Tag Archives: St Martin de Re

The Ile de Ré celebrates its bridge

One French newspaper puts it this way. Le pont qui a changé l’île de Ré a bientôt 30 ans.  This month marks 30 years since the Ile de Ré was physically connected to mainland France.  Three decades on and much has changed.  Though some things don’t. The other side of the bridge is still called  le continent.   Driving to our holiday home in St Martin de Ré the excitement mounts as we reach the bridge.

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.

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Small boat fishing on the Ile de Ré

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.

Celebrating a Saint on the Ile de Ré

This weekend lamps will be lit and a horse will parade along the streets near our house in Saint Martin de Ré.  It’s the annual Fête de la Saint Martin.  A small crowd will gather on the Place de la République and the fun will begin.

It’s a simple thing but it shows how Saint Martin de Ré is much more than just a holiday town.  There’s a year round community here.

This year’s parade starts around 6pm on November 11th, Saint Martin’s day.  It used to be a day for hiring fairs. With the harvest in, farm labourers would be looking for new jobs. Saint Martin is perhaps most famous for ripping his cloak in half so a beggar could survive a snowstorm. He was also known as a friend of the children, hence this parade.

To see pictures of our house on the Ile de Ré and to book it for your holiday click here.

 

Classic cars on the Ile de Ré

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The other weekend was France’s first ever Journée Nationale des Véhicules d’Epoque. If you think Fête de la Musique but with old cars rather than music you get the idea.  Seeing a vintage British vehicle on my way to the boulangerie made me smile.  You don’t have to go far to find a classic on the Ile de Ré.

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I spotted this Citroen van near one of the oyster shacks that are a few minutes cycle from our house in St Martin de . The island is a bit of a favourite for classic car runs.  So easy to drive round given the lack of hills and plenty of lovely scenery.

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There is something quite stylish about French cars from the years after World War Two.  Compare the Renault 4CV with a British Morris Minor.  Both spotted in St Martin de .

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One reason for this year’s vintage vehicle day was the crack down on old cars driving in Paris.  As far as I know there are no plans for anything similar on the island.  If there were then I can see some unhappy locals.  Alongside all the normal cars there are plenty of Mini Mokes and Citroën Méharis still in regular use on Ré. 

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If you want to bring your car to the island, vintage or not, the nearest ferry port with services from the UK is St Malo. It’s between 4 and 5 hours away in a modern vehicle.  Calais is a longer drive but you could always break the journey with a stop along the Loire.

If you are still thinking of a summer or autumn break, you can check avalability for our house here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bikes, Beaches and Brocantes on Ile de Ré

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

 

The Ile de Ré in UK cinemas

Yes that’s Joan Collins snapped in a 2CV filming on the Ile de Ré.  The results can finally be seen in UK cinemas this week with the release of The Time of Their Lives.  I thought now would be a good time to revist the filming in St Martin de Ré last summer…

Ask anyone French about celebrities linked to the Ile de Ré  and usually Charles Aznavour is the first name to be mentioned.  He immortalised one of the island’s many beaches in the song Trousse Chemise.  This year Joan Collins has been added to the list thanks to the filming of her latest movie, The Time of Their Lives. 

Joan has apparantly escaped her retirement home in the UK to say goodbye to an old flame at his funeral on the island.  They spent several days filming down the road from our house in St Martin de Ré.  The church being used for the funeral while the old 2cv was driven the wrong way up the quayside to get a more exciting hotel arrival on camera.

Watching the film crew at work was a holiday bonus for many. Sometimes it wasn’t always clear how much was going on.  It turned out the hotel arrival scene was being filmed from  across the water.  You can just make the camera out in this shot, to the right of the yacht’s mast.  The crowd may be able to spot the backs of their heads in the finished film when it comes out.

Alongside Joan Collins, we saw Pauline Collins and Ronald Pickup.  Sir Tim Rice is involved, working on the music.  Dame Joan has described The Time of Their Lives as Thelma and Louise mixed with a bit of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

To book our house in St Martin de Ré, or just find out more about it, click here.

Other Ile de Ré set films include Les Maris, les Femmes, les Amants back in the 1980’s.  More recently came Alceste à Bicyclette released in the UK as Cycling with Moliere.

Ile de Ré: One of France’s Best Holidays

 

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Last winter it was the New York Times that put the Ile de Ré on a best list.  Now The Times has done it.  Celebrating the island in its list of the 50 best French holidays and as one of the 10 best French breaks for families. I have to agree…

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Great beaches, lovely food and if you want to get on a bike, brilliant.  The island is a cyclist’s dream.  A network of cycle routes goes up, down and across Ré.  Pedalling is made that much easier by the lack of hills.

By bike you are never more than a few minutes from another beach.  Of course if four legs rather than two wheels is your kind of thing, there are always the donkeys.  On a good day you can hear them from our garden.

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There are more places to rent a bike than rent a car on the island.  A cycle certainly gets you to places you can’t drive to.  Your wheels will be handy for some of the oyster shacks.

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However you spend your day, be it on the  beach or just wandering the whitewashed villages, you need to be ready for sundown.  The island gets some brilliant sunsets.  We love the short walk from our house in St Martin de Ré  to see the amazing colours round the harbour.

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In summer St Martin de Ré has its own night market. You can have dinner at our favourite harbourside restaurant, Bistrot Marin and then check out the stalls as you wander home to dream of the next day. Hoping it will start with breakfast in the garden.

To find out more about our house on the Ile de Ré click here.

For the latest on availability check here.