally abroad on holiday again but the ferry services and airlines are planning near normal frequencies on key routes this summer. La Rochelle airport will have near daily flights from London Gatwick and Stanstead. Bristol and Manchester are also back on the timetable along with Dublin.
You can also take the Eurostar to Paris and pick up a TGV to La Rochelle. SNCF is still to make its full summer schedule public but you can usually leave London around 8am and be on the island soon after 4pm.
To read more about our house in Saint Martin de Ré click here.
In this Covid winter I saw a picture of St Martin de Ré harbour and thought if only I could escape to the island now but it’s just not possible from where we are in lockdown.
The Ile de Ré has only really suffered from Covid in terms of a lack of tourists and a lack of business for the cafes, restaurants and other businesses – ours included – looking after them.
We are lucky. Someone has booked our holiday home for New Year. Hopefully they won’t have to cancel.
Joyeuses Fetes says the sign down on the harbour. December can be properly joyful on the island. Going through my photos from my last festive visit I found a rather tasty looking Croque Monsieur eaten outside in the sunshine at the lovely Place des Delices in Loix. Well worth the cycle ride to get there.
December can be remarkably sunny on the Ile de Ré and being on the beach around Christmas can only be a good thing. Oh and if you want a festive donkey. Well there are plenty around…
To see our house and book it for 2021 click here. You can also find us on airbnb.
2020 was going to be a great year for the Ile de Ré. Le Tour was coming. By February roads were already being resurfaced to be ready for the cyclists of the legendary Tour de France. Then came Covid-19.
Health wise the island has not been a Coronavirus hot spot but for somewhere that relies on tourism it has been hard. Luckily, Le Tour is back on, delayed until September and people are booking holidays again.
The island stage of the Tour de France will be finishing a few minutes walk from our house in Saint Martin de Ré. Full details of the Tour on the island are here. Cycling fans can enjoy a holiday on Ré and see how the professionals do it.
So if you are thinking I need a break after all that has happened, think about the Ile de Ré. There are beautiful beaches, amazing bike rides, lovely local seafood and even Rasta donkeys…
If getting to the Ile de Ré worries you post Covid, there are plenty of options to think about. La Rochelle airport is back in business with regular flights. Routes include London Gatwick, London Stansted, Manchester, Dublin, Geneva and Porto.
By train, TGV’s from Paris reach La Rochelle in under 3 hours. Eurostar sell through tickets from London.
The nearest ferry port from the UK is St Malo for Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth.
Some people are telling me they think the safest way is by car and if coming from Britain, using Le Shuttle.
However you get here, remember France is well ahead of Britain in terms of coming out of Covid, so there’s still plenty to enjoy. We can even do you a lovely sunset…
To read more about our house in Saint Martin de Ré click here.
It looks like your typical path down to an Ile de Ré beach but there’s more to it than that.
No! That’s not why it’s more than just a beach. There’s something a little more interesting. Something that sparked a bit of a queue the other afternoon.
For this is the way to part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall during the Second World War. More than four thousand kilometres of costal defences.
The concrete fortress may now look out on sunbathers but it had a much more serious use back in the day. For this is La batterie Herta. You’ll find it between Bois Plage and La Couarde. More than 2,500 German soldiers occupied the Ile de Ré during World War Two. One of their key jobs was keeping an eye on shipping in and out of La Rochelle. Anyone who has watched the tv series Das Boot will know about the U-Boats based in the city. Series two of Das Boot was filmed this spring, in part on the Ile de Ré.
More than 150 soldiers were based at this command post. 75 years on it’s remarkable how much has survived. Elsewhere on the island, German relics have been removed because they were falling into the sea thanks to the erosion of the dunes. Of course it wasn’t just the Germans who understood the importance of the Ile de Ré. Three hundred years earlier the English fought for three months trying to take control of Saint Martin de Ré from the French. They failed and luckily we are now all welcome as tourists. You can found out more in the island museum just down the road from our holiday home.
To check availability for our house in Saint Martin de Ré click here.
Yes the sky really is this blue on the Ile de Ré. Now we are into April there are plenty more days like this every week. You might still think twice about swimming but that doesn’t mean you can’t go in the water.
If zipping up a wet suit isn’t you, then the warm spring sunshine is ideal for a long walk along the coast.
These pictures are taken midweek in the morning. This time of year the beaches are close to empty. These shots include La Couarde and Bois Plage, all a short cycle ride from our holiday home in St Martin de Ré.
We still have some availability in late July and August. Otherwise, late September and early October are always good times to be on the island. It can feel like you are stretching the summer. It’s just a short hop on the bus or by taxi from La Rochelle Airport or train station.
There’s more information about our house and a booking calender here. You can also book via Airbnb.
2019 is going to be a very different year for our house on the Ile de Ré. If you want to book a holiday at our home in St Martin de Ré you will need to get in early. The place is already occupied for much of spring and early autumn. Currently most of July and August are available.
Oléron, the next big island down the coast towards Bordeaux, got its bridge back in the 1960’s. The Ile de Ré had to wait until 1988. Importantly, that meant the island could benefit from Oléron’s mistakes. From the start the Pont de Ré has been a toll bridge. Now it’s called an Écotaxe, with the money raised going to fund work on things like protecting the beaches and boosting the local buses. The toll has helped limit the crowds.
There is a very special feeling as you drive on to the bridge and get your first glimpse of the island. You drive steadily uphill and then there it is…
Before the bridge, there was the ferry. Islanders called it le Bac. In summer you could queue for hours to get across. When it shut at night, the island was cut off. Miss the last ferry back after a night out in La Rochelle and you would be stranded till morning. More importantly, if an islander needed urgent medical help, they too would have to wait.
This is all that remains of the way to the ferry. I know people, both English and French, who knew the island before the bridge. Holidays on the Ile de Ré were clearly more of an adventure back then. I am sure I would have loved to use the ferry but you have to admit the bridge makes life so much easier.
To see pictures of our home in St Martin de Ré and check availability for this summer, click here.
I am always pleased when I time my daily walk round the harbour in St Martin de Ré just right and one of the small boats that fish from the Ile de Ré is coming in complete with catch. A previous blog post higlighted Jemapa. This time it’s an even smaller craft, the P’tit Jules.
You can be staring out to sea and then you realise that little dot getting ever closer is one of the last petit bateau as they are called here. In this case, the boat owned and operated by Hugues Moinard. That’s him in his blue and yellow fisherman’s gear.
It takes only a few minutes to land the day’s catch and then load it into the white van that’s been waiting for the boat to come in. In fact the arrival of a van quayside is often a sure fire sign that a boat is due. The driver is thrown the P’tit Jules’s ropes so she can moor safely and then the fish is removed ready for market or sometimes to be delivered straight to an island restaurant.
Life as a small boat fisherman isn’t easy. Hugues is frequently setting sail before first light and getting back into harbour well past lunchtime. The P’tit Jules is one of a dieing breed. In the 1960’s there were some 150 island fishing boats. Now they are down to single figures. If you want to taste some of the fish caught by Hugo le Pêcheur that’s easy. Part of the catch regularly makes it the few metres from the quay into the kitchen of L’Avantport restaurant in St Martin de Ré. You can walk to the restaurant from our house. Click here to rent our holiday home.
In 2018 the Ile de Ré will be connected to even more of the UK. Jet2 will be flying to La Rochelle/Ile de Ré from Leeds Bradford starting in June. You can also fly from Birmingham, Bristol, Gatwick, Manchester and Southampton . In addition Ryanair flies all year round from London Stanstead. Ideal for a bit of winter sunshine on the Ile de Ré.