What to do in Ile de Re

Off the French coast by La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime), Ile de Ré (pop. 12,000) is a narrow flat island 30 kilometres long. Of all the Charentais islands, Ré is undoubtedly the most popular, it is the premier French weekend and holiday destination. Attracted by the island’s beauty, many artists, writers and painters bought salt-workers’ and fishermen’s houses in the 1960s, and the island started becoming fashionable, a trend which has lasted to present day. The beauty of Ile de Ré is that whilst it is undoubtably exceptionally chic it has managed to retain all its authentic charm with white lime-washed, shuttered houses and narrow streets full of flowers and cobbles.

In the north, the Fier d’Ars-en-Ré is a patchwork of mudflats and salt marshes, where every kind of wader and bird of prey is to be found. The flat-bottomed boats, the rakes of the salt-gatherers, the oyster beds and the scent of the moorland give Ile de Ré a romanticism without equal.

The island is famous for its oysters, potatoes and salt. Salt is collected from salt farms towards the western end of the island. All the islands produce can be enjoyed in the many restaurants scattered throughout the island’s villages.

St Martin

St. Martin is the picture-postcard-pretty capital of the island. Its 17th century citadel and ramparts were built by Vauban, architect to Louis XIV, to protect the town from repeated attacks by the Dutch and English.

The quayside with its many cafes, bistros and brasseries to enjoy oysters, and assorted fruits de mer, is perfect for a meal washed down with a glass of local wine as you watch the world go by.

As the island’s capital it is the perfect base from which to explore. Being in the middle of the island makes it easy to visit all 10 towns on the island with a bit of pedal power. Yet, there are also plenty of facilities within the town for those changeable days and those lazy days where you just want to go to a local market and stock up, without having to go to far.

Beaches and Bikes

The waters around Ile de Ré are loved by all watersports enthusiasts – windsurfers, yachtsmen, rock poolers, boogie boarders and sailors. The Atlantic Ocean is much less dangerous here than in other areas of the mainland coast so bathing is recommended for all.

The island is famous for its beautiful bike rides and hiring a bike is the ideal way to see the island. Whether you are young or old, hiring a bike is the best way to see the island at your leisure – it is by far the easiest and healthiest way to travel. There are over 60 miles of cycle paths linking all the main villages and beaches. The island is exceptionally flat, so hard work is kept to a minimum! There are many hire shops so it’s easy to hire bikes for all abilities as well as child seats, tag-a-longs or chariots for the younger amongst us.

The bike routes are dedicated to cyclists in most parts and shared in the towns.

Family Holidays

Plenty to do in a week or two, enjoy the pool if things get to hot or to cool down after a family cycle ride. Enjoy local water sports, tennis and golf. Get ready for the family barbeque and habitual table tennis championship.

Whilst Maison Fleurie is on one level, the few steps in and around the house have fences and gates so that these areas should be safe for supervised children. Slumber the baby in a travel cot and feed the little darling in a high chair both available on request.

A wide selction of DVDs, books and games will keep children amused whatever the weather.

Activities

All 10 towns on the island are worth exploring, La Flotte has a superb medieval market and harbour, Ars has a great market and some great scenery. St Marie is perfect for rock pooling. The lighthouses at St Clement are worth a visit, perhaps via the salt marshes. The beaches in La Noue are of the perfect sandy variety and kids love the waves. The watersports centre is a short ride from St Martin (sailing, windsurfing…), and horseriding, tennis or even golfing are all readily available. Because all the natural open spaces such as:- the vineyards, forests, salt marshes, oyster farms, are preserved this means the island remains unspoilt and a delight to explore.

We believe, whatever your situation, you cannot fail to have an enjoyable holiday in Maison Fleurie. There really is something for everyone – it is a haven and inspiration for artists, writers, cyclists, walkers, birdwatchers, gourmets, explorers, fishermen and sailors.