Île de Ré - The Bordeaux Loop - CycleBlaze

May 24, 2008

Île de Ré

In our 30 day tour, we only stayed a second night at one spot - here, in La Rochelle.  Other than this, we packed up and moved on every day of the tour.  This was the norm for us back when we were limited to ‘only’ a month-long absence from work each year.  We tried to cover as much territory as we could, making the most of the limited time we had.  Now of course  we travel much differently, traveling more slowly and frequently staying multiple nights in places we especially like and allowing more time for day trips without our luggage and an occasional hike.

Why here then?  So we could take a day ride to explore nearby Île de Ré.  It was the right spot for it.  Île de Ré is an outstanding destination to explore by bicycle, a small island riddled with bike trails, colorful villages  and monuments.  15 years later, I think back on this as one of the best days of the tour.  

If/when we return to this region, Île de Ré is at the top of the list of places I’d want to revisit.  I’d do it differently though - I’d stay on the island instead of (or in addition to) La Rochelle, somewhere near the center.  It made for a long day, biking from La Rochelle to the tip of the island and back.  More than we’d want to do in a day ride now, and too rushed.   Better to stay a few nights on the island, maybe in Saint-Martin at about the midpoint, and explore it in a couple of shorter, more leisurely rides.

The Catholic Church at Saint-Martin-de-Ré, built in the 14th century and having undergone several renovations over the centuries since then. You can climb the 127 steps up its bell tower for phenomenal views across the island. We did, and must have taken some photos up there; but none of them survived.
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Phare des Baleines (the lighthouse of the whales), the lighthouse at the tip of the island. Built in 1849 and 57 meters tall, it is one of the tallest lighthouses in France.
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The beautiful 257 step staircase to the top of Phare des Baleines. This still stands as my favorite lighthouse experience anywhere.
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Looking down from the lighthouse to the smaller ‘old tower’ erected by Vauban.
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The Atlantic coast, below the Phare des Baleines.
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Ride stats: 57 miles, 1,400’; for the tour: 335 miles, 8,000’

Today's ride: 57 miles (92 km)
Total: 335 miles (539 km)

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