There is something very familiar in Ile de Ré for me. I am from Vendée, which is just 1h30 north along the Atlantic coast, and the long beaches, low white houses, smell of the ocean or the pine trees forest remind me of my childhood. I like that Mademoiselle can start building holiday memories similar to mine.
Which village to choose ?
My advice is to rent in the villages that are in the middle of the island so that you can a) more easily go to all the various places and b) be in the prettiest villages. We stayed several times in Le Bois Plage, which is convenient for getting to family beaches. La Couarde is good for that too.
On the East coast, you have Saint Martin, which has a lovely harbour and La Flotte, where we were this year. It is less “posh” than Saint Martin but really pretty too. You can also go to Les Portes en Ré at the very top of the island, which is where the big rich families and Parisian celebrities go. Some great beaches up there but not much to do in the village.
Finally Ars en Ré has a lovely hotel (le Sénéchal) and is beautiful. It’s a great base to do a lot of cycling exploration but you’ll have to cross back to the west side of the island to go to a nice beach.
A practical villa for two families
It’s more or less Mademoiselle who chose our villa this year. When she saw pictures of the pool and the jacuzzi of Villa l’Olivier, she said “that one, that one”. Mr Big also thought it would keep the children busy.
You see, the pool is heated, which is essential in Ile de Ré. We were lucky with the weather but, especially in July, you are not guaranteed heat over there and the sea can be quite cold. The beauty of the pool is that it kept the girls (Mademoiselle’s two cousins) were with us very busy. They actually got an ear infection for having been too much in the water.
The house is located in a pretty street next to other rental houses. At the end of the street, you get to the beach and via a coastal path to the vllage in 10 min. We loved the morning cycle to get the fresh bread and croissants while seeing the sea life waking up.
Apart from that, the house is well laid-out, with a big kitchen/living room open plan, two bedrooms and one bathroom downstairs and two bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs.
The decoration is simple with very little furniture. Mr Big thought it was practical and meant we couldn’t really break anything, which is true. However, bedside tables and lamps wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The owners also have the field at the end of the house and there is a door to get there. This is a great playing field for your children.
Overall, it is a very practical house, really made for family holidays. Price is a bit high but if you go as two families, which the lay-out of the house really encourages, it becomes a much more interesting value proposition.
My tips for your family holidays
- They usually only rent for two weeks during the summer. We got lucky as there was this spare week between two rentals so don’t be put off by the note on the site and ask them.
- The owner is lovely in person and on the phone but not so much of an email person so do make sure you call to arrange details etc…
- Very important to rent your bikes in advance. They go extremely quickly. We used Yootoo which has several shops on the island. Great service and nice bikes. If you book early enough with them, they can also deliver the bikes to your house.
- There are kids’clubs for the children on Le Bois Plage and La Plage des Conches.
- Go to La Trousse Chemise at the top of the island. A very gentle beach perfect for toddlers with little pools of sea water to splash in.
- Do visit your village’s tourist office which will point you towards the calendar of kids’activities for your week.
- I recommend the “charcutier traiteur” inside the St Martin market for tasty ready-made meals. The one inside the La Flotte market does delicious savoury tarts. You can also try La Tart’Entière in la Flotte for a variety of sweet and savoury tarts. Not easy to find but worth it. Fruits and vegetables were always good at Les Jardins d’Antioche and everyone buy their bread at Maison Marin.
- Kids will of course ask you for an ice cream from la Martinière and they’re right, they are really good.
- Restaurants are not that great on Ile de Ré and I would recommend that you buy fresh fish and shellfish and cook it at home. That’s so good. If you are then tired of fish, go to Le Bistrot du Marin in Saint Martin. They have mostly meat dishes and good fries, which the kids will love.
- 4 bedrooms, sleeps up to 11 persons
- 3720 euros per week in high season (they say 3600 on their site but the 120 Euros cleaning on top is mandatory !)