Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ile de Re - Exploring the town of Saint Martin en Re


Saint Martin en Re- A Bustling Beautiful Port Town
On one of our final days on Ile de Re, we rode from Loix to the beautiful port town of Saint Martin en Re.  Again, from our location up on the North pennisula of the island this meant about 8-10 Km of bike riding to this bustling harbor town strategically located on the Eastern End of the island.  We headed out via the beautiful always picturesque town of Loix and through the Salt Marshes.
This gave us some beautiful final views of the island and it's stunning salt marshes.  This time we got really lucky to see them raking the salt out of the pockets.  Definitely some hot hard work done by these artisans.  The ride took us out along the Eastern bay of the island.  Just stunning views and the bike paths continued to impress me.
As we headed into Saint Martin en Re, we were met by this beautiful entrance of the fortified town.  I knew in an instant that this stunning solid fortress had to be designed by no one else except - Vauban, Louis XIV's greatest engineer.  It was defintely a bit strange to recognize his work at once - guess I have been studying too much history...and I am very familar with Vauban's works in the Bordeaux area- the Citadelle in Blaye and the now destroyed Chateau Trompette in Bordeaux City Center.  


This town has stunning houses, steeped in history, a still bustling port and a quaint harbor full of cafes where fisherman, sailors and tourists can all sit down and enjoy the friendly atomosphere.
Saint Martin en Re is strategically situated on the Eastern Center part of the island and has historically been the town that has been able to protect the population of the island.  For this reason, the island's citadelle was constucted by Vauban in 1681.  It was constructed in record time of only 5 years and to this day remains one of the best preserved examples of an extensively fortified town and citadelle.
Even the harbor was protected well by these extensive walls and presently has a beautiful lighthouse welcoming ships and boats.
The streets are beautiful, quaint, white and truly feel like a step back in time.  One can really get a sense how throughout history this town has enjoyed being such a busy part of Ile de Re.
Due to it's old cobblestone paths and roads, and hills down to the harbor, this town is best explored by foot.  One can see by the following photo that most people, like ourselves arrive by bike.
After spending the morning exploring this beautiful town, we headed back to Loix.  The route along the bay was breath-taking and refreshing as there was light breeze coming off the water.  I was also impressed by the small cafes and restaurants that have set up along the bike path.  These provide great places to stop and sample the local seafood (Oysters, bulots, moules) or to just enjoy a refreshing glass of your favorite wine or beer. The ride is flat and easy going and just so enjoyable.
This ride closed our week on Ile de Re.  It is definitely a place I would love to return to and to spend another week exploring and just enjoying the sea air and beautiful scenery.  I think the sunsets are something that I will never forget and the pure bliss of enjoying nature and water together make Ile de Re a new favorite spot for this family!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunset at Le Phare des Baleines - the Lighthouse on Ile de Re

Sunsets - most beautiful from the Island
This post contains a lot of photos - but hopefully you will enjoy the beauty of this evening as much as I did, when I was there breathing and experiencing this amazing sunset.  As the lighthouse - Le Phare des Baleines is located on the western side of the island of Ile de Re, we decided that it would be most profitable to go there in the evening and watch the setting sun.  This particular evening turned out to be one of the most beautiful skies I have seen in a long time.
A little about Le Phare des Baleines (Le phare - French word for lighthouse).  Like most lighthouses, this one is very impressive and proudly stands on the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.  This lighthouse of Ile de Re is situated in the small commune of Saint-Clement des Baleines and is the second oldest lighthouse in France.  The word, Baleines means whales in French.  The nearby point has historically been a place where whales have been stranded or beached-thereby eventually coming to be named Pointe (Point) des Baleines, giving inspiration to the town's and lighthouse's name.  

The lighthouse is a very popular tourist attraction with it's 257 step - spiral staircase and stunning views.  On a clear night one can see the distance of 27 nautical miles or 50km from the 57 meter tall tower.  It was designed by architect Leonce Reynaud in 1854 and has been a working lighthouse ever since.

We were more interested in viewing the sunset on the other side than climbing the steps inside, so we took a few family photos in the front and then walked around to the rocky shoreline to see the ever changing light.
You can get an idea of how beautiful this structure is and with the fading sunlight and sky full of blues, reds, purples and oranges - the light reflecting off the stone made it even more stunning.
I loved this backdrop of the horizon, the clouds and the colors to take a few photos of the girls.  The lighting was just so special and unique, I felt the need to take advantage.  Note the wispy clouds as they fade into the distance.
As we stood there watching the colors change, I couldn't tell you which was more beautiful...the sunset itself or the layers of wispy clouds that were filling the sky.  As time passed, a sense of peace washed over me and the colors became richer and then softer.  A beautiful place to be for the evening and a time to feel re-centered and in-tune with nature.
From these panoramic photos, you can see how vast and different the sky appeared as the sun itself dipped below the horizon.  The waves washing in along the shore added to this dramatic but peaceful feel, as we stood along the shore, breeze blowing through our hair breathing in the cool salt air of the evening.
Then one turns around and watches the colors wash over the front side of Le Phare des Baleines - the yellows, the golds, the reds - making the building softer in appearance but still so strong in function as the beaming light warns boats about the nearby shore.
And the sun went down and the colors continued to change.  We walked along the stone covered beach and watched as the skies got darker and darker.  Such a peaceful time of evening and a special time to relax and breath in nature at it's finest moment.
And a final look at this beautiful lighthouse shimmering in the evening glow as the purple lights show off this majestic tower.  I loved the beacon light on top and just the fact that it's named after all the whales that swim nearby, makes it a great place to explore.  A perfect way to see a stunning sunset and to end another summer evening on Ile de Re.

One more final post will be coming up shortly about Ile de Re sharing about the fortress town of Saint Martin en Re.  This may be a small island, but hopefully you can see there are some interesting places to see and of course great trails to cycle.  Have a great day!


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