L’Île de Ré

Did we mention that this is J’s favorite place in France? The last week has not changed that one iota. If you like biking, beaches, beautiful countryside, and good food, you really should visit. As we biked along the coast, through vineyards, and past salt marshes and salt pools, we had huge smiles on our faces. Of course, the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt – bright sunshine, 24C, a nice breeze to cool us as we rode – it really was perfect biking weather. We’ve had that on both of our other trips here as well. We’re starting to think that maybe two months in Lyon is too long and we should come back here for a week or two before we head home next June…

One essential element of a summer vacation here is …. moules frites! This time J tried the moules Rhétaise (mussels in the style of the Île de Ré), which have a curry cream sauce. Moules Rhétaise have jumped to the top of the favorites list, even above the mussels in a coconut-lime broth at a favorite restaurant back home.

A second essential activity is biking. We’ve never seen so many people on bikes in the US or France (Amsterdam is another story). Biking is how we found this place, actually – it was on the NY Times 52 places to go list in 2016 and the article said how great the biking is. So we visited that very year and fell in love.

And the final essential vacation element (anywhere really, not just here) is, of course, ice cream. You won’t see a larger crowd anywhere on the island than in front of La Martinière in Saint-Martin-de-Ré. It’s always a pleasure to walk around and see the boats while eating delicious ice cream.

This harbor is serious – it has a lock system to keep all the boats afloat when the tide is out. On the rest of the island the boats just sit on the bottom, totally dry. Our first view of La Flotte with the tide out always surprises me. Every boater here has to pay serious attention to the tide tables!

It looked like we were going to get wet…but we never did

Some beaches here are totally sandy but the one closest to us (five minutes by bike, at most) is a mix of sand and worn limestone. The water is warmer than it ever gets at home, so it’s not a struggle to get in. With so many nice beaches on the island, we’ve never felt even slightly crowded. Of course, the weather isn’t always perfectly sunny, but we enjoyed those days too.

OK, that’s the end of the tourist advertisement for the Île de Ré. But really, we can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re looking for a great place to decompress and do some biking… and if an e-bike is more your style, you’d be in good company here. There are few things more disconcerting than that moment when a well-dressed gray-haired lady flies by you like you’re barely moving… but then you see the battery pack!

Amazingly, we never heard another American voice during our visit. Lots of French, a fair number of British, a few Germans, … and us!

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