Our first day on the Île de Ré started with a beautiful sunrise followed by a nice little stroll along the sea. Hungry from our morning workout, we stopped in the pretty harbour of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, the capital of the island, for a typical French breakfast; fresh bread and jam, a pain au chocolat, and of course a big cup of hot coffee.
After breakfast, it was time to return to our cottage and get some more physical exercise. The Île de Ré is perfect for a bit of exploring by bicycle and, especially during the summer period, this is what a lot of people do. As we were lucky enough to have great weather in the middle of December, we decided to make the most out of it and go for a little bike venture ourselves.
One of the things I noticed while biking around the island was the smell. Not only does it smell of the sea (which is pretty obvious I guess), there was the smell of burning wood, the one that comes from people’s fireplaces being lit – everywhere we went, there was this particular smell- I loved it. There is something very wintery and cozy about burning fireplaces.
Nostalgic thoughts about burning wood aside, we went to do some food shopping on the market of Bois Plage. Our lunch was going to be a combination of pâté (‘le Rond de Ré’ for the experts amongst you) with bread, and several kinds of seafood (with mayonnaise of course). We were a little late, so the market was closing down when we got there, but if you can, try to go here for a little tour. There is nothing like a French market to buy some lovely food for your lunch or dinner; cheese, meat, seafood, bread, you’ll find anything you like, straight from the artisans most of the time.
On a more pedagogical note, the Île de Ré is known for it’s production of salt. You can see the ‘marais salants’ -square shaped fields, sometimes filled with water, from which the salt is harvested- when you’re driving around the island. Different types of this typical ‘Île de Ré salt’ are being sold of course.
Once our lunch ingredients were sorted, we -or I should say François-went for a quick swim in the sea while Fred and I were looking at our hero from the beach. The beach we were on is called la Plage des Gollandières. It’s quite wide and has nice, fine grained sand. A few hundred meters further down we saw some people kitesurfing which makes me think it’s a good spot to go to if you’re into this sport.
Refreshed and hungry again, we made a short stop in Bois Plage on our way back to the cottage to have a little bite before lunch . On a sunny terrace we enjoyed some delicious oysters -another thing the island is known for- with a nice glass of white wine. I can only recommend you do the same when you’re there. We had lunch at home and after that we were back on our bikes again, our destination: the village of La Flotte.
There are several villages on the island, all of them more or less on a bikeable distance from each other. According to my guides, the capital of Saint-Martin-de-Ré is amongst the more beautiful ones, but some of the other villages are definitely worth visiting as well. We saw La Flotte and Ars-en-Ré, besides of course Saint-Martin-de-Ré, and both were similar to me; small streets with the typical white houses and their green or blue painted shutters, cozy cafés and a lot of cute looking boutiques. Lovely to spend an afternoon strolling around before you return to that warm fireplace in your cottage!
So, it turns out that this little island on the Atlantic coast of France is a great destination during the winter. It might even be nicer here now than it is in the summer, who knows. One thing’s for sure, there’s no reason to let the seasons stop you from going to the Île de Ré.