Friday, 27 May 2011

A Very Fond Farewell To Ile De Ré

As our two weeks in Ile De Ré draw to a close I'm offering some advice for visitors to the island as my final blog. If you've read any of the blogs over the last fortnight you will know that we've had a great holiday and it's certainly a wonderful place to visit. But to make the most of it you have to get things right. 

Firstly, make sure that your accommodation is in a good location. We stayed with iledereholidayhomes who have four properties on the island and all are in great positions. Last time we visited we stayed in a remote bungalow which meant eating in or taking the car every time we went out for a meal which in turn prevented us from enjoying the local wines and aperitifs. Being located in St Martin (the largest and ,in our opinion, the best of the island's towns and villages) gave us the opportunity to stroll down to the harbour every evening and watch the people promenading whilst enjoying an aperitif in the Colonnes bar or eating at Bistrot Marin.

And by booking with a private firm like www.iledereholidayhomes you can be assured of the personal touches that are often overlooked by bigger operators. Our house (Maison D'Aquitaine) was beautifully furnished with antique but comfortable furniture that worked so well with the character of this old building beside the magnificent ancient church. It had all we could need, including wifi (essential), Digital TV (not essential but great for listening to Radio 4), an iPod dock and as many other mod cons as you could want plus a nice bath and comfy bed.

Ile De Ré is perfect for cycling with kilometers of safe cycle tracks criss-crossing the island through woods and along (low) cliff tops. Being flat, the cycling is easy and there is a plentiful supply of bikes to hire at reasonable prices. We opted for the cycle hire just behind Le Phare Pizzeria on the quay at St Martin (La Maison De Velocipedes). We used this same hire shop last time. The proprietor Antoine is charming, his prices are reasonable and the bikes are good. We had no problems but four years ago I got a puncture in a remote spot and he drove out with a replacement bike in no time at all. We cycled for an average of four hours every day. A couple of recommended routes are from St Martin to La Couarde along the coastal track and a similar ride from St Martin to La Flotte again along the coastal track (keep straight on past the little fun fair and on leaving the town go straight ahead with the car park to your right and go through the prison gates and through the prison car park). Two longer routes are from St Martin to Le Phare De Beleines and back via Loix (enjoying lunch at La Route De Sel) and from St Martin to Rivedoux Plage (lunch at Le M) and back through Sablanceau, St Marie, La Noue and La Flotte.

But if you aren't into cycling there are plenty of excellent beaches which are ideal for children and also for fishermen, wind surfers and sailors.

If you've been reading this blog you will think that we are a pair of gluttons but the food here is so good that opportunities to eat to this standard rarely come our way and we made the most of it. Some recommendations follow. There are a few places that we wouldn't recommend but I won't be churlish and name them. I've added a few guide prices. These are based usually on just two courses plus an aperitif and an inexpensive wine (we weren't that greedy and normally shared starters and desserts).

This tea room L'Atelier in La Flotte is run by the people who run the excellent ice cream parlour La Martiniere in St Martin. The coffee is great and comes with a delicious macaroon, the place is spotless and the waitress in lovely. Strangely it was often empty when the neighbouring bar was packed but we went back time after time.

Here's a super little place for an inexpensive snack en route whilst cycling. Ici et la in La Noue serves a wide variety of snacks. We had four lovely tapas between us including calamares fried in the lightest batter imaginable, tasty meatballs and some lovely garlic mussels. Together with two glasses of pineau, some wine, a shared dessert and coffee the bill was 34 euros.

We pushed the boat out yesterday with a trip to L'Ecailler in La Flotte for a three hour blow out lunch. My red mullet and anchovy starter (above) was so fresh that the fish must have been landed that morning and the creme caramel souffle was perfect. This is at the pricier end of the scale and the lunch was just under 180 euros although we did have three courses each, an aged pineau as an aperitif and a better bottle of wine than usual. Service was charming with the waiters and the lady proprietor extremely attentive.

Others I've already mentioned are La Route Du Sel at Loix (a great lunch stop for about 60 euros for two - do try the duck breast or the lamb cutlets). Le M at Rivedoux another great lunch stop. A higher standard than Loix in a lovely seaside setting (about 80 euros for two). The pizzeria Le Phare here in St Martin for an excellent pizza in a relaxed child friendly atmosphere (about 50 euros for two). Le Serghi on the quay for fine dining (slightly north of 100 euros for an excellent dinner for two) and our favourite the Bistrot Marin. This is pub grub of the highest quality in a buzzing atmosphere. It's frequented by all the locals and is always lively. The food is great and the bill with drinks would normally be about 70 to 80 euros. We ate there four times - more than any other place.

Stop press. The cote de boeuf at Bistrot Marin - carnivore heaven.

I hope that this might help anyone thinking of a break in  Ile De Ré. If you want any information get in touch via the comments. Bon Vacances