La Rochelle / Ile de Re

If you’VE ever studied French for GCSE, surely you know where La Rochelle is. It’s where Marie-FRANCE and Jean-PAUL live, of course, in the Tricolore books! 


Song:
Quand t’es dans le Desert - Jean-Patrick Capdevielle
Food: 
Oysters
Bar:
La Plage, Ile de Re
Restaurant:
Cafe de la Paix, La Rochelle

Well, kind of. La Rochelle is halfway down the French Atlantic coast, perfectly placed for beautiful summer weather, with a history to die for and a beach culture that’s the envy of the rest of France. Beautiful, stately and very, very charming, La Rochelle is complemented by the tiny island of Ile de Re, jutting off into the sea and joined to the mainland by a graceful bridge. 

 

Ile de Re is where well-heeled Parisians come to rest and recharge their batteries at the weekend and in the summer months, meaning the island’s small towns are jammed with cute shops, great restaurants and funky bars. History collides with city life, as the tiny walled streets, nowhere-more-French houses and long beaches get packed out with visitors determined to sample a slice of island time.

 

It’s beautiful, slow-paced and a true natural wonder, the Ile de Re; surfers, campers and cyclists adore the great big waves, the flat lands perfect for cycling and the shady woods where you can put up your tent. We loved it for the great beach walks, the funky vibe in the towns and the fact that you could walk out of our house and down to the beach in 2 minutes flat to paddle, hunt in rock pools and collect your own whelks (we didn’t, but you know. You COULD). See an Ile de Re sunset and you’ll never want to go home again. 

 

We recommend:

Bars:

La Plage, Ile de Re
If only the sun had been shining… this was a perfect lunch / drinks / getting pissed spot. Right on the beach, plenty of comfy seating, great food, the best mojitos on the island. Fab reggae band on the night we went. We danced. A lot.

Coffee Games, La Rochelle
Ramshackle as hell but a friendly owner, a battered BabyFoot table and cherry 7Up made up for it. A few nice arcade games here (Streetfighter was bust when we went in - boo!).

 

Restaurants:

Cafe de la Paix, La Rochelle
Proper old-school French cafe with mirrors, chandeliers and grumpy waiters. We only stopped in for a coffee and a chance to take pics, but it was well worth it to people watch and admire the trompe-l’oeils on the ceilings. 

Hotel Restaurant L’Ocean, Ile de Re
Just up the road from Saint Martin is Le-Bois-Plage-en-Re, a tiny town with this superb restaurant. Fish is the order of the day - well, you are on an island - but this charming restaurant also does incredible pates, salads and steak frites. Eat out in the courtyard when the weather is nice. 

Au Pain Marin, Ile de Re
Whenever you go to France for a holiday, you need to find ‘your’ boulangerie. And this was ours, which was good because it was brilliant. They also put up with our constant orders for ‘dix pain au chocolat’ with very good grace, and did the most amazing cakes and pastries, too. 

Paradis d’Asie, La Rochelle
Who said you can’t find Japanese food wherever you go? Somehow we managed it here and it was really good. Friendly service, tasty gyoza and ramen and a great bento too. Close to the old port, so it’s dead handy for lunch when you’re exploring the town, too. 

Le Tout du Cru, Ile de Re
Oysters! Tucked away down a tiny side street in Saint-Martin, opposite the dilapidated old cinema, is this little hole in the wall with the freshest oysters, great terrines and crusty bread. Checked table cloths and grumpy waiters make it very, very French, but it’s the oysters that they’re proud of (and rightly so). 


We swam, cycled and beach bathed on Ile de Re. Played boule and drank wine and only needed a packet of Gitanes to become truly French.

Shops

Magasin de la République, Ile de Re
Oh my God, this place was so painfully cool. It was lovely - all beautiful furniture, gorgeous little chic dresses, sandals, throws, cushions, nicknacks - all done with the style and spirit that is so very French… but it was pricey. Maybe one for when you’re feeling flush and have just arrived in Saint-Martin on your yacht, darling. 

Naf Naf, La Rochelle
So it’s a chain and it was trendy in the UK about 20 years ago. But Naf Naf is actually still rather nifty and charming and the clothes are great. All three of us who went in came out with something. I bought a coat. In July. Go figure. 

Jott, La Rochelle
Trucker caps and t-shirts and rollaway parkas and bike helmets, all in bright colours and lined up with pure efficiency. Something a bit different on the charming La Rochelle streets. 

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Record Shop

Oh, we struck out. We walked all over the city looking for a decent record shop but there was none to be found. And Ile de Re was a desert for vinyl. So we went magazine hunting instead. This place in Saint-Martin is great: http://www.re-presse.com/librairie-ile-de-re/?accueil

Song:

Quand t’es dans le Desert - Jean-Patrick Capdevielle

I heard this in the boulangerie and Shazammed it, much to my brother’s embarrassment. But I’m so glad I did. This is brilliant French pop with some sort of political message. I think. I don’t actually know what it’s about, but it’s ace. 

What we did:

Swam, cycled and beach bathed on Ile de Re. Played boule and drank wine and only needed a packet of Gitanes to become truly French. Wandered around the medieval arcades of La Rochelle and down to the harbour front, admiring all the mellow stone buildings. Drank coffee in Cafe de la Paix under the watchful eye of the serious French waiters. 

What we bought:

Croissants. Cheese. Croissants. Cheese. Wine. Prosecco. An amazing coat from Naf Naf. Oh and an orange shopping bag from St Michel. With a chicken on it. Cherry-flavoured 7UP. The French experience writ small. 

Where we stayed: 

Hotel Peu Breton, Ile de Re

House Of The Dead / Crazy Golf?:

Damn it, no! But we did play BabyFoot and an Alien SEM at Coffee Games, which was very cool. Why am I so damn crap at table football?