The French Hamptons? Ile de Ré, France 46°12N 1°25W
I can’t wait to get on the plane! It’s been a horrible, grueling, snowbound winter, so the thought of exploring a French island that boasts soft sand beaches, seaside restaurants, bike riding as the primary mode of transportation – and oyster farms galore to bike to – well, it’s pretty appealing, to say the least.
I know your next question: What’s Ile de Ré, and how in the world did you come up with that idea?
About 15 years ago I was flipping through a travel magazine and was struck by a particular photo of a bicycle leaning against a picket fence in the dunes leading to the sea. The beach was on Ile de Ré, off France’s Atlantic coast, and it looked a lot like the beaches in the Hamptons. “The Hamptons – only with French food and oysters? What’s not to like?” I was hooked, and filed Ile de Ré away in my memory for future reference.
Fast-forward to this past year’s winter school break, which we spent in Myanmar. It was an amazing trip, but it required an extra level of vigilance about . . . well, about almost everything. We were enthralled by the country’s centuries-old stupas and other historical sights, stunning countryside, the warmest, gentlest people we have ever met, and amazing Buddhist monasteries. But it’s also a country that’s still under military rule. Many Burmese not only distrust their own government, they fear it, and with good reason. There’s abject poverty with no end in sight, sanitary conditions are difficult at best, medical care is often poor or nonexistent, and there’s a stunning lack of infrastructure to handle the onslaught of tourism that’s to come. (You’ll just have to wait for future posts to hear more.)
Anyway, after three weeks of Myanmar, we owed Yao Yao (and ourselves) an easy, relaxing family trip. Ile de Ré looks to be that and more. It’s only about 19 miles long, but boasts pristine beaches, medieval villages, lovely bike trails, and some of the best sea salt in the world, called fleur de sel. The island is flat, which makes the bike riding easy, and there are plenty of outdoor markets that seem perfect for provisioning picnics. It’s also supposed to be more casual, less tony than the Côte d’Azur, much more low-key, with nightlife that consists of long, leisurely seaside meals and after-dinner walks for ice cream.
Sounds like a child’s perfect summer holiday. And pretty perfect for us, too.
The plan is to fly into Paris, take the train to La Rochelle, and then flag a cab for the short drive over the causeway to the island. Though I booked late, I found what looks to be a lovely little hotel by the ocean. I’ve spoken to the owner twice and she has been wonderful. (I always have a lot of questions, and a website can only tell you so much.) We’ve secured a little two-bedroom, two-bath suite with an outdoor sitting area. Yao Yao is excited about having her own space – as are we!
I’m already dreaming about languishing over plates of seafood and crusty bread, wandering on the beaches, eating salt-laden caramels, taking long bike rides, and napping poolside.[/spb_text_block] [/spb_row]
“I hope to visit some little villages, visit some historical sites (not too many), maybe have a new adventure, go to some nice beaches. I really want to rest because I had so much homework this year.”
“I hope to find sunshine, charming villages, great outdoor cafes and a slower pace!”
Next Post: On our way to Ile de Ré!