The Villages of Ile de Ré
One of the most popular tourist places in France, the second-largest island after Corsica.
It is exceptionally sunny all year and is a great place to visit any time of year.
The Ile de Ré, with its wild scenery, exceptional flora and fauna, agriculture, vineyards, oysters, salt marshes, white island houses with hollyhock, create a beautiful, peaceful village where artists and intellectuals meet..
You can reach this charming village, classified as a “stone and water” village, by crossing the salt marshes. Today Ars is known by lovers of fine dining for its salt, but this salt was once a source of great wealth, in ancient times. This gave the village refined and picturesque architecture, as well as a sense of authentic luxury and celebration.
You may also encounter many incognito celebrities from show business, politics and the arts in Ars-en-Ré that want just want to relax.
Lovers of vintage clothing and antiques will love this chic Bohemian town and discovering items that will make you say “oh my”.
As you search for little gems, you’ll also find great people, like Françoise “the Fisherman’s daughter” that sells incredibly fresh fish, or Donin, the poet who writes and performs rhymes for children live on his merry-go-round…
You will love the Café du commerce www.cafcom-ars.com full of an eclectic collection of objects in a friendly atmosphere where you can enjoy a hamburger as well as seafood. Ars-en-Ré is Saint-Germain-des-Prés, vacation edition.
The Marais Poitevin
The incredible Marais Poitevin marshlands, which cover 100,000 ha, its the second-largest wet region in France, after the Camargue. On horseback through the Vendée, the Deux-Sèvres and Charente-Maritime, the regional natural park of the Marais Poitevin, which received the “grand site de France” distinction in 2010, offers 18,553 ha to discover, unforgettable nature, called “the green Venice”, only 22 km as the bird flies from the Ile-de-Ré. You can wander in a boat along the canals that are named differently based on their size and shape: ditches, small canals, forebays, waterways, broues, gonelles, channels…
These canals are fragile, and appear natural, but are actually man-made: in the 10th and 12th centuries, by monks, in the 18th century, in the 19th century, because of decree by Napoleon in 1808 to develop the Sèvre Niortaise, so that it could be navigated.
The land is rich and fertile, and the section formed by dry marshes is reserved for quickly-growing crops. However, the protection of biodiversity, the wading birds, otters, herons, plovers, elvers and eels, the flora, and trees are now a priority and delight visitors: take a trip with or without a guide through the channels bordered by poplar and ash trees, pruned so that their roots reach deeper and the banks are preserved, and slip into relaxing silence, as you witness nature transformed into a work of art by age-old local intelligence.
22 km as the bird flies from the Ile de Ré, come discover the extraordinary Marais Poitevin marshlands. Located at the intersection of the Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and Charente-Maritime departments, they cover 100,000 ha, including the Marais Poitevin Regional Natural Park, which covers 18,553 ha.
Ranked as a Grand Site de France since 2010, this second-largest wetland in France after the Camargue is called the Green Venice. An extraordinary network of canals (of different shapes and sizes: ditches, small canals, forebays, waterways, broues, gonelles, channels), like in Venice, allows you travel through lush, green, and preserved nature, surrounding the palace.
Although this area appears completely wild, the land is rich and fertile and has always provided for successful agriculture and farming: it may not have been created by man, but is has been influenced by human intelligence. During the 10th and 12th centuries monks began to create navigable pathways in order to transport the products from this generous land. This development continued throughout the 18th century and its heyday was during the 19th century, because a Napoleonic decree, in 1808, called for the development of the Sèvre Niortaise to improve its navigability.
A trip to the Green Venice, in a flat-bottomed boat, with or without a guide, will allow you to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of this preserved nature, as you travel down the canals planted with poplar and ash trees that have been pruned to preserve the banks.
This incredible place, between sea, land, and fresh water, right next to La Rochelle and the Ile de Ré, with its varied landscapes, will bring you a surprising moment of peace and a change of scenery, as you explore this region and its rich cultural and natural heritage.
The third largest town on Ile de Ré by population, Saint-Martin-de-Ré has several fortifications designed by Vauban (citadel, enclosure, guard house). The town is part of the network of major Vauban sites and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2008.
With Ars-en-Ré, Saint-Martin is one of the 2 biggest marinas with a wet dock. The coast is lined with small cliffs and pebbles and one artificial beach. During the 18th century, the port was very active with the trade of salt, wine and eau-de-vies.
The most sprawling commune of the island has been part of the “villages of stone and water” network since 2011.
It is a nice marina dedicated to boating. La Flotte produces asparagus, potatoes, oysters and celebrated wines. It is one of the “most beautiful villages in France”.
The indoor and outdoor market are the largest markets on the island in summer.
The Ile de Ré Region
From the bridge you can see the slender tip of the Sainte Marie bell tower on the south side of the island. Between sea and vineyards, Sainte-Marie is one of the older communes, known for its market that is one of the most beautiful on the island, along with those in la Flotte and Ars. With its flat terrain, the island has various agricultural zones, with its rich vegetable crops, salt marshes, vineyards that produce the famous Rosé des Dunes and the Pineau des Charentes. The Ile de Ré is also home to natural gems, with a one-of-a-kind nature reserve for migratory birds on the north side of the island and large, pristine and preserved beaches. The Baleines Lighthouse and the Abbey of Chateliers are well-known landmarks, as well as the Vauban fortifications in Saint-Martin, which a preservation campaign is working to protect.
An historic fortified port, La Rochelle is an ancient city, and has a rich history and urban heritage. This beautiful marina looks out on three great towers: the Tour Saint Nicolas and the Tour de la Chaine, which used to be a prison during the 16th and 17th centuries for the Huguenots, foreign sailors and soldiers. The Tour de la Lanterne, at the entrance of the port, was a lighthouse and was also used to disarm boats.
La Rochelle is also a major center of Protestantism in France. It has been witness to many historical events, since it is the entrance to highly sought-after region, a political fulcrum for the unity of a country, with characters such as Louis XIII, and Richelieu, the Duke of Buckingham. Its commercial wealth also led to remarkable architecture. Its beautiful town hall, the oldest still in use in France, is both Renaissance and flamboyant Gothic. It is wonderful to stroll through the arcades of the streets of La Rochelle and to explore its many restaurants.
La Rochelle, also has the magnificent Aquarium la Rochelle. It contains a rich reconstruction of the marine wildlife of every ocean, particularly the Atlantic. It is a true living encyclopedia of marine species and will, with its 25 scholastic activities, dazzle your children.
Finally, La Rochelle is the city of the Francofolies music festival, launched by Jean-Louis Foulquier in 1985. The Francofolies have become an international destination for lovers of French and Francophone music over the years. Every year, in July, famous singers perform for the enjoyment of all. It is also an opportunity to discover young talent in Francophone music from all over the world, during a fun outdoor party.
Right next to La Rochelle, the Ile de Ré is its cousin off the coast: come visit these two places from the Les Grenettes campsite.
Fort Boyard and Ile d’Aix
You can discover the jewels of the Atlantic surrounding the Ile de Ré either with Alizé cruises or in your boat.
With Fort Boyard’s ovoid architecture, out in the middle of the sea, and the Ile d’Aix that you can explore on foot or by horse, your children will be delighted!