Today, I am pleased to welcome Laura Harrington back to Great Thoughts’ Great Authors. Laura is the author of the amazing Alice Bliss, now available in paperback! My review of Alice Bliss is here. And, I included Alice Bliss in my Top Ten Books of 2011. Today Laura shares her idea of a perfect vacation in France- sign me up!
Ile de Re, France
The Ile de Re, which lies just west of La Rochelle off the Atlantic coast of France, has come to represent everything I love about a vacation. We can relax, read, swim, ride bikes, drink good wine, shop for lunch at local farmers’ markets, enjoy a game of petanque, watch the fishermen unload their catch, or watch a soccer match at the corner bar. For me, it is the perfect mix of relaxation and physical activity and fun.
The island is beautiful and life is simple. Very little of the waterfront is private; you can find access to the beach from many points around the island. There are small towns and open stretches of farmland. We park our car, rent bikes and, like everyone who lives on the island, ride wherever we need to go. These are not fancy bikes; they require no special equipment or clothing. They might have 6 or 8 speeds, a basket big enough for a towel and a book, a bell in case you need it.
It’s easy to pack. You don’t need much more than shorts, t-shirts, sandals, a bathing suit, a stack of books, and a sweater for the evenings. My idea of heaven.
The center of the island is a combination of agricultural land (potatoes, asparagus, strawberries, olives, grapes), salt pans and a bird sanctuary. There are over 100 kilometers of dedicated bike trails well away from the two-lane road that circles the island.
Oyster farming is an important part of the Ile de Re. This means you can sample oysters from various growers the same way you taste wine. A favorite lunch: stopping at an oyster shack for half a dozen oysters pulled directly from the sea, a glass of white wine, a chunk of French bread, eaten overlooking the bay where the oysters are grown.
We have three favorite hotels, all very different, all in different towns on the island. The further away from the bridge that crosses to the mainland, the quieter the island becomes.
In St Clement des Baleine there is a charming B&B plus spa. The town is very quiet. There is a church, a tabac, a bike store and a divine restaurant. At Le Chat Botte you can take breakfast in their peaceful walled garden. http://www.hotelchatbotte.com/
In Ars-en-Re you will find my favorite hotel in the world. It is located on the town square and is made up of several 18th century buildings, which have been connected over the years. No two rooms are alike. On the top floor you have views to the ocean and the bay. http://www.hotel-le-senechal.com/
Even though Hotel La Barronie is located just steps from the bustling port of St Martin en Re, the gorgeous sandstone buildings sit in their own park and are therefore a quiet refuge. This is another hotel/ spa combination, which aims for a kind of austere luxury. And succeeds. http://en.hotel-labaronnie.com/
What are you reading and where are you going?