Last Saturday, we headed off to La Rochelle with my Mum and Chris, who were staying with us for 10 days. The weather has been fantastic for the last week, and it registered 30 degrees (86f) as we drove in to the town. The plan was to head for the Vieux Port (the old harbour) and find somewhere for lunch.
We sat outside at a small restaurant called Le 28, which like many others, specialise in the oysters from the Ile de Ré – unfortunately I don’t like oysters, so I had a very nice seafood salad. We ate lunch looking out over the old harbour, and either side of the entrance are the two towers in the photo, on the right is Tour St-Nicolas and on the left Tour de la Châine, a huge chain used to be strung between them to stop attacks from the sea (any Master and Commander fans should recognise the port!). There are beautiful buildings surrounding the harbour and there are many cobbled streets, perfect for exploring on foot.
We went for a quick wander down to the harbour entrance, then headed back through the streets to L’Arsenal where we’d parked. We’ll go back and do some proper exploring (shopping…) as we’d also planned to head on to the Ile de Ré.
The Ile de Ré has long stretches of sandy beaches and it is known for it’s rich birdlife. It has been connected to the mainland since 1988 by a 3km long bridge. It has 10 villages, with lots of very pretty houses. It does get busy in the summer months, but doesn’t feel too crowded as a lot of visitors cycle rather than drive around. As we came over the bridge there was an amazing spectacle of kite surfing on the sea, but we’d picked up speed by then and the photos didn’t come out too well!
John and I have been to the Ile de Ré a few times, always ending up at the charmingly named Ars-en-Ré, which has a lovely harbour surrounded by a few restaurants and shops. So this time we went to St-Martin-de-Ré, which is the island’s main village. The main road into the village was blocked off by the gendarmes, so having parked up in a large field full of cars and coaches, we walked back into town, past the 17th century ramparts and lighthouse. There was music, people everywhere, some sort of fête was going on.
Turns out it was a football tournament!
St-Martin-de-Ré is very pretty, and the harbour area feels very calm and laid back, the buildings all have a beautiful whitewashed feel to them, accented with woodwork and shutters painted in soft blues and greens, reflecting back the colour of the water in the harbour.
We stopped at a bar/brasserie, Le Serghi, and sat under the white umbrellas watching the world drift by.
A walk up the ramparts to the lighthouse and then home, a great day out.
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