13 In Style/ Travel

Postcard from Île de Ré

So, I’m in Ile de Ré, a small (33 square mile) island just off of the west coast of France (more on that below).  Because of the local colour scheme and the often cool mornings and evenings, I bought this cornflower-blue and white striped cashmere poncho specifically to wear here. When I saw it in a shop a few months ago, it screamed ‘Ile de Ré’ to me.  See what I mean?  I’m practically camouflaged in my surroundings!


les portes bleuPoncho: Cashmere Silk Company Sunnies: ZeroUV Jeans: M&S Sandals: old Kurt Geiger 

bleu les portes

mother and sonMy son and I, always exploring

One thing I love about Ile de Ré is the architectural consistency; all of the shutters and doors on the island are painted in washed out shades of blue, green, or grey.  The island is authentically quaint and un-messed-with.  Even though it is a very expensive place to buy property now, it retains a cozy, luxuriously slouchy vibe. Some refer to it as the French version of Cape Cod.  The houses are mostly modest fishermans’ cottages (or ex-fishermans’ cottages) with a ramshackle quality that is enhanced by the wild flowers allowed to grow anywhere their roots can find purchase.  They don’t do manicured gardens here; everything is meant to look slightly wild and unkempt.  The island isn’t fancy or glamorous (no celebrities, no oligarchs, no super-yachts, no Ferarris), but it has an understated beauty and a unique style that is completely Ré. My husband’s family has been coming here every summer for over forty years; after my four summer holidays here and plans for next year, it looks like this is becoming my tradition too!


fish lace curtainFish curtains, because why not

In August, Ile de Ré is packed to the rafters with Parisian families in SUVs and on bicycles, all flocking to the beaches, markets, and restaurants, and choking up the small two-lane roads that snake through the island. The rest of the year (including September, my preferred month here) it relaxes back into its unassuming, friendly, weather-worn, tranquil ways.  The beaches are quiet, the roads are open, and the markets are calm. The people who vacation here are mostly French; I hear a few Spanish or British accents from time to time, but it is rare.  The local population in winter is around 20,000 people, but in summer this goes up to 220,000!  There are 10 different villages (or ‘communes’) dotted along the island; my favourites are Les Portes, Loix, and St Martin, so my photos are all from there.  

DSC_6237 Map from the boulangerie wall in St Martin

Ile de Ré doesn’t produce a lot; it is an island of salt and seafood, with some donkeys (historically, for transporting salt) and goats (for cheese) thrown in. They also grow grapes for making wine, but the wine is horrible. Other foods (and better wine) are brought in via the 2 mile narrow bridge that connects the island with mainland France (lower right in the map above).  Here are some photos I took to give you a sense of the place.

house in les portesHouse in Les Portes

les portes Cul de sac in Les Portes

blue shuttersLight blue shutters with original beam

DSC_6389Hollyhocks (or Rose Trémière) are everywhere

les portes lane Another sweet overgrown lane in Les Portes

les baleinesThe beach of Les Baleines

worn stairs Cottage doorstep, scooped out from decades of wear

les portes An abandoned house I always fantasise about buying in Les Portes

Les Portes Moulin Another fantasy house (a former mill)

Loix The main square in the village of Loix

Salt harvesting Salt harvesting pools near Loix

sea saltSea salt

If you ever find yourself on Ile de Ré, be sure to have the artisinal ice cream at La Martiniére (on the corner in the photo below).  Their version of the island specialty ‘carasel’ (shorthand for ‘caramel au beurre sale’, salted caramel) is amazing.  The island also grows very flavoursome little potatoes, so there is a potato ice cream too.  I once even tried oyster and caviar ice cream here; I wouldn’t have it again, but it isn’t as awful as it might sound!  They also have other unique flavours like poppy, strawberry-pepper, and peach-lavender alongside staples like coconut, dark chocolate, and rum raisin.  They usually have around 70 flavours on any day.  Did I mention they make their own cones?  They’re so delicious my son eats them like a cookie, with no ice cream!

