I’m afraid I’ve gone overboard with the photos again today, I’m sorry but there is just so much to share!!
You’ve all read the novel, the story goes like this, the heroine (normally a writer) has a broken heart, she up sticks and goes off to an island where she rents a cottage overlooking the ocean. She walks down the deserted beach every day to clear her head and cycles into the local village port to do her shopping at the market and rides back with her provisions in a wicker basket on the front of her bike. Yep, we’ve all read it and we all think, “Oh if only that kind of place existed!” Well – it does! I’ve found it! It’s here off the mainland of France and it’s called Ile de Re. This is the kind of place that makes, even, me think I could stay here, holed up in a cottage and pen a best seller. It’s inspirational!
The approach to the island is very similar to gaining access to the Ile d’Oleron, a very long road bridge. The difference is that as you near the Ile de Re, there is evidence of white sandy beaches on both sides of the island … a good start. The island is 30 kilometres long and 5 km wide at the widest point. All the dwellings are low, not one block of flats to be seen, they are all white washed and all the paintwork is either, sage green, pale grey or blue, all muted colours, this gives a clean and airy feel to the whole island.
There are salt marshes, vineyards, oysters, beaches, wild meadows, beaches and donkeys! It is truly delightful. What I particularly love about the island is that someone had the foresight of installing over 60 miles of cycle tracks! And someone with a mean streak decided this would be the perfect place for a prison!! (I can’t imagine being locked up here, it seems really cruel) Apparently, you come here and hang up your car keys, they aren’t needed. As a result of this, it’s really quiet. I think it was Alistair McGowan that said if New York is the city that never sleeps then Ile de Re is the island that never wakes up! It’s a little bit like going back in time. I can’t find enough adjectives to describe it. As if that isn’t enough, the sun is out, the sky is blue, the mercury is rising and the birds are singing as though they’ll never be allowed to sing again.
OK so you get the gist, it’s nice here!! We’re on a Municipal Camp site which surprisingly is actually within the ramparts of the town of St Martin de Re. We settled in, plugged into the electricity and spent most of yesterday, cleaning the van and going back and forth to the laundry room. Once the clothes and the van were clean, it was our turn. We both took advantage of the spotless and empty shower block and we too were clean and shiny.
We thought a little stroll around the village was in order, we set off on foot through the little cobbled streets with pretty white houses to see what St Martin de Re had to offer. A port, and what a port, full of pleasure craft, (no surprise if I tell you the tide was out!) All the restaurants were open and the tables and chairs filled with beautiful people, eating and drinking and taking in the relaxing atmosphere. Most ports I’ve visited in France are a little higgledy-piggledy which I love but this is something else, all the buildings being white with pale shutters gives a very open and clean impression. We sat and took in the vibe which lowered blood pressure readings immediately. A real pleasure.
We slept really well, and this morning, surprise surprise, the sun joined us again. We got the bikes off the rack, pumped up the tyres and fixed on Charlie’s trailer. We acquired a map at the local tourist information office and set off for the next village, La Flotte. The ride was easy, the island is flat, no lycra leggings needed here, no professional groups of cyclists, (it’s not that much of a challenge!) We arrived in La Flotte which is rated as one of the most beautiful villages of France and we could see why, with it’s beautiful beach walk and it’s port, superb cobbled streets and 12th century market place. We decided to have a coffee in one of the cafes overlooking the port. It was busy, full of locals coming and joining their friends, kissing cheeks in a way only the French can do without bashing each other with their glasses and knowing in advance whether to go right or left! Old men, with wrinkled, brown skin, holding unlit roll ups, and drinking pastis at 11 in the morning, ladies wearing smart, winter, padded jackets, drinking espresso and smoking cigarettes, in a way that makes smoking look as glamorous as it did in the sixties. I could have stayed all day and watched.
However, we had a Charlie with us, and he needed a beach!! So we retraced our tracks back towards St Martin and turned off down towards the coast, there we found a lovely beach, not fine sand but wildly beautiful, surprisingly the boy didn’t fancy a paddle but was more than happy to just lie in the dry sand and take in the view as was I.
I can’t say enough about the Ile de Re, I can only imagine it would be bedlam here during the summer season, but honestly if you want a break, need to wind down or even want to write a novel, this is the place to do it!
Now please excuse me but I’m going to go and sit in the last rays of the sun and soak up the peace and quiet.