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.
With summer finally over, it must be time to start thinking 2017. This week booking opened for next year on our agency website. So if you are thinking about the Ile de Ré for your next holiday, here are a few pictures of summer 2016 on the island.
The beach here is Bois Plage. The boats are in Saint Martin de Ré harbour, a five minute walk from our house.
Everyone we speak to about their experiences holidaying on the Ile de Ré says they find it very relaxing. Somehow somewhere wonderful. A place to recharge your batteries and be outside. The beaches, the cycling, the salt making, the vineyards and oyster shacks. Even the donkeys.
One thing that we did this year that we haven’t done before is have dinner at Plage de la Cible. It’s the nearest beach to our home, you can walk it in about ten minutes.
The sun was still out as we sat down. We walked home watching the sunset.
To see more pictures and book our holiday home in Saint Martin de Ré click here.
Anyone I know who likes cycling seems to have heard of the Ile de Ré. There is an obvious reason for that. Many see it as a paradise for cyclists. A relatively flat island coupled with miles of segregated cycle paths. Now the network has got a little longer.
For the past few years they have been wanting to connect the villages of La Flotte and La Noue. Until now the direct way was on a rather bumpy and busy road. The existing cycle route connected the two villages but only if you went the long way round via Sainte Marie de Ré. It always seemed a bit of an effort from our house in St Martin de Ré.
I can’t say the new link is the prettiest one on the island. However, it is a big improvement on the road. La Noue is always worth a visit. There are some very pretty old houses plus a market on the Place des Tilleuls.
As I write this, our agency will only let you book for the rest of 2016 online. However, if you call them, you can reserve the house for 2017. More details here.
“Jimmy Cliff’s playing the Ile de Ré !” It’s the kind of comment that makes you go “What?” However, it’s true, the man himself will be playing in the shadow of the island’s lighthouse this weekend.
Sadly we won’t be seeing Jimmy, but there is plenty of music just down the road from our house in St Martin de Ré. We caught these guys just the other week. They are called Shadja and they are all local or from La Rochelle.
The band went down a treat with a glass of wine at Le radeau de La Meduse. This little bar and art gallery opened a few hundred metres from our house last year.
Not only can you sit inside and enjoy the music close up, there’s the added bonus that you can be in Le radeau’s garden and still enjoy the band. Live music in the open air in the summertime. What’s not to like?
Our house is already booked through the Jazz au Phare festival but we still have availabilty for the end of August and early September. Check the calendar here.
Last week we cycled from our house in St Martin de Ré to Loix. The little village on the north coast of the Ile de Ré can often seem a little cut off from the rest of the island. In fact the main cycle route into Loix was split in two by the big storm Xanthia in winter 2010.
On bike, visits to Loix usually start at the tiny harbour complete with water mill. The pace always seems slower than on the rest of the Ile de Ré. The village enjoys life at a snail’s pace. This time we even shared the cycle route with a horse.
Because Loix sticks out from the middle of the island, you get to look back across Ré to see where you have come from. On very clear days it’s even possible to make out the bridge connecting the island to La Rochelle and the mainland.
Loix is not what it seems. There is more to it than just a sleepy village. There’s the salt business. An old fashioned book binders and even a goats cheese maker. You can go and see the animals being milked most days. If you fancy a little local produce, as well as the market, people sell on the doorstep. 50 cents in the glass gets you a lovely looking courgette.
Thinking of food, some say the island’s best oysters come from Loix. I’m no expert, though I do like one of the oyster grower’s ancient tractors.
When you visit the centre of Loix do check out the village tourist office. It’s certainly the friendliest on the island. They usually have interesting art or photography exhibitions and they are proud of the village’s designation as a “Citta Slow”. It means somewhere that celebrates the benefits of a slower pace of life. As you cycle back home you’ll get the message.
If you want to see Loix and the rest of the Ile de Ré yourself, we still have a couple of weeks in August and September when our holiday home in St Martin de Ré is free. Check for dates here.
So we needed a new tree for the garden. Clearly the only way to get it home was by bike. It’s what you do on the Ile de Ré.
The best thing about the journey back from Les Jardins de Suzanne in La Courade to Saint Martin de Ré was how most of the cyclists coming the other way didn’t seem surprised. Tree on back of bike? Why not?
The tree is now safely planted in our garden so hopefully next summer some lucky renter will get the chance to sample a few cherries from the garden.
You know when summer is drawing to a close on the Ile de Ré when the signs go up for La Fête du Coquillage. Basically it’s an excuse for a party organised by the users of the Saint Martin de Ré harbour.
Vast amounts of fresh seafood will be cooked and eaten on the harbourside; huîtres, moules-frites and vannets. All washed down with plenty of Ile de Ré wine. Musically expect sea shantys, accordians and live jazz. It starts in the late afternoon golden sun but after dark there will be dancing under the stars.
We’ve been before and will be going this Saturday. It looked like this before…
Of course if you want to be there next year you could always check out our house in St Martin.