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.
If you are already thinking holidays and 2018, next year there are going to be more routes from the UK to the island’s airport in La Rochelle. Jet2 have announced a new service from Leeds starting in the spring.
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.
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
It’s what I was thinking as the weather in England appeared to be deciding “That’s enough summer for now.”
So, time for an end of season trip back to the sunshine?
Above is the beach at La Couarde at high tide.
Below the tide is out…
One of the many delights of the Ile de Ré is that the beaches are always changing. As the tides turn everything is refreshed and renewed. In addition because the tide times change, one day you can visit in the morning and there’s a massive expanse of flat smooth sand yet several days later you reach the beach at high tide and it’s a quite different scene.
If you fancy a bit of blue sky and sunshine in September our house in St Martin de Ré is still available for part of the month. Details on how to book are here…