After another good breakfast at the hotel we left Rochefort and headed up to the Ile de Re which is just past La Rochelle. There’s now a large bridge connecting the island so you don’t have to take a ferry anymore.
We really liked the island – we drove up the south side to the Phare de Baleines at the northwest tip. Along the way we kept marvelling about all of the bikes and bike paths we were seeing – they’re everywhere and lots of folks are taking advantage of the lovely weather and flat terrain.
The lighthouse wasn’t quite what I expected – well, the lighthouse itself was as expected, but the area in front of it was a bit of a surprise. First of all, the very large parking lot was quite busy, and then you walk about 500 meters to a bunch of shops and restaurants.
The shops are selling mostly local goods – at least a couple have the ‘ass milk soap and skin-care products’ that I’d read about, and several shops sell various versions of little stuffed donkeys with the trousers that the local donkeys are famous for wearing.
The lighthouse is quite nice, although we didn’t pay to go in but just walked around it and then along the seawall on the other side. The tide was out and there were dozens of people walking around and even having picnics.
There are hundreds of small towers that people have made by piling up the beach stones – the first few might have been cute or funny, but so many copycats kind of ruin it for me.
We walked along a bit, then went back to the car and drove to the very end – the road ended so we back-tracked a bit to get on the road that goes east along the island’s north coast. We stopped at the town of Saint-Martin-de-Re which is right on the water.
We parked the car and walked towards the village centre along narrow cobbled roads. The sidewalks are also cobbled and very uneven, with different kinds of surfaces every few meters – walking was not easy. We passed an old church that seemed to be in ruins but actually was still in use with only the roof in ruin. I went inside and had a look at the stained glass windows which were ok, but the place itself had the faintly musty smell that I’ve noticed in a lot of old stone churches.
We found the main ‘square’ of the town that was, as in so many towns, ringed by restaurants, cafes and bars – only this time the centre of the square was actually a marina.
We chose an outside table at one of the restaurants for a late lunch and settled in for some people-watching. The place was very crowded with people milling about but what kind of bugged me was the cyclists everywhere that were riding through the crowds instead of getting off their bikes and walking for a bit. It’s nice that they’re out getting exercise but I was sure someone was going to get run over – luckily we didn’t witness any accidents.
My fish soup was delicious – it came with croutons and cheese, as well as a small ‘fondue’ to dip my bread in. We both got the same main course, which was lightly-breaded white fish on a bed of baby potatoes and mushrooms – also very tasty.
After eating we walked around a bit along the ramparts – the entrance to the marina is fairly narrow and boats had to take turns coming in and going out. There were some girls jumping off the cement and swimming inside the walls – don’t know if that would have been my preferred place, and I bet it was pretty cold.
We got back to Mansle in the early evening but didn’t bother with dinner as we were both still full from the lovely lunch we’d had.