Île de Ré is an island off the coast of western France near La Rochelle. We stumbled upon it, quite by accident when we tried to attend church on Sunday morning. After a rushed breakfast and a boot out the door, plus a 45 minute drive into La Rochelle, we arrived at the building to find the gates locked and the building completely empty. We still aren’t sure what happened. We decided to go for a Sunday drive while I taught the kids about the Nativity story since we are approaching Christmas (I still can’t believe it)! We ended up driving over a bridge and onto Île de Ré.
The island has been inhabited since Roman times and has a deep military history. It changed hands between the French and British several times throughout the years and during World War II its beaches were fortified by German forces with bunkers, which can still be seen today. The main port of Saint-Martin, fortified by a star shaped wall is listed as a World Heritage Site.
We also stumbled upon the beautiful old ruins of an Abbey built in the 12th century. Only in Europe could you do that and also let your kids climb on the walls right? It was pretty surreal! No entrance fees, it’s just in an open field along the side of the road. The Abbey stands as evidence that this island runs rich with history!
Today the island is a tourist destination with shops, markets and restaurants lining the old cobble stone streets. You can watch the sail boats from the top of the battlements and explore the beaches. We took a long drive all the way around the island. It’s dreamy forested landscape and old houses and farms really transport you back to simpler times, as much of France can often do!
This was such an amazing find and I would love to come back here in the summer when the fishermen are bringing in their catch and the sun shines a bit warmer. There were miles and miles of beaches I wouldn’t mind wandering along for days!
Until next time Île de Ré!