Lifestyle & Parenting

French Fête

April 12, 2018

Sun-soaked yachts, ripe vineyards, the purple haze of lavender—the South of France weaves a rich tapestry nodding to a Branson or Ecclestone lifestyle. But those who limit themselves to the Saint-Tropez, Cannes or Nices of the region are missing out an experience that is vraiment francaise. Ile de Ré—fitting for the golden rays dripping from the rooftops bathing the whole island in a honey glow. Located off the west coast and connected by a 2.9-kilometre bridge to the mainland and the La Rochelle airport, the "Hamptons for Parisians" is truly a journey into a slower, more wholesome pace, where bicycle or horseback is the preferred (possibly the only) way to get from A to B. —Kristie Perrotte

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set off. It’s more about when not to go and that’s any French long weekend or the month of August when Paris empties and the affluent, celebrity—and those wishing to be—descend upon the small island oasis. September is a much better bet, when the summer sun is still offering its warm blanket and evenings are crisp and fresh (consider yourself informed!). Combine the trip with a few days of wine tasting in the Bordeaux region, and you’ll discover that la vie est vraiment belle!

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stay. The heart of the island—and the quaintest of the fortified towns—is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint-Martin-de-Ré. With its quayside hotels and eateries, you’re more likely to see an old family-run fishing boat than a celebrity super-yacht. At the centre of it all is the 17th-century L’Hotel de Toiras, immaculately decorated in baroque style with lush fabrics and antique touches. Perfectly positioned for a romantic getaway, the concierge service caters to one’s every need—from organizing private boat tours to catering beachfront picnics tor two.

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stay longer. If a relaxed setting is more your style, head online and nab yourself one of the island’s postcard-perfect cottages, some dating back to the 14th century. If they all look relatively similar, there’s good reason—all of the shutters on the island can only be painted one of eight shades of green or blue to preserve the quaint village feel. Plus, the cottages generally come fitted with their own set of bicycles!

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see. Exploring the quaint towns of La Flotte or Saint-Martin-de-Ré, enjoying long lunches on the terrace or simply sun lounging with latest copy of French Vogue, it’s easy to leave the city behind and fall into island life. Rent a bike. Explore the zig-zag of cycling and hiking trails. Hop from town to town. Stop in on the locals offering oysters and a glass of chilled Chenin Blanc from what could easily be mistaken for a child’s lemonade stand.

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savour. A must-see is Au QG de la mer—a seaside oyster shack with a chalkboard menu of oysters, langoustines, prawns and mussels and a wine list that puts any Parisian bistro to shame. Park your bicycle and spend a lazy afternoon under a straw parasol gazing across the white-capped waves to the mainland. If you’ve still not reached your daily quota of oysters, the many quayside restaurants will fit the bill. We like Restaurant Le Serghi, with its creative and daily menu inspiration featuring fresh cod with gnocchi, prawn and mango ceviche or salmon gravelax with black sesame.


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