St Tropez on the French Riviera and the Ile de Ré in Charente-Maritime share the same number of hours of sunshine. Both attract lots of tourists and celebrities in summer. But in other ways they could not be more different: bling-bling, showing off and the international jet-set on one side versus elegance, charm and locals for the Ile de Re.
Ile de Ré has a certain je ne sais quoi
Ré (as the locals call it) is a long, tiny, flat island just off the Atlantic coast, near La Rochelle. Composed of 12 villages, gorgeous little white houses and cobbled streets, beautiful vineyards, potato and asparagus fields, cycle tracks, stunning beaches and salt marshes. The court of Henri IV enjoyed holidays here and the island has been much loved ever since.
The authentic and simple charm of Ré is carefully cultivated by councils who impose restrictive construction rules. No overhead cables, no new building higher than two storeys and all shutters have to be painted in one of 16 shades of blue and green only…
3 top tips for a tip top visit to the Ile de Ré
Eat fresh and local real food.
Asparagus, wine, seafood, and cheese are just some of the local products that will make your stay really special. In June you’ll be able to enjoy the best strawberries on earth called Mara des Bois. We recommend you shop at a market for an authentic French experience. There are big farmers markets in Ars and Le Bois but we like the smaller markets at La Noue and La Flotte, the latter has been there since the 14th century. At these little markets, the farmers will show you how to pick the best produce – and they’re cheaper too.
Take a dip at sunset:
While there are many spots to watch the sunset, one of the best places is at La Conche des Baleines beach at the very end of the island. It is quiet, even in summer, as soon as families have left the silky sand to go for dinner. It’s often warm until late and if you are tempted, this is the place for a skinny dip. There is also a huge wild fig tree on the sand dune, loaded with delicious figs in September. But don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret!
Ice ice baby!
La Martinière is THE place to go for utterly delicious ice cream, a true institution on the Ile de Ré. Yes, it is very touristy and busy but it’s oh so worth it. Be warned, you may not be able to resist the waffles with home-made crème Chantilly and salted caramel sauce made with the Ile de Ré sea salt. They are seriously scrumptious!
French Connections has some wonderful rental homes on the island and close by – making your dream holiday come true…