|The bridge to Ile de Ré|
Yesterday was an early start for me as I left home in a moonlit pre-dawn and was almost halfway to the coast before the first glimpse of sunrise peeped into my rear-view mirror. My excitement at seeing Adrian walking out from La Rochelle airport arrivals was matched by the anticipation of a day out together, with our bikes, on Ile de Ré.
From our vantage point on the bridge we waved off the Ryanair return flight and immediately we arrived on the island and noticed the umbrella pines, sand dunes and stunning sea view, combined with the fresh, salty sea air, it felt different to home. Generally speaking I am not a seaside person. I don’t do sand on skin, or swimming with waves or currents, so was surprised at how invigorating the salty sea air was and how good it felt combined with the warming sun.
Ile de Ré is a pretty island just off the coast from La Rochelle and a dream for cyclists, but my inspiration for a day out here had come from a new writer buddy, Karen Clarke. This March the first in her new series of three books, Escape to the Little French Café, will be released and it is set on Ile de Ré. I get excited by new books set in France, but I get very excited by books set in my corner of France and as I’ve been lucky enough to have a pre-publication read, I can ensure you, this book is delightful. I know Karen is currently stuck at her writing desk in the UK, working on book three in the series, so thought she might enjoy a few photos of the island on a sunny winter’s day. Hope this helps Karen and I can’t wait to read more.
Ile de Ré has bike tracks that follow the coast, bike tracks that weave between white cottages on narrow lanes, bike tracks that meander through marshlands and salt beds and bike tracks that go past vineyards and mimosa trees. The choices are endless.
Our first stop was for coffee in La Flotte, a pretty little port but sadly a little underwhelming this time due to major work being carried out. There were no boats to watch in the marina, just lots of safety fences, construction work and trucks.
We continued onwards to St Martin, where more roadworks provided the soundtrack to a sneaky second coffee in the sun, this time overlooking the boats in the harbour.
Next stop was Loix for a picnic in a remote spot that felt like it was at the end of the world. Looking inland the horizon was of church spires and windmills with nothing but sea and sky when scanning the offshore horizon. There were so many more paths we could have pedalled and so many places we could have seen, including the lighthouse at the far end of the island, but getting to La Rochelle for nine in the morning had been an early start for me and a seriously early one for Adrian.
We still managed 50km of happy cycling and returned home with pink cheeks, tired legs and an appetite for homemade pizza. I did wonder why we have never done this before with an airport pick up. I do enjoy my morning coffee at La Rochelle’s Café de la Paix and my early evening sundowners at the beach café with sunset views on airport days, but this was something different and special. Having the Bromptons and the ability to sling them in the car in a few minutes, rather than attach the tow bar bike trailer and load up the road bikes, has made a real difference. However, Ile de Ré is not somewhere we would go to once the summer season has started. Even at this time of year it was lively, but it’s no fun jostling for space on a narrow cycle path.
Escape to the Little French Café will be released on 18thMarch when I will be posting my review and Karen will be featuring in my France et Moi interview on Friday 22ndMarch. You can pre-order from Amazon now.
You might also enjoy reading author Fiona Valpy’s Lazy Sunday in France guest post (set on Ile de Ré) from last March and my France et Moi interview with Louise Candlish. Both Fiona (Sea of Memories) and Louise (The Disappearance of Emily Marr) have set books on Ile de Ré. I can also recommend Judy Block’s memoir Friday in France set on neighbouring island Ile d’Oleron.
I hope you have enjoyed sharing our day out on Ile de Ré. If you know of any other books set on Ile de Ré, please let me know.