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Ile de Ré

Just outside of the Vendée, and just off its coast, this 30 kilometre island is connected to the mainland by the 2.9 kilometre bridge to La Rochelle and is in the administrative district of the Charente Maritime. In the Roman era it was in fact 3 islands but due to the production of salt and the process of silting up, it is now one island varying from about 2.5 kilometres wide at its widest point to only a few hundred meters at its narrowest.

The impressive bridge "Pont de Ré" is almost 3 kilometres long and joins the island to the mainland close to the commercial port and the airport at La Rochelle. Its construction in 1989 has allowed the island to develop, in particular the tourist industry. Today the island attracts vast amounts of visitors, some stay in the island’s many Hotels, Gites, guesthouses and campsites which festoon the island while others make the daily pilgrimage to take in delights that this island has to offer.

St Martin de Ré is the second largest of the towns on the island and probably the most interesting and most commercial with regard to tourism. The town is surrounded by 12 kilometres of fortifications with impressive entrance gates, high stone walls which are 2 metres thick and a moat that encircles the whole town. The harbour is the main attraction with its massive fortifications and an island in the centre, it is surrounded by quayside restaurants, bars and shops and is a bustling and pleasant place. Leading off the harbour are numerous narrow streets with colourful shops, small markets where fresh produce can be bought and picturesque alleys and houses one characteristic of the town is the proliferation of hollyhocks.

Other towns that are worth a visit are La Flotte, Ars en Ré and Rivedoux.
The whole island is a network of cycle tracks and this is the best way to travel in order to take in all of the many attractions that the Ile de Ré has to offer. There are no hills so the going is easy and most of the cycle paths, which are well marked, are well away from the cars and coaches that are here in great numbers during the holiday season. Another good reason to cycle to the island is the expense of crossing the Bridge. From the end of September to approx 20th June the cost is
9 for a car but this nearly doubles during the summer season. If however you do decide to drive out to the island you can still hire a bicycle from one of the many shops that specialise in all manner of bikes.

The ile de Ré is an artist’s paradise with its white washed houses and their brightly painted shutters with flowers everywhere. Other popular subjects with artists are the brightly coloured fishing boats all of which are accentuated by the clear air, blue sky and water. All of this when combined with a laid-back atmosphere that artists seem to enjoy so much, brings them flocking to the island to paint, relax and soak up the atmosphere. The island is also popular with nature lovers because of the wealth of flora and fauna, and the large number of birds it
attracts, especially in the autumn as the island is a stop off for migratory birds heading south.

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Attractions of the Vendée

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