We chose Ile de Re for a week’s cycling holiday following rave reviews from friends and also, because it was so easy to get to from Southampton Airport. The flight was just one hour to La Rochelle, then a 30 minute taxi drive, and then Lunch on the quayside in the warm sunshine of St Martin (the main town on Re). Easy!
Ile de Re is a beautiful island in the Atlantic off the west coast of France, north of Bordeaux. It is joined to the mainland by an impressive 3km bridge at La Rochelle, which is great to drive over.
The island is mostly flat, and the landscape is a combination of beaches, vineyards, salt marshes, pine forests and little villages full of white washed cottages with green, blue or grey shutters and flowers growing around their front doors.
There are about a 10 villages on the island, all with beautiful markets on different days of the week. There are no fast food chains, big hotels or well-known high street shops here, which is part of its charm. However, the island has plenty of small fashion shops, art galleries, locally grown food, seafood and wine.
All areas are easily accessible by bicycle, which is by far the best way to get around. The island is criss-crossed with well-made and signposted cycle paths, so it is safe, easy and mostly flat cycling.
I would really recommend Ile de Re for a cycling holiday, which is relaxed and gently paced, with lots of beautiful scenery, great restaurants and wine.....and when we were there in September, the weather was fantastic too!
Favourite towns: St Martin, La Flotte and Ars en Re (guaranteed to raise a titter!)
Favourite cycle route: a coastal path from Loix to St Martin and La Flotte
Favourite Restaurant: Bistrot Marin on the quayside at St Martin
Favourite treat: ice cream from La Martiniere in St Martin. This ice cream shop is one of the Top 5 in France, and has a range of wonderful flavours to choose from, and a few wierd ones too. Look out for the Ile de Re oyster and caviar ice cream!
Favourite view: from the top of the church tower in St Martin at sunset. It is quite a precarious climb up a spiral staircase followed by some very narrow and rickety wooden stairs to the top, but the view is fabulous.
Favourite beach: Plage de la Loge at Les Portes en Re
Favourite Harbour: St Martin
Favourite market: Le Bois Plage
Cycle hire: we used Cycland bikes, which were great, and the bikes came with baskets for your picnics, lights and locks. The great thing about Cycland is that they have shops in just about every village, so if something needs fixing on your bike you can call in to the nearest village and get it fixed. Contacts: Cycland, St Martin 05 46 09 08 66 (no need to book in advance as there are literally thousands of bikes on the island)
Cycle maps: These can be obtained free of charge from any tourist information office on the island.
Accommodation: There is a wide range of accommodation available on the island ranging from boutique hotels to campsites and cottages. A very good place to find out about this is at www.holidays-iledere.co.uk
Flights: Flybe fly to La Rochelle.
Getting to Ile de Re from La Rochelle Airport: on arrival I pre booked and it worked very well. It cost around 45 Euros to St Martin. There are also good bus services to and from the island. Details of taxi, bus and car hire can be found on La Rochelle Airport's website.