With Vineyards, Beaches, and Quaint Villages, Île de Ré Is France's Best-kept Secret
Published by Travel + Leisure
Written By Thomas Chatterton Williams
On this pristine, out-of-the-way island off the coast of northwestern France, not much changes. That’s why it’s the perfect laid-back summer vacation spot.
A decade ago, my French wife and I moved from our apartment in Brooklyn to the Right Bank of Paris. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge to acclimate myself to the rain and low skies that ruthlessly blot out the winter sun in northern France. On the other hand, there’s nothing like a European summer. Vacations are prioritized, and you can travel between a dozen countries with the ease we Americans move up and down the Eastern seaboard.
The summer of 2020 was, for obvious reasons, the first in 10 that we didn’t set foot outside France. We’d abandoned our home in Paris back in March, days before the nationwide lockdown, to hole up with friends in a village in the Loire-Atlantique, just below Brittany. In July, we doubled down on our urban exodus and found a rental house in a tiny port town in Brittany itself, on the Côtes d’Armor, where we télétravail-ed from the garden, drank the excellent local cider, and swam in the cold, clear ocean.
And so in early August, we continued our exploration of the beguiling Atlantic and headed for the Île de Ré, a 33-square-mile oasis of sand dunes, marshland, and sprawling vineyards off the coast of La Rochelle, which is just 2½ hours from Paris by high-speed train.