We had guests at the chalet over the half term holiday a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to exchange the mountains for the sea and have a weekend away on the Île de Ré.
We'd planned on taking a taxi from La Rochelle airport but soon discovered that car hire for the weekend was less than half the price of the taxi transfer, which also gave us added flexibility as the forecast was a little iffy for Sunday.
Friday morning we mooched around La Flotte, and found both the the best bakery and the best coffee of the weekend at Coffee N Co in the old market.
In the afternoon we hired bikes from Beach Bikes so we could explore further afield.
There are bike hire places everywhere - we went with Beach Bikes because theirs are more photogenic than a lot of the others!
The ruined abbey and Fort la prée close to La Flotte are both worth a visit; the history of the area is fascinating.
Saturday was a full day's exploration by bike heading to Bois Plage, and La Couarde before ending up in Ars en Ré for a late lunch at Café du Commerce on the harbour.
We then headed back across the salt marshes to the bike track along the north coast and stopped off in St Martin-en-Re, which, as expected, was by far the busiest place we encountered all weekend.
Not too busy to queue up at La Martinière for more of their amazing ice creams - although it has to be said that one of our group was slightly perturbed to find that her "pomme de terre" caramel ice cream did actually contain potato skins!
Whilst there is a reasonable network of bike tracks, signage in places is poor / non-existent and there were some sections along, and across, quite busy roads.
On Sunday the promised bad weather arrived, albeit briefly, and so we were glad of the car. We headed back into St Martin for a proper exploration and then drove to the far west of the island to visit the lighthouse, le Phare des Baleines, which is worth a visit for a photo of the stunning staircase, let alone the views from the top of the 257 stairs, which include a wonderful example of a medieval fish lock.
So would we go back? Probably not... Whilst it's an undeniably pretty place and we had a lovely weekend, I think we saw most of it during our three days. If we'd had more time then I think we'd have struggled to find things to do / places to go unless we booked some activities such as sailing, paddle boarding etc or explored further afield such as La Rochelle itself.
Given the short flight and very short transfer however, it's a perfect weekend destination.
It was reasonably busy when we were there - our trip coincided with the end of UK half term, so that the towns were lively and buzzing but not so much that we had any problems getting tables in restaurants / cafes. A significant number of properties were still locked up though so, I can only imagine how crowded it must be in peak summer.