What do you want from your holidays? Some say lie on a beach in the sunshine and relax. Others want to walk the streets of new cities. Maybe you would rather enjoy the coolness of art galleries and museums. I quite like the bike, beach and brocante option available many weekends on the Ile de Ré.
This was the scene in La Flotte a few Sundays ago. The regular Brocante is just a few minutes cycle ride from our house in St Martin de Ré. We have been quite lucky at the La Flotte broc. Quite a few things in our house were bought there. Though not these monks…
May is a busy month for brocantes on the island. Ascension Day is always marked with a huge market on the Place de la Republique in St Martin. You can read about it here.
Most villages organise regular brocs but some weekends can be tough. Too many to choose from. Do you peddle to Rivedoux Plage for the broc there and then go up the island to Ars en Ré or Les Portes for another? Or maybe just do one and take it easy on the beach…
Whatever you choose, have a look at our house in St Martin de Ré. We still have some availability this summer and don’t forget the island is lovely in September. Everything is open, it should still be sunny and warm, it just it won’t be as busy.
Until I manage a Christmas on the Ile de Ré when it snows, I think this has to be my favourite festive island scene. This was taken outside the Café du Commerce in Ars-en-Ré a couple of years ago.
If you are lucky enough to spend Christmas on the island, you may even see a live nativity. Well the Ile de Ré is famous for its donkeys. Perhaps more importantly there are the wonderfully quiet beaches. On a bright, crisp and sunny day in midwinter they can be so beautiful. Great for walking off any festive over indulgence.
Ok, so sometimes the festive efforts can look a little tired but it is a much more gentle, less in your face Christmas than I am used to in the UK.
Last year, these lights were on the fortifications that make Saint Martin de Ré a UNESCO World Heritage site. I’m sure the soldiers that once guarded the place would never have expected to be replaced by giant baubles.
As Christmas is traditionally the time many people start thinking summer holidays, I should remind you that we are already booked for some weeks in 2017. You can check availability here.
It was a beautiful sunny day on the Ile de Ré for the the first big holiday weekend of bargain hunting at the island’s various brocantes. Even before nine in the morning buyers and sellers were busy just down the road from our house in St Martin de Ré . My eyes were drawn to a bit of Josephine Baker hair care.
If Bakerfix wasn’t quite what you were after you’d still find it hard to go home empty handed. There were so many stalls full of history.
We couldn’t stay too long though as the annual Ascension Day brocante in St Martin de Ré had been joined this year by a rival Broc in Rivedoux Plage.
This was a much smaller affair but you could at least look out to sea while browsing. That’s the bridge connecting the Ile de Ré to the mainland at La Rochelle inside the fish.
Two brocantes in one day, not bad but there was more to come. Three in fact in the next two days. First up La Noue.
In Sainte Marie-La Noue the brocante stretched along one of the main roads of the village. While at the other end of the island another road was blocked off for the broc in St Clément.
That chicken wasn’t going cheap but the next day in Ars there were plenty of bargains. Someone was clearly thinking summer…
Five brocantes in three days and there are plenty more to come. The island tourist offices have all the details. Our favourite is probably in the next village to us, La Flotte. The next one there is on June 12th.
I got down to the beach at La Couarde the other day and thought how lovely and empty it is. You could see all the way along the coast, Ars one way and down past Bois Plage the other. If you looked out to sea you could just make out the lighthouse on the Ile d’Oléron. Then I realised you could also make out tyre tracks.
As it was low tide, the tyre tracks made me think that as I wanted to go to Bois Plage, I might as well cycle there along the beach rather than through the vineyards.
Ok, so it’s not the greatest view looking down, checking where you are going and avoiding random rocks. However, it’s lovely looking across at the water while you are cycling.
I cycled as close to the waterline as I could, the sand was nice and hard so there was no chance of the bike sinking into the beach. I passed nordic walkers as well as this man out with his dogs. There were even a couple with buckets doing a bit of fishing on the rocks, pêche à pied, as the French call it.
See how empty the beach was. A weekday morning when the sun was struggling a little to get through the haze but it was still lovely out there and an easy cycle from our house in St Martin de Ré. To see more about that and find out how to book, click here.
Blue skies and empty beaches, what isn’t there to like about the Ile de Ré in December? I’ve written before about Christmas on the island, have a look here for some pictures. However in the weeks running up to the holiday it can feel like the island is yours and yours alone.
Out on the cycle route from St Martin de Ré to Ars you can be peddling for half an hour and not see anyone. In fact the best way to show any human activity is to photo your shadow in the winter sunshine.
The good thing is that while the paths and cycle routes are quiet you can still get a good meal. Places like Bistrot Marin in St Martin de Ré stay open through the winter, just taking a couple of weeks off for annual holidays.
Of course there are some Christmas lights up already. They’ve even been busy on the historic Vauban walls surrounding St Martin de Ré.
If you want to see our home in St Martin de Ré do have a look here. It’s already booked-up for the Christmas – New Year break but we are now taking reservations for 2016.
I could have started this latest post with yet another picture of the sea. Looking through the photos I take for blog, there are so many featuring the beaches and harbours, it’s hard to go water free. However, I’ve realised it’s the combination of land and sea that makes the Ile de Ré such a special place. It’s not just another seaside resort.
These first two pictures for a start. Both taken a 5 minute walk from our house in St Martin de Ré. The red house is known as St Martin’s oldest. Every village on the island has buildings that delight.
This is a bit of detail from the top of the famous black and white church in Ars. You can go up the tower for the view.
If buildings aren’t your thing, what about the donkeys? Curiously the one place you won’t see the island’s old working animals is on the beach.
Of course you never are far from the water. In fact all the pictures in this post are taken within 5 minutes by bicycle from the sea and that is why the island is so great. It has all the benefits of being surrounded by the sea but there’s more. Don’t get me started on the sunsets. This was the view one evening just down the road from our house. Lovely.
To see pictures of our house in St Martin de Re click here
If you are after a last minute summer holiday, click here. At the time of writing, the last week In August is free!
The Ile de Ré is a wonderful hoiday island for all sorts of reasons but one of the most important if not the most important is that it is so cycle friendly. As the main island holiday guide puts it “la bicyclette: your best friend to explore the island.”
From our house in St Marin de Ré you can cycle to the beach in as little as 5 minutes. A trip to the far north of the island is about 75 minutes. If you are feeling brave you can even take the bike route back over the bridge to the mainland and La Rochelle.
You can cycle to the beach. In fact you can cycle on the beach. It’s possible at low tide to make your way from Ars via La Couarde and Bois Plage down to Sainte Marie.
It can be hard going on the sand. Probably best to stick to the proper cycle routes. They go along the coast as well as inland. One section is as straight as a Roman road, evidence of its former use. From La Courade towards Ars you are on the trackbed of the island’s long gone narrow gauge railway. Elsewhere you cycle alongside the sea. It’s great to stop and listen for a few minutes. All you hear is the waves and the birds. Lovely.
Because the island is flat the only time cycling can be hard work is when the wind is against you. Yet as every trip is a round trip blustery days will also get the wind helping you. And if it’s too much like hard work you can always stop and say hello to the wildlife…
Don’t think it’s just the tourists who are cycling. Plenty of locals get on their velos too. After dark it can get a little interesting. We’ve cycled back to St Martin from an evening at the La Courade cinema. You end up going very slowly for fear of rabbits running across your path and the possibility of ending up in the sea. If you need a little help getting round on a bike the various rental shops have some impressive kit. I spotted this outside La Maison des Vélocipèdes in St Martin de Rè.
To see our house in St Martin de Ré and find out how to rent it click here