The Ile de Re is a small Island just off the Western Coast of France linked by a 2.9 km toll bridge from the port town of La Rochelle. It is expensive to cross the bridge, as of Summer, 2013 the cost to cross is 16 euros. The cost lowers during the winter months to 8 euros for a family car.
The Ile de Re is some 30 kms long by 5 kms wide. The population in the winter is some 20,000 residents, this swells to 220,000 during the summer months. However the Island is not as crowded as you might expect, most of the Island is set up to accommodate tourists.
There are 10 communes on the Island, holiday-makers tend to spread out all over the Island, however, Saint-Martin-de-Re, which was added to the world heritage site list in 2008, is the most popular destination for visitors. The fortifications around Saint-Martin remain today and provide tourists with an excellent walking route with panoramic views out to sea.
Saint-Martin-de-Re is very picturesque, centred around a large port which is divided into 2, the nearby narrow streets are lined with many types of shops and restaurants giving an abundance of choice for the shopper, diner or simply the window shopper.
At night times in Saint-Martin-de-Re many little market stalls appear around the port with a good selection of handicrafts, tourist memorabilia, artwork and nibbles for all to enjoy. Perhaps in the high season you might be treated to a busker or street performer.
The onus in most restaurants is on freshly caught fish, Oysters (Huitres) or Moules being the most popular choice, they couldn't be any fresher or more delicious! Even so you have many creperies and tiny eateries whereby every taste is catered for.
Hotels are plentiful, during the high season it can be expensive with rooms at the 5* Hotel Toiras in Saint-Martin-de-Re costing as much as 400 Euros per night in a standard room. However the location of the hotel is perfect, sitting by the side of the port.
Road traffic is kept to a minimum with the locals and visitors using bicycles via the many cycle tracks dotted around the Island.
The indoor market, open daily - tous jours! Offers not only a vast selection of fresh produce but a feast for the eyes too. With fresh cheeses, freshly caught fish, vegetables, oils, vinegars, spices, sweets, fresh breads, everything is on offer, it is a delight to visit. Without doubt you should ensure you take some time to enjoy the market and it's produce.
Salt, Ile de Re produces salt, this comes in many varieties and is on sale everywhere.
The Islands homeowners take care to show off their homes to the best advantage, with lots of different coloured shutters on pristine white houses and the very colourful and plentiful hollyhocks sprouting out of the ground outside. Oh and of course the obligatory bicycle parked outside. The stuff chocolate boxes are made for!