st martin la martiniere La Martiniere in the busy port town St Martin

crab and oysters Gorgeous fresh seafood in the market

St Martin The busy tangle of boats, sails, and people in St Martin

 Ile de Ré is an off the beaten track destination (unless you’re French), but well worth the trip… especially if you’re not a fan of beaches (I’m not) because there is so much else to do.  What lures me back is the superb style… I’m a sucker for anywhere that doesn’t feel like everywhere else, and I don’t think anywhere else has the same unique French cozy/luxe fishing-village style as Ile de Ré.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Lana
    September 14, 2015 at 5:56 PM

    Thank you for sharing this lovely island today. Just looking at the pictures made me happy! The ice cream sounds wonderful -except for the oyster flavor. Love the poncho – so pretty on you!

    • Reply
      Lisa
      September 14, 2015 at 6:18 PM

      Oh, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it Lana! I was worried I was boring people with too many photos. Thank you xx

  • Reply
    michelle
    September 14, 2015 at 6:05 PM

    What a gorgeous little treasure you’ve shared!I absolutely can imagine myself strolling along those little narrow lanes, admiring the white wash & shades of blue. Your cape is amazing & so perfect for the island, the photos are beautiful. Love your description of peak season 😉 sounds like september is the perfect time to enjoy the best of what Ile de Re has to offer although I won’t be trying oyster icecream any time soon!

    • Reply
      Lisa
      September 14, 2015 at 6:20 PM

      LOL! My father in law and I are MAD about ice cream, so we decided to try it together, as a flavour adventure. It is such a lovely island, and very child friendly for your needs too! You’d like it, I think. xx

  • Reply
    Suzy Turner
    September 14, 2015 at 7:22 PM

    It really looks beautiful there! I’ve never been to France, you know? Sad really. However, we will be driving through in December when we drive back to the UK from Portugal (where we live). I’m so excited, I almost hyperventilate at the thought already lol!
    Love the poncho, by the way… especially the way you’re so camouflaged there!
    Suzy x
    http://www.suzyturner.com

    • Reply
      Lisa
      September 14, 2015 at 7:59 PM

      Ooooo! You’ll love France, Suzy. I can’t wait to see what you think! Thank you xx

  • Reply
    adrian
    September 15, 2015 at 5:52 PM

    Lovely photos of a lovely island. We’ve been going back so often we’ve ended up buying a house in St Martin.

    You say it’s off the beaten track. It’s easy to visit from the Uk. There are planes to La Rochelle while St Pancras – Paris – La Rochelle is an easy & comfortable train ride. The bus for the short hop onto the island connects with the train.

    You can see out house here…

    https://islandholidayhome.wordpress.com/our-house-on-ile-de-re/

    • Reply
      Lisa
      September 15, 2015 at 8:15 PM

      Of course, we fly into La Rochelle. Many of my readers are in the US, and for them it is WELL off the beaten track.

  • Reply
    Abby
    September 15, 2015 at 9:30 PM

    Hello Poncho – Goddess!
    Amazingly beautiful pictures! It makes you feel as though you’re right there in the Island. And I loved to see the little Stylopedia too:) Counting days until October!
    xx Abby

    • Reply
      Lisa
      September 15, 2015 at 9:36 PM

      Thank you, Abby! Can’t wait to see you too! xx

  • Reply
    Lee Ann
    September 19, 2015 at 1:48 PM

    What a beautiful place! Great photos to show us the charm of the island.Love the poncho and this color!

    • Reply
      Lisa
      September 19, 2015 at 4:15 PM

      Thank you, LeeAnn! I’m so pleased you like it. xx

  • Reply
    Emma Peach
    June 14, 2016 at 5:19 PM

    Beautiful photos of such a charming place! I would love to visit one day. The peach and lavender ice cream sounds delicious!

    Emma xxx
    http://www.style-splash.com

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