About Ile de Re
ST. TROPEZ is so last decade, best left to cash-rich Russian oligarchs and the pneumatic ladies who love them. France’s chic set is increasingly flocking to the Atlantic coastline for summer rest and relaxation.
One of the major hotspots isn’t really a hotspot at all – it’s the Ile de Ré, a quiet island off the Atlantic coast, just a short taxi ride over the bridge from the city of La Rochelle.
Ile de Ré claims to enjoy more hours of sunshine each year and, thanks to a benevolent Gulf Stream enjoys long summers and moderate winters. (See page under weather)
Gallic celebs love to hole up here – is that Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis? – due to the island’s low-key (translation: paparazzi- and oligarch-free) charm. The Ile de Ré has often been called Paris’ homegrown answer to the Hamptons but the island is more Le Montauk than Les nightclub. The dozen or so little communities that dot the island – it’s a stretch to call all but the capital real towns – are like an “Alice in Wonderland” riff on a French fishing villages. They’re easy to get lost in, since every charmingly rustic street seems the same, with their whitewashed cottages and shutters in regulation green or gray (per local laws); hollyhocks sprouting from holes in the sidewalk or walls; and air smelling of burning pine.
Life is relaxed: Shops still do shutter for two hours from noon while the owners take a leisurely lunch and there are benches (painted that same shutter gray) everywhere you look. Here, a bike is the preferred transport method, and even toddling kids wobble down the cobbled streets in little trailers pulled by their parents. A place to relax and enjoy the outdoor life.