Salut my lovely readers and welcome aboard. Hitch a ride with us as we hit the road again and shimmy on down the coast to our next venue. We’re bound for La Rochelle this time, taking in our three favourite French islands. The first one is Noirmoutier. The weather has been a bit grey and drizzly but is improving with every mile as we head south. We usually save this Isle for Summer months as the campsite we like best, the Huttopia Indigo site, I believe, closes in October. Do double check though if you fancy it as I could be wrong. It’s a great site, literally on the beach. It’s set in a pine forest leading up to the edge of the sands. It’s lovely. Very friendly and laid back. There are two decent Motorhome Aires also on this island. One in Noirmoutier en L’Ile, probably the busiest of the Island’s villages (it’s a bit carparky but suffices) and one at L’Herbaudiere, very popular with the French so always busy. We like Noirmoutier en L’Ile. It has a twelfth century castle, now a museum (with rather odd opening hours!!) and a beautiful old church with a Romanesque crypt. It’s an interesting little town. There is a good market held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The island is famed for its figs, salt and yummy potatoes. The many saltwater dykes are lined with wooden fishermen’s cabanas, their large net structures at the back hanging into the water below. The nets are dropped when the tide comes in. In days gone by they would sell their catch from the cabin door each morning.
From the Huttopia campsite you can walk for miles to the left along the superb sandy beaches. It’s a very pretty little island with a relaxed feel to it. It often enjoys a warmer microclimate than the mainland. That’s another good reason to come here.
It’s only a whistle stop visit this time though and we point the van back over the bridge and carry on down to La Rochelle. We both fancy some town action and a lunch out.
We seem to leave the sunshine behind and much to our disgust, it starts to rain once we arrive. It’s considerably cooler too. Bugger, should have stayed put! Bad move. Should have checked the weather app before we left. My bad!
There is a nice Aire on the Marina at La Rochelle but for our big van the one on the Park and Ride is easier and only 2 minutes out of the old town. It has services and a free shuttle bus. The turn off from the dual carriageway is tight and easily missed. Twice on this occasion. Much multi lingual swearing and vigorous gesticulating ensued but we got there in the end. Just had a nice tour around some very tight streets first !! Oops 😬. Not the best way to see this place. Stressful!
Rochelle is known as the white city and was once one of France’s most important ports. The huge Gothic arched gateway ‘Porte de la Grosse Horloge’ is at the entrance to the old town. By the harbour the three famous towers can be seen, Tour st. Nicholas, Tour de la Chaine and Tour de la Lanterne. You can climb the steps and walk along the ancient city walls linking them and take in the amazing view. The Cathedral is a bit uninspiring from the outside but beautiful inside with incredible art work. That ceiling though and oh my, the stained glass, so perfectly preserved. How the heck did they do that all those years ago? The attention detail is quite incredible.
The Aquarium on the old harbour is worth a look. It has 20 species of shark (bet you’re now singing the baby shark song, I drove Mark nuts with it 😆😆😆). There are some pretty impressive boats moored there, old and new.
Moving swiftly on then, our next stop is, in my opinion, the most chic and classy of the islands, Ile de Re. Be aware (so your husband doesn’t have a coronary) there is a fairly hefty toll on the bridge to Re. It’s normally €16 in Summer reduced to €8 in Winter. It’s worth it though, I think this is one of the loveliest places in France. Most folk tend to flock to the Island’s capital, St-Martin. It’s a fantastic harbour with an eclectic mix of small working fishing boats, flat bottomed oyster vessels and huge, glamorous yachts. There are many great restaurants overlooking the water mostly specialising in fish dishes. It’s a fabulous spot to do lunch. Away from the quay, amidst the usual cluttered touristy shops there are several very smart boutiques. Mark always develops a severe case of wallet ache when we come here. I am a happy lady! To the east of the harbour you can walk along the ancient walls of the old Citadelle. It is not unusual to see the Island’s larger than average, very hairy, donkeys, sometimes wearing culottes, grazing in the former moat. Bonkers!! The stripey trousers are to protect their legs when working in the salt marshes.
There is a Motorhome Aire in St-Martin although we’ve never used it. We prefer to stay at nearby Bois Plage as it has a fabulous, very large, daily market. The Aire there is literally on the beach although we do normally go on the Acsi campsite next door, Les Amis de la Plage, when it’s open. Great beach and safe for me to swim in the sea. The network of cycle paths on Re is just brilliant. It’s so safe and easy to navigate. You can bike to St. Martin or La Flotte, an equally glamorous harbour with probably the prettiest medieval market hall ever. Not to be missed. This market specialises in organic produce. We bought some particularly good Bayonne ham and wonderful fig chutney. It is not cheap to shop here. You have been warned! Quality rarely is though. Markets in France are where the good stuff is at. It’s a wonderful array of colour, sights and smells. I absolutely adore it.
We cycled along through the vineyards and windmills. It’s truly a special place.
And so, Mark’s Birthday is looming. The weather is looking more settled down the coast and so we decide to make tracks further south again and to his favourite island, Ile d’Oleron. This a very chilled place, a much less pretentious affair than Re. Many of the former fishermen’s cabins which line the harbour and salt water canals at Château-d’Oléron have been brightly painted and are now occupied by Artists making and selling their wares. Some are still used for the traditional trades, sorting of oysters, selling of salt and other local products. There is a fab Ukelele maker!
It’s a colourful, happy, cheerful Island. We are staying at the Aire in Château-d’Oléron. It’s €11 with all services, showers and electric. The Des Remparts municipal campsite is nearer the town centre but we like to be at the dog friendly end of the beach so the Aire suits us better. It’s a 5 minute bike ride to SuperU which sells cheap, good quality wine. Bonus!
The footpath/cycle trail runs along the walls of the Chateau. It’s really lovely. The air is heavy with the scent of rosemary and Seasalt. There’s a beautiful view through every archway.
The town has a bit of everything. Several wonderful bakeries that make their own bread in wood ovens and fabulous pastries. The market is daily in the covered halls but on Sundays it expands out into the square and the streets. It’s a very social affair. Everyone comes out of the woodwork and the island’s several ukulele bands often perform. The renaissance water fountain is a pretty cool feature in the square.
50% of France’s Oysters are produced in this area. They are big business. These are slightly greenish and a bit more salty and flavoursome. I like the idea of hanging the shells on the bridge with a message after eating them. Much better than the silly padlocks on Bakewell Bridge back home.
Would be rude not to sample them. They were actually the best I’ve ever tasted. Boy had Oysters for breakfast on his birthday as requested and received lots of lovely wishes from our super-duper family and friends back home. One happy bunny.
The harbour in Chateau is interesting and scenic. You can sit and watch the flat oyster pickers and fishing boats coming and going on the tide. There are a few good spots to eat, all with lovely views. We had the most amazing Moules Frites ever at Le Croix de la Sud. Great wine and good service too. Very friendly folk. Will definitely be back.
There is another great Aire at St. Denis at the top of the island for my Motorhoming buddies. It has all facilities and is on the edge of a lovely little town with a pretty Marina. We are giving it a miss this trip though as it’s time to say Au Revoir a bientot to Island life and hit that road once again. Winds are forecast for tomorrow and that doesn’t bode well when crossing a very long very high bridge!!
I shall sign off for now my lovely readers and bid you farewell. We’ve had a smashing ten days and hope you can join us on our next jaunt. TTFN. Lots of love. Have a great week ❤️