Ile de Re
Dec 11, 2011
|10/12/2011: Leaving Biarritz (reluctantly), we are heading northward along the coast. Decided our next port of call will be a small coastal town by the name of Saint Martin de Re, located on Ile de Re, and island off the coast from La Rochelle.
Weather doesn't look too promising - cloudy, foggy and raining.
Arrived at Ile de Ree at about 2pm. Looks like it will be everything we thought it would be. After the initial shock of paying 12 euros to drive over the bridge from the mainland to the island, we soon encounter a series of small hamlets on the island, each with its own character.
A strange sight is encountered - a paddock full of donkeys. Must remember to check the menus for any strange dishes (remembering from our last trip that horse was a delicacy in Verona).
The hotel we have chosen is Hotel Le Galion, located in the village of Saint Martin de RE, on the northern edge of the island. We have struck gold here. Located on the foreshore of the island, our room has a view of the sea wall and the ocean beyond. Only a five minute walk to the port area and restaurants and shops. This looks like being a most comfortable place to camp for a couple of days. We spent the afternoon just wandering around the largely deserted streets (obviously a summer place) to get a feel for the place (and work out where we go for our evening meal).
More to follow .........
11/12/2011 Exploration day today. We had planned to hire a couple of bicycles today and explore the island. However, weather has turned to crap - 8 degrees and wet n windy. so, exploring by car is the order of the day.
First order, however, is breakfast. Decided to forgo the hotel breakfast and get something in the town. First mistake of the day. Now, one of the advantages of touring Europe in the winter is that you have the place to yourself, no hordes of tourists to contend with (we haven't heard a single english voice in 12 days). Also, one of the great things about touring regional areas rather than the traditional big cities, is that you get to see a side of countries not usually mentioned in travel brochures. But, the big disadvantage is that lots of places tend to close up for the winter, or they only open for a few days a week. Ergo, no breakfast, which means no coffee (Julie is already tapping her fingers in frustration). All was not lost however. We eventually found a place which was open, a corner Tabac (cross between a bar/cafe/betting shop/newsagent/& tobacconist). The inside smelled like an ashtray so we elected to sit outside, under a canvas awning which proved to be almost weatherproof against the light rain. We managed to convey a request for breakfast, only to be told that the kitchen was closed until some unspecified time later in the day. The bar attendant did agree to make us some coffee however, so all was not lost (Julie is now a bit calmer, and therefore so am I). We have now found the worst coffee in all of Europe, I'm sure the spoon was bigger than when I first stirred the evil looking brew.
Anyway, now being sufficiently fueled up off we went. Besides, we can always get something later on (remember the first mistake?). The island is utterly charming. We were mesmerised by the charm of each of the villages as we drove around. Some were mundanely urban in their appearance, some were obviously fishing ports, some were based around the salt ponds which dot the island (salt production appears to be the main agricultural activity), and one or two didn't appear to have any real purpose at all, save to provide shelter and protection.
It wasn't until a last stop of the day, La Flotte, that we finally encountered some signs of commercial activity, and the chance to grab a bit of lunch. Chose a bar/cafe which had the most people in it and which didn't smell like an ashtray inside. Have we mentioned that EVERYBODY in France seems to smoke? And they have little or no regulations concerning smoking inside or around food service areas. Been many a time when we have walked into a place for a drink, then straight out again. So, lunch. After trying to decipher the menu (even with the help of the waiter who spoke a little english), we asked for a couple of burgers and fries (sonds really French huh?). BEST BURGERS EVER!!!! Filled with succulent juicy beef pattie, on a bed of grilled tomato and melted cheese, with a potato rosti in the middle - absolutely divine!!! Coupled with a couple of cups very passable coffee, and we were content once again.
And that was the Ile de Re. A thoroughly fascinating place. A little off the beaten track perhaps, but that's what we have tried to do throughout this trip. And so far we haven't been disappointed